Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook & Cigarettes

Sewn into the lining of any successful smartphone on the market today is social-networking. If social-sites didn’t exist, smartphones would still be in those awkward Windows Mobile 2003 days, just with improved graphics. Kids, teenagers and adults today - we all walk around with these devices that have the ability to call, text, compose documents, organise us socially and financially, yet we have providers who simply market them as social-networking devices with some bonus features on the side, and we use them that way too. There was a time when if you found yourself on a street or at a busy train station and couldn't see someone with a cigarette in their hand, it would be high-time to try that luck with a lottery ticket or a dollar in a poker machine. Today, it would prove a difficult task for one of those same smokers to flick their cigarette into a passing train carriage and hit someone that isn’t visiting a social-networking site at that exact second. On that note, the more train carriages I walk onto and the more I see people on their work-breaks indulging in a smoke while reading about how some guy they haven’t seen in years had to go down to the store to get milk, the more I realise that online social-networking has become so addictive and so widely habitual that it is now the new-age cigarette.

From the previous paragraph alone, I'm sure that you've already surmised that I am a non-smoker to some degree. If we get down to specifics, I vigorously oppose cigarette-smoking. One of the many reasons I protest them so strongly is due to my view on dependency, to be more specific, my view on people bowing down to flakes of ash wrapped in little squares of paper. Once addiction dawns, you’ve backed yourself into an inconvenient corner; you sign yourself onto having to light up the moment you get up in the morning, having to make breaks at work just because you’re itching for a fix, and having no option but to make use of the outside areas of establishments that are more than happy to offer the inside areas to non-smokers; in other words, becoming a routine smoker, to me, sounds like a massive pain in the arse. Not only that, but it also forces your bank account into the minus with nothing but a cornucopia of health defects, bad lungs, bad breath and a displeasing body odour to show for it – well, this is how I am starting to feel about Facebook and any other social networking site.

I have never believed myself to have an addictive personality, not chemically anyway. In putting on my hypocrite-pants, the one and only thing I can admit having a mild addiction to is technology and the internet - I am a colossal geek when it comes to the social-networking and the gadgetry of this beautiful age that I was fortunate enough to grow up in. Evidently, like everybody else, I too had been taking massive drags of the Facebook-cigarette. Several months back, the mobile service which breathes connectivity into my own smartphone began to split the internet data usage into two categories: ‘Mobile Internet’ and ‘Social Internet’. Upon noticing how little precious bandwidth I had been spending on sites that can actually boost my intelligence, I realised that I had furthered a few steps on the hazy path to becoming just like a smoker. Before this epiphany, checking Facebook was like a reflex to me; I was on it while I ate breakfast, before work, on my break, immediately after work, at the train station, on the train, before class, after class, the ride home, and then when I got home...well, you get the picture. I was using my phone for Facebook so much, in fact, that, earlier this year, I had to upgrade my bandwidth allowance from two hundred and fifty megabytes to five hundred just to cater for my habit; it was getting pathetic. In a nutshell, like it would with a smoker, with the exception of the physical consequences, social networking was costing me money, it was costing me time and, essentially, it had become something that was hard to be without. So, in an effort to take a few steps back on that sad and wretched path that I had been strolling down like some moron, this last month, I self-imposed a ban on any social networking website that's not on an actual computer, which includes running to public internet cafes and class computers to get a fix and excludes posting status updates, simply because I use a separate program to do so. Admittedly, it hasn’t put a huge dent in my social-internet use, but it has certainly helped in making my time outside of the home much more productive, and in return makes me feel less like a tool in the public-eye.

It has only been these last five years that the internet has truly been able to jump from our computer screens and into our pockets. We have our Apple's, RIM's, Google's and Microsoft's contributing to the liberation of the internet, but with that said, is that same amnesty liberating us at all? It seems to be doing the opposite. With every second person having a smoke between their index and middle fingers, cigarettes are the cliché of any busy street, and now the Facebook logo is coming in at a close-second, almost like Mark Zuckerberg has us all under some sort of zombie-like psychosocial-hold. I bet you’re wondering where online social-networking can damage our health, well, with smoking has come cancer, and with the growing adoption of online social-networking will come a generation of attention-divided and socially-isolated people, who will then in turn pass such ridiculous social-values onto their offspring, that is, of course, assuming that Facebook has the ‘Procreate’ feature it will most certainly need by then. So, in getting to some sort of an ending, the success of social-networking brought the success of smartphones, and with that, these devices gave the addictiveness of sites like Facebook and Twitter more mobility, thus just adding another internet bill that needs paying and more time wasted outside of the home that needs to be made up for later on. So, finally, without condemning two things that I enjoy too much, social-networking and smartphones: have these two things joined forces only to become another thing that needs to be added to the bucket along with smoking and drugs? Is our society on its way to seeing a segregated group of Facebook-ers, the same way that we see smokers now? Because it would seem like our society has become one that is primarily filled with said smokers and Facebook-ers.

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