Monday January 30, 2012
Happily not addicted
SAMBAL ON THE SIDE
By BRENDA BENEDICT
While Facebook has helped her stay in the loop, our columnist is proud to say she is not a FB junkie.
Apart from the usual perks touted by its advocates, social networking can also be a boon to Malaysians abroad.
So, what began as a fad is now being labelled as FAD – or Facebook Addiction Disorder.
After spotting a recent report on Malaysian FAD sufferers, I critically assessed my Facebook dependency to determine if I indeed needed rehab. And the answer – to paraphrase the late Amy Winehouse – is thankfully, “no, no, no”.
As with all things tech, I was initially hesitant about Facebook.
I had received numerous invitations from friends. However, at that time we were living in Hanoi, Vietnam. Given the erratic nature of our neighbourhood’s wireless LAN, I was often loath to go through the entire spiel of signing up to become a user – only to have it truncated.
Besides, I had wondered, “Isn’t a facebook the calling card of aspiring models?” Those picture albums they present to potential customers at casting calls?
I eventually succumbed during an uneventful afternoon when I steadfastly saw my sign up through. One of the first messages I received from a freshly contacted family friend in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, was, “Welcome to Facebook. The best place in the world to waste time!”
I admit I was hooked the first couple of days. I feverishly sought and “befriended” friends in Malaysia and abroad.
I fell hard because this finally freed me from the drudgery of writing lengthy e-mail. When I first left Malaysia, I had made lofty promises to write home often. Fat hopes. Thankfully, my true friends have accepted that I never was, and clearly never will be, an e-mail writer.
I associate e-mail strictly with business and the shorter they are, the better. Besides, I’d rather interact with someone than exchange written messages. As distance and work makes this impossible sometimes, Facebook enables me to post an occasional one-liner, and everyone is assured that I’m alive and kicking.
In return, I’m kept in the loop about marriages, births, new homes and assorted Malaysian festivals. The latter tend to slip your mind sometimes when you live somewhere where only Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated.
It can also be a source of comfort – whether in terms of food or emotions. I now have a mean sugee cake recipe courtesy of a girlfriend I reconnected with a while back. And as it’s not common here to ask people to pray for you, I’ve participated in and benefited from pretty powerful virtual prayer chains.
For someone who has moved as often as I have, it is a boon to long distance friendships. I am often reminded of the lines made famous by the early 90s Baz Luhrman hit, the Sunscreen Song: “Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young”.
True enough. I’ve reconnected with some very dear school friends, leading to the discovery of one living just three hours away from me here, courtesy of another girlfriend in Canada.
However, like most of my host countrymen, I admit to being selective about those who make my Friends list. It may sound cold, but let’s face it; you can’t actually have 3,678 “friends”. Besides, I do not want 3,678 people and their friends, and their friends’ friends, poking around my profile. Hence, my high privacy settings.
I’ve also noticed that my German friends are seldom active on Facebook.
Some signed up when it was all the rage, some are considering leaving as they are too busy and some have already signed out.
Those who remain online are cautious and they have good reason. It is not unusual for employers to randomly Google prospective employees and heaven forbid that they stumble upon awkward pictures taken during say, a beer-guzzling spree. You can argue privacy, but you won’t be getting that job at “Quit Alcohol Now” for instance.
Other posts are simply flabbergasting. Rants against “stupid bosses” or “idiot colleagues” can (and often enough do) get back to them.
Then there are those who offer a blow-by-blow account of their day – including unsavoury details which we could all actually be spared.
As for me, I log on regularly to ensure that everyone’s fine and dandy worldwide. Otherwise, I’d rather meet local friends in person or speak to them on the phone.
I do however stand accused of posting cute cat videos when I’m not chasing deadlines. Apparently “catvertising” is going to be the next big thing.
I read it on Facebook.
Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in Frankfurt. She knows she’s not an addict as she spent five weeks without accessing Facebook and didn’t miss it.