Friday, November 19, 2010
Different types of addictions
It’s about 4 months now that I de-activated my Facebook account and voluntarily became an outcast to the social network world. This was just something that I had to do, for a number of reasons. You see, from the outset I knew that facebook was strangely addictive, I even warned other people about it, but the thing with this, just like other “addictions” is that the good is focused on more than the bad.
What was being presented to me was this wonderful world where I could keep in touch with old friends, re-connect with former school mates who I haven’t seen for years and know what my friends and colleagues were doing on an everyday basis (or more like on an hourly basis in this case). It made me feel connected to other people, like I was part of something special and meaningful. It started out with casual visits to facebook, and then it became worse. Everyday I’d have to check my facebook page, and even though not much changed each day, (except of course for people’s constantly updated status messages, which seemed to focus on every minute detail of their lives), I’d still feel the compulsive need to go online and see what was going on.
I have to admit that it was difficult for me to deactivate. It seemed as if though I would be missing something important in my life, it definitely took a lot of contemplation. But after speaking to Allah (SWT) my resolve was strong and I knew that I had to do it. When I finally decided to ‘take the plunge’ it was strange. As I was about to click on the final deactivate profile button , these pictures of some of my friends showed and it said; “Are you sure you want to leave facebook...so and so will really miss you”... or something to that effect.( I obviously can’t remember the exact words). I immediately felt all warm and fuzzy inside and seriously considered going back and not deactivating, but something inside made me wonder why there was so much emphasis on me staying activated. I guess like any other “addiction”, the system requires there to be a number of addicts otherwise the system will not be able to function.
See the thing with facebook and in fact the internet in general is that it provides this vast space where people can take on any identity that they want to. They can project themselves in a variety of different ways. Cyberspace allows you to be anything and anyone that you want to be, it provides a sense of escapism from the mundane nature of everyday life. Everyone seems so interesting and everything seems so exciting and intriguing. This sounds very similar to other forms of addiction, doesn’t it?
In the last few days I was reminded of my facebook “addiction” and how my life is better off without it. Since I deactivated my profile, I was able to see who my true friends were, and which people were there simply as part of the illusion. My true friends still somehow found another way to keep in contact, even if it is more difficult, and those who were just part of the virtual world of illusion, well they remained there, they were the ones who were not meant to be in my real life, the ones who could only really connect with me on a superficial level, the level of social cyberspace.
Addiction is a strange thing. People can become addicted to many different things, and just because it may not fit in with the usual ideas of addiction, doesn’t mean that it’s not an addiction. Addiction also exists on different levels. The way to find out if something is an addiction is to see how easy or difficult it is to leave that thing. If it’s difficult, then more often than not, whatever it is has become an addiction, and addictions are dangerous, for very obvious reasons.
At this point I’d just like to add that I’m not saying that facebook or the internet or anything else is bad . What I am saying though is that life should be about balance. Indeed Islam in itself teaches us about having a balanced lifestyle. Furthermore, it should be about consistency. The way someone is on facebook should be the way they are when you meet them in person. The relationships that people foster in cyberspace should be relationships that can be continued in the same manner in person. If this is not possible, then I think one needs to question the validity of those relationships and interactions.
What I’ve learnt is that it’s really hard to let go of things that make us feel good, but sometimes we just have to take the step and let go and once we do this, we will know for sure what is real and what is part of the illusion.
Image 1 from: http://cottagestyle.com.mt/public_html/contact-us/networking/
Image 2 from:http://www.idealog.us/2008/01/