I’ve never smoked a joint/cigarette in my life.
Alcohol holds no attraction for me.
Substance – cocaine/heroine – i know only from the many gangsta movies i’ve watched.
Yet I know what it feels like to be addicted to something and even though mine was not as lethal (as those previously mentioned), it had equally destructive tendencies.
I. Was. Addicted. To. Facebook.
It was freshman year of college and Facebook was the thing to have! Did you see the video I posted on Facebook? I uploaded the photos we took last night on Facebook. Curious and tired of being the ‘odd one’ I decided to give Facebook a shot. Amidst fighting feelings of betrayal of my beloved hi5, I joined Facebook.
In those early days, my encounters on Facebook made my day! I discovered friends from back in the day and just the joy of reconnecting stayed with me for days. But I particularly liked the ‘status update’ feature, which allowed users to share thoughts/ideas etc. – I chose to share inspirational quotes/scriptures/ideas etc. that resonated with me. On many days, I received much positive feedback from my already growing friends list. I loved taking pictures and my photos also attracted a lot of attention, even though I hadn’t set out to gain attention. But I relished the attention I was getting. And so I would dress up – with no plans to go out whatsoever- only to pose for pictures and post them on Facebook.
But the longer I stayed on Facebook the more addicted I became. It got to a point that on those days when a status update and/or photo did not garner as much attention as I’d hoped, my emotions would take the plunge. In fact if one status update did not generate ‘enough’ likes, I’d post another and sometimes post multiple times a day just to reach that ‘high’. Typical addict behaviour. My emotions, if graphed by then would have been nothing short of a zigzag. Evidently, there was a direct correlation between my emotions/moods and the amount of ‘attention’ I was receiving on Facebook. But that was just the beginning.
I couldn’t afford to be away from Facebook for too long – by long I mean 30 minutes. Since I had limited data on my cell phone plan I always made sure I stayed close to the college computers so as to have easy access to Facebook. Yes it was that serious! I would be in class and couldn’t wait for the lesson to end so I could log in to a computer and check my Facebook account for new messages, status likes or comments. Often times, I would log in to Facebook every ten or so minutes – sometimes immediately after signing out. I had this constant feeling that the world would crash or something if I was off Facebook for too long. My addiction to Facebook fuelled an inflated sense of self-importance. Facebook was ruling my life.
But I was careful not to let the ‘addiction’ ruin my academic life. When studying for a big test or exam, I’d give a trusted friend my password and ask them to change it and withhold the new one from me until I finished my exam. I am not kidding!
Fast-forward to graduation…A new graduate, jobless with all the time and little money in the world, the addiction was taken to a whole new level. I spent a significant portion of my time looking and applying for jobs online. Facebook was a necessary and welcomed distraction from the stress of job searching, I told myself. But who was I kidding? I was spending more hours on Facebook than on any other website! I checked my Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing at night – on those nights when I could sleep that is. The long hours in front of the laptop was affecting my ability to sleep and so my laptop became my bedside companion. A friend of mine even nicknamed me Facebook Police because of the frequency with which I visited the site. Facebook had quietly replaced God in my life and I was not a happy camper.
Interestingly, my Facebook addiction did nothing for my joy/happiness. In fact, after a ‘good’ session on Facebook, I would log out with feelings of self-resentment. I felt stuck especially after looking at photos of friends who seemed to have it all together. It looked like everyone else BUT me was doing exceptionally well. Some of my friends had found great jobs and were happy – or so it seemed based on the photos they posted online. In fact during that period I made very few in-person friends. Who needs real life friends when I had so many virtual ‘friends’? Since I couldn’t be away for too long from the computer I didn’t go out much. I spent most of my days indoors sometimes not leaving the house for days except to attend a weekly event at church. I had about 1000+ virtual friends, which was a lot! But I was lonely.
I did not have to visit a doctor to know that I was depressed. I knew I was and that’s what spurred me into action. I woke up one day and just decided that I was tired – tired of being unhappy, tired of looking to mere mortals for affirmation/validation, tired of being stuck in a vicious cycle. I wanted my life back! I needed help and so I turned to GOD. I asked for His forgiveness and asked Him to help me. Through that process, I resolved to never let anything but GOD define my life. I also resolved that I never want to be addicted to anything anymore. GOD is my addiction.
And so I Quit.
In October 2010 – few months after I had graduated – I suspended my Facebook account. Or you could say I went to Facebook rehab. It started as a one-week challenge to be off Facebook. My friends dared me thinking one week was too long a time for me. I wasn’t sure I could handle it either but being a woman who loves challenges, I set out to prove that I could. One week later I realized that I could go a whole month and then a year without Facebook. In the end, I was off Facebook for over two years and ended up deleting that account.
I set up a new account in 2014 and have been on Facebook since. I now view and USE Facebook as a tool. I’ve learnt that pictures capture moments and do not tell the whole story – folks with picture perfect virtual lives don’t necessarily have actual perfect lives. We are all work-in-progress. I’ve also learnt to check my motives before attempting anything. I always ask myself, why am I doing this? This motive check has helped me greatly along the way. I also stopped comparing myself to anyone and at the same time not let peoples’ reactions to my pictures or blog posts fuel a false sense of self-importance (or lack thereof affect my view of self). I am important, period! My very existence is proof that I am important to God. I don’t need to seek affirmation from anyone and neither should you.
I am the apple of God’s eyes, wonderfully and fearfully made! (Zech 2:8, Ps 139:14)
Daughter of the King