Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 8, 2013

House of Burgess: Committing virtual identity suicide

In which our hero ponders quitting Facebook

I joined Facebook Sept. 22, 2004. That was just seven months after Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts created the site. Needless to say, it looked and felt much different back then. At its inception, the social network was only open to a few select Ivy League colleges. I signed up just as membership was opened to the majority of higher learning institutions in the country. I remember tech-savvy friends of mine chomping at the bit to have their school added to the approved list. I was a junior at Indiana University at the time. Had I known how much time I would waste checking my personal profile and associated news feed over the next 3,150 days I never would have joined.

The social network now basically rules online interpersonal communication. According to Facebook’s quarterly earnings report issued May 1, the site now boasts 1.11 billion monthly active users, “an increase of 23 percent year-over-year.” I know more about my Facebook friends than I would ever care to, yet, in many ways, I feel more cut off from these same people than I ever have. I recognized I had a problem with compulsive Facebook checking for quite some time. My acquisition of an iPhone and the installation of the Facebook app didn’t help quell my thirst for constant updates one bit. If I was standing in line at a store, I would, without thinking, load my app and refresh my news feed. If there was ever an idle second at home, I would find myself opening Firefox and begin typing the Facebook address before I even understood why I was doing so. And, yes, I have had intensely interesting conversations, learned valuable information and reconnected with long-lost compatriots through Facebook. It has not been a complete waste. But those moments are far outweighed by the countless instances wherein I’ve groaned out loud or cringed at something reposted or inflicted on my news feed.

How to kick my Facebook habit? Well, in China, they’ve taken an aggressive approach to the larger problem of Internet addiction: boot camps.

“Beijing’s Military General Hospital created the country’s first center in 2004,” reported Christopher S. Stewart in Wired Magazine in 2010. “It was the brainchild of Tao Ran, a military researcher and colonel in the People’s Liberation Army. ... Tao opened his camp at the edge of the city in a fortified military compound. The facility — which employed a fusion of therapy, physical training and medication — has treated more than 5,000 people to date, most of them teens.”

For a number of reasons this wasn’t an option for me, but I knew I had to do something. The final straw came when I saw one of my Facebook friends was testing a new app which would randomly delete 10 people on their friends list to see if they noticed or not. I checked their profile multiple times over the next few days to see if I was one of the unlucky 10. After about the fifth time of looking at their profile, I had had enough. If I spent all that time sleeping, meditating, reading or doing literally anything else it would have been more productive. I decided then and there to delete my account in a week’s time. I methodically backed up all my information and steeled myself for the change. Interestingly, I found there is an official-sounding name for this: “virtual identity suicide.”

“We found Facebook quitters to be significantly more cautious about their privacy, having higher Internet addiction scores and being more conscientious than Facebook users,” reads a portion of the abstract for a peer-reviewed article by Stefan Stieger, Christoph Burger, Manuel Bohn, and Martin Voracek published in February.

But just a few days before I was about to unplug from the Facebook Matrix, I found a different solution. I discovered I could convert my personal page to a public business page. This worked perfectly for me because I was mostly hanging onto Facebook so I could post links to my writing. And this way, Facebook could still perform that function. To sweeten the deal, the people I was sharing it with wouldn’t even have to be friends with me in real life. [Editor’s note: You can like my page too: www.facebook.com/robburgess.] When I converted, all my Facebook friends turned to likes. (Which is much less personal, but frankly more honest.) I don’t have a news feed as such anymore, so there’s nothing to check. It’s only been a few days since I made the switch, but I can safely say I don’t miss it at all. The only reasons I sign on now are to moderate the Tribune’s Facebook page, which I am also a manager of, and to see if anyone has liked or commented on anything I posted. And even if I still feel the impulse to check it multiple times during the day, there’s not nearly as much to see. So, I leave much sooner. It’s quite liberating.

Now, excuse me while I post this column to my Facebook page.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Let's put lethal injection to sleep

    It was only a matter of time before this happened again; and I’m sad to say I’m not surprised at all.
    On July 22, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the killing of Arizona death row inmate James R. Wood III, who had filed suit requesting a delay until the state revealed the details of the drugs that would be used to end his life.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • ANDREA NEAL: Fleeting canal era had lasting impact on state Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016. In 1825, the Erie Canal was completed to great fanfare. Cannon fire, parades, balls and speeches celebrated the speed and ski

    July 30, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Pence, Bayh crowd field with questions In the 2016 political landscape, a pair of the state's political big dogs -- Republican Gov. Mike Pence and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh -- have potential candidates holding their breath and waiting on them. Until Pence says otherwise, he's

    July 29, 2014

  • JEFFREY McCALL: All things Hillary are not news, just distractions This column has nothing to do with who should or will win the presidential election in 2016. It has nothing to do with partisan politics of any flavor. This column does, however, assess how television is oversaturating the "news" agenda with countles

    July 29, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: World is rising up to meet Putin's thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 28, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 28, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Happy marriages do not just happen My wife, Marylu, and I met through a mutual friend. My wife had been involved with Campus Crusade at her university, where my friend, Norman, also attended. One Christmas break, Norman invited his friends from church (including me) to a party — along

    July 27, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Truth about inflation Almost nothing in economics seems to confuse people as much as monetary inflation. That confusion leaves an intellectual void into which some of the least credible ideas of the modern world crawl.Goods and services typically have a price dictated in

    July 27, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller