Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

The other A.D.D.

27th September 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

This just in: Facebook may actually be bad for you and your personal relationships, particularly your relationship with your spouse. Imagine that.

I mean, like really. Who knew?

The study conducted by the Univ. of Missouri School of Journalism, the San Antonio-based St. Mary’s University and the University of Hawaii at Hilo whose results were published in the Journal of Cyber Psychology, Behavior and Social Networking found a correlation between Facebook use and divorce. Researchers found that excessive use of Facebook can lead to conflict with one’s romantic partner.

According to The Huffington Post, Excessive use is defined by researchers as checking Facebook more than once an hour. The conflict created may result in negative relationship consequences which can encompass physical or emotional cheating, separation and ultimately divorce.

Two hundred and five Facebook users were reportedly surveyed about their use of the social media website and asked whether that use had caused conflicts within their current or previous romantic relationships. Participants in the survey were between the ages of 18 and 82.

According to Univ. of Missouri journalism professor Russell Clayton, Facebook use can promote jealousy and can cause arguments regarding past romantic partners. The more someone uses Facebook, the more likely that person is to rigorously monitor his or her partner’s Facebook activity.

An article posted in Time magazine on January 24, titled “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself,” author Alexandra Sifferlin counts the many ways Facebook can impede and distort your growth and sense of self.

“Facebook is supposed to envelope us in the warm embrace of our social network, and scanning friends’ pages is supposed to make us feel loved, supported and important (at least in the lives of those we like),” Sifferlin wrote. “But skimming through photos of friends’ life successes can trigger feelings of envy, misery and loneliness as well, according to researchers from two German universities. The scientists studied 600 people who logged time on the social network and discovered that one in three felt worse after visiting the site—especially if they viewed vacation photos. Facebook frequenters who spent time on the site without posting their own content were also more likely to feel dissatisfied.”

“So far, it seems that the positive effects of being socially connected supersede the negative consequences of feeling inferior or left out by your circle of friends. But the authors suggest that if the hurtful feelings grow, Facebook and other social media may no longer be a fun way to stay connected with friends, but could become just another source of stress for people.”

Even after hearing about these kinds of studies, some people will still act like the researchers’ findings don’t make sense, but I get it.

Facebook is a way for people to be all up in your business without actually knowing you or interacting with you. They can rummage through your life and make sure that you are not doing better than them. They can monitor your every move, your highs and lows, your ups and downs and you are none the wiser.

There an old sage piece of advice that says people should never compare themselves to others because they’ll end up either vain or bitter. Either way, you and everyone around you loses.

Even if there were no cyberbullying, boasting, bragging, pettiness and unimaginative chatter, I would not have enough time and energy to devote to social media like Facebook and Twitter. It’s simply too much like work.

Who has a job and a family and still has time to constantly post their thoughts, feelings and pictures on this website? Who thinks everybody needs to see the cute dog they happened to see while they were jogging in the park or the new pair of stilettos they’ve been saving for Essence Fest? Who has time to take a picture of everything they see over the course of a day and think that everything they say and think are worth sharing and regurgitating with and for the world?

Why would anyone think that anybody else cares about looking at pictures of them shopping, drinking Starbucks or singing at his or her baby girl’s baby shower? Why does everyone need to know that you just got a new Mercedes or Rolex?

Why does anyone have to be the first person to forward news of a breaking event like the death of a celebrity or an athlete filing for divorce or bankruptcy? This is an update of the crazy family member who thinks he or she has to be the first person to tell everybody in the family that a loved one has passed away or his or her life will be ruined? What kind of twisted satisfaction comes out of reveling at being the first person to report bad news, be it family business or entertainment-related? Why would I want to see a close-up photo of Whitney Houston in her casket or some other big star after he or she died from an overdose?

Some of the people who forward photos and news stories they stumble across while surfing the Internet actually think that forwarding these items to large numbers of people makes them a, ahem, journalist, town crier or celebrity in their own right. You can’t tell some folks who indulge in these activities that they aren’t on the cutting edge of guerrilla reporting and political activism.

For the record, forwarding articles and other people’s observations and columns all day does not make any of us smarter, deeper or more conscious than the next man or woman. It does not make us look more dynamic, civic-minded or involved in the community than others. It just makes it look like we spend more time surfing the Internet and sending out emails than we actually do reading books and newspapers, feeding our minds and spirits and getting involved in efforts to uplift and empower the actual communities we live in and grew up in.

We spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to create false images of ourselves to outdo others who are engaged in the same shenanigans. It simply doesn’t make sense.

The funny thing about Facebook fanatics and others addicted to social media is that if you’re not one of the millions of Americans who spend countless hours “friending” people and rummaging through other people’s business, there’s something wrong with you. That’s very troubling to me.

If you find yourself constantly looking for something to put on Facebook or to Tweet about, you probably need to pull back and take a break. If you find yourself spending countless hours poring over people’s pages to see what they are doing or checking out your former high school classmates’ lives to see if anyone is more happy or successful than you, it’s definitely time for a chill pill.

We need to be very selective about how we use social media. It can be an invaluable tool in inspiring and generating interest in a particular cause or movement, as was the case when it was used to share information about the plight of the Jena 6 and Trayvon Martin, to report voting irregularities during the 2012 presidential campaign and to report efforts by Occupy Wall Street organizers to raise awareness about the inequitable distribution of wealth in the U.S.

We have proven that we know what conscious, intelligent use of social media looks and feels like. We simply have to remind ourselves every now and then that there is a time for work and a time for play.

By all means, take a long, relaxing break from the rat race of social media. Go for long walks, tend to your garden, trace your family history or read a book. Just don’t forward everything you read. Hell, read a dozen books and start reading newspapers and magazine articles online.

Is it any wonder why potential employers and college recruiters have taken to Facebook as a way to avoid hiring total nut cases, self-absorbed people or egomaniacs? These websites have a knack for bringing out the worst in a lot of us.

This Facebook syndrome, if you will, is part of a larger psychosis, one I call the other A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). Clearly, there are a lot of people who don’t get enough attention, for whatever reason, from loved ones, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

Some apparently get a lot of attention but still can’t stop placing things about themselves on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. Call it show-and-tell for the new millennium.

Many of these people who crave attention find themselves using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media to get people to look at them. Others turn to reality TV, celebrity gossip shows and syndicated radio talk shows to give their lives meaning and purpose. Not exactly a foolproof recipe for personal fulfillment and growth.

But this is artificial attention and superficial interaction. There is nothing real but the consequences of some of the ill-conceived thoughts and actions put on high-beam on these websites. We need organic interaction.

In this age of government intrusion in the lives of everyday people, we need to be ever-vigilant about protecting our privacy. How can anyone who is on Facebook and Twitter every day spilling the beans about themselves and everyone they know fix his or her mouth to complain about the Feds tapping phones and monitoring computers?


Find something productive to do with all that spare time.

Do something crazy like go out to a community event like a book signing, panel discussion or forum and actually meet someone. If you happen to meet someone with whom you share an interest or develop a rapport, invite them out for a cup of coffee or a cocktail at a public place

Go out and meet some real people. Even if that means going to school board meetings, farmer’s markets, lectures, fundraising events and athletic events. Go out and talk to someone you can see and touch. Look someone in the eyes, shake his or her hand and put yourself out there. Make that human connection, because whether we realize it or not, we all need that human touch, that little spark that lets us know that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves. It is the human connection that leads us down the path to self-discovery as we see ourselves through other’s eyes and the road to communion with the Creator.

Take the time and make the effort to know, love and trust yourself. Feed your mind and your spirit and keep a daily journal of some of the things you have come to know and love about yourself.

Whatever else you do, take it slow because there are at least as many crazy people in the real world as there are in cyberspace.

Now get out there and start living, breathing and thinking.

This article originally published in the August 12, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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