Students Sense Hazard in Social Media Outlets

Emily Williams

The quiet room echoes with the soft sound of many busy fingers on keyboards, but among the rows of students hard at work, a few students surreptitiously check their notifications, while others respond to a chat with a friend from home while working on as essay.

Facebook is a study break, a distraction, a vortex as it pulls people into the virtual world of friend requests, tags and wall posts. Whether students hate it, love it or some combination of the two, Facebook is a huge presence in many people’s lives. However, most people are reluctant to admit that they are hooked on the social networking website, avoiding the negative label of “addiction.”

“Addiction implies that you need it, and I don’t need it,” said first-year Ziggy Lanman when asked if she was addicted to Facebook.

Facebook might be more of a habit than an addiction, as people go on not because they need to, but because it is mindlessly convenient. Many first-years find that with the extra discretionary time that college provides, the draw of Facebook seems ever-present and oftentimes unavoidable.

“Facebook is a perpetual habit; the more I go on, the more I feel like I want to go on,” said first-year Michael Augustine.

Often what causes students to go on Facebook is the urge to procrastinate, even though what might be best for preparing them to trudge forward is time away from the computer screen.

“My least favorite part of it is that I go to it when I get super bored and distracted and want to procrastinate,” Augustine said, “whereas I need to take a step back and take a walk in the library rather than go on Facebook and see what people are doing, especially when you can get caught up in things.”

Sometimes, the close quarters of first-year residence halls can quell the need for immediate social contact Facebook provides. For some, Facebook has never even been in the equation.

Although most people got Facebook when they were in high school, first-year Julia Hart didn’t get a Facebook account until the beginning of this year when a friend made one for her. Although she now has a Facebook, Hart rarely ever goes online.

“If I was really into it would be a huge time-waster, so I’m trying not to get super into it because I just think it’s weird to waste time looking at other people’s lives when you could just interact with them in real life,” she said.

Hart knows that it would be really easy to get sucked into the Facebook trap like the rest of her peers, which is why she resists it so much and never uses her Facebook.

“I feel like I don’t waste as much time on it and I’m more present because I’m not mindlessly looking through photos of other people; I’m not obsessing about things I wasn’t there for; I don’t want to know every detail of everyone’s lives,” she said.

In high school Hart sometimes felt like she would miss out on things because she did not have a Facebook, but in college it is much easier to unplug and never check Facebook. Despite the benefits, she focuses more on the negative factors.

“It’s just mindless; there’s just a lot of other things to do besides waste this time looking at a page on the computer,” she said. “I’ll share things I want to share with my friends in real life. I don’t want to use the Internet to do that.”

Sophomore Josh Tacke feels very similarly about Facebook and he recently deactivated his account that he had been using since sophomore year of high school.

Tacke unplugged from social media three weeks ago on a whim, but he doesn’t regret his decision at all.

“Its been great; I think (Facebook) sucked a lot of energy out of me because it fills your mind with a lot of useless things,” he said.

With all of his extra time that he used to spend on Facebook, Tacke spends more time pursuing hobbies like reading and playing guitar. He feels like he has more energy now that he doesn’t have a Facebook.

“I always told myself I need it to see my friends and catch up with my friends, but I don’t really think that’s true,” he said.

Like many of his peers, Tacke believes that Facebook is not a necessary component of an active social life at Whitman. Even though he stopped using Facebook, Tacke found that his relationships with his friends haven’t changed at all.

“That’s pretty much the biggest indicator to me that I probably don’t need to do [Facebook] anymore.” he said. “It’s really reassuring that I wasn’t too far down the rabbit hole.”