Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Opinion

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
Opinion
  • Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a bottle deposit Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two. Or two dozen. Or 200. Drink bottles have become our litter du jour. They compose an estimated 40 to 60 percent of all litter, according to the Mich

    April 21, 2014

  • Doctors Brown and Bucshon become seekers Seated across the table from me at Cafe Patachou were Drs. Tim Brown and Larry Bucshon. Dr. Bucshon was a heart surgeon from Newburgh. Dr. Brown is an emergency room physician from Crawfordsville. What made this breakfast meeting extraordinary is tha

    April 21, 2014

  • Wolfsie: High-tech got you down? I love where I bank. It’s a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 21, 2014

  • Vasicek: Celebrating Easter I have shared a few bits of Easter humor over the years, so I thought I’d start with a new one. Joseph of Arimathea was the wealthy Pharisee who is famous for helping to bury the body of Jesus. He procured the body, asking Pilate’s permission, and, w

    April 20, 2014

  • Public Eye: Was Turner the only one?

    CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden and other Statehouse reporters didn't get an answer as to why the House ethics committee hearing concerning State Rep. Eric Turner was postponed, but it now appears the committee will meet Wednesday. A note

    April 20, 2014

  • DAY: God trusted us with them Well, you heard about my wife and I, and our families from the past, so it is time for me to tell you about two of the prettiest girls I have ever known. They are our daughters Debbie and Patty. They are the greatest gifts from God that we have had i

    April 19, 2014

  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Fire Engulfs Tower Block in China Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Transcript Reveals Confusion in Ferry Evacuation Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria
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