Four a.m. and a college student is lying in bed, studying for the next day’s final exam. Fed up with calculus, she rolls out of bed and in one swift motion, slides into her computer chair and enters her login information into the system.
She looks at the current locations of all her friends, acquaintances and even some people she has never met. Advertisements appear that cater to her every whim. A calendar of upcoming events guides her through next week’s schedule. A long, frequently updated newsfeed tells her exactly who her friends are talking to and what they are saying.
This is not some sci-fi fantasy set in the distant future like “Fahrenheit 451” or “1984.” It is reality at the College and other institutions of higher learning worldwide.
According to facebook.com, 85 percent of students enrolled in a four-year university in the United States have a Facebook account. Forty-five percent of users log in each day.
At the College, approximately 6,140 people have a Facebook account. “The TCNJ Fact Book: 2007” (ir.intrasun.tcnj.edu/factbook) reported that 6,964 students attend the College, leaving only 824 enrolled College students without Facebook.
Facebook use needs to decrease among college students. Contrary to what Facebook advertises, the site seems to harm social interaction, not promote it. Facebook encourages superficial relationships that are based on how attractive a default photo is and how many friends have given you “gifts.”
The Facebook site says its users spend an average of 25 minutes on the Web site each day, though many students spend hours logged in. Twenty-five minutes is a nice chunk of time. Enough time to watch an episode of the hilarious television show, “Arrested Development,” online. Enough time to run about three miles (or just finish one, if you’re me).
With 25 minutes, you could almost make an entire meal, Rachael Ray-style, for your friends. You could read a few short stories by Ray Bradbury (especially get on that if you didn’t get the “Fahrenheit 451” reference). Grab some food at Eickhoff or Brower Student Center food court and have a picnic outside. Get some sunshine. Without social networking sites like Facebook people would be forced to go out and actually be social and active in a life-enriching way.
Facebook, whether inadvertently or not, is working to eliminate such face-to-face interaction. Students are spending less time exploring hobbies, protesting ideas and gathering with peers, and spending more time posting about hobbies, ideas and gatherings.
It doesn’t matter how many innovative applications Facebook introduces; nothing can replace the enjoyment of spending active time with people you love.
Arguments that Facebook increases social interaction by bridging long-distance friendships and publicizing local events are legitimate. However, cell phones, e-mail and text messaging are just as convenient and have the potential to be less addictive. For student organizations, fliers and word of mouth could even work. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What it comes down to is that our generation needs to get active in ways that don’t involve friend requests. We need to ditch the false sense of friendship brought on by Facebook and reach out to the world beyond the glowing blue screen.