Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

Bayanda Mzoneli is a public servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

Let me start by apologising to the blog readers who are not on facebook, especially those who do not even have access to the internet (yes, it is printed by their acquintances and brought to them in hardcopy). This is the 2nd successive post related to facebook. I promise to write about something else other than facebook on my next post, in less than a week.

I have had some friends opine that I am likely to be a facebook addict. This is despite the fact that my facebook status updates and comments are only about 5% of what Sentletse Diakanyo has been doing on facebook in 2009. I have also observed friends accusing each other of being facebook addicts. Somewhere on the internet they have even termed the condition “Facebook Addiction Disorder” refering to people that meet a certain criteria relating to their facebook usage. However the criteria varies such that it is not worth much attention for this post.

Communication has evolved over the years. From using the messengers to using the post office to using the telegram, fast mail, courier, fax, email to mobile phones and facebook. Since humans take time to adapt to their own inventions, there could still be people who prefer sending Christmas cards at the Post Office while others just send sms on Christmas Eve or on the day itself. I am convinced that a significant number of facebook users will opt to update their facebook statuses instead of sending sms. Don’t be surprised if you don’t receive as many the annual Christmas smses this year as you used to.

I often spend time traveling and in meetings. I found facebook convenient in keeping in touch with distant relatives and friends. Instead of calling 5 family members to tell them I am going to Cape Town, I could just update my facebook status and they would know and they are at liberty to comment about that accordingly on facebook. In exceptional circumstances they may then make the call. The evolution of communication is about this type of convenience. It then becomes odd if one suggests that communicating with friends and family constitutes an addiction to the tool you are using to communicate. Facebook addiction is a fallacy.

Communication, by its nature, is somehow ad hoc. Which is why this blog post has a beginning and en end. You can’t be addicted to it. Now if facebook is a tool for communication it is illogical to suggest that one can be addicted to it. Facebook is not for itself, it is for its users. People talk, then silence, then talk and so on. The same goes on on facebook. A status has to be updated by someone who has something to say, those who comment also have something to say. It all eventually ends when the facebook status is changed to a new one or when it fades with time. Hence it is not possible for sane persons to be perpetually using a tool to do something that is ad hoc.

What about people who check their facebook too often? Unlike the mobile phone, which rings, facebook does not ring. It requires the user to login to check “what’s up” So not logging in will be like switching off the mobile phone when compared to mobile phone usage. To assist users with this, facebook has the settings to allow a users to subscribe to certain stuff by sms. Instead of logging in every 30 minutes, I have subscribed to what interests me. I receive an sms each time an activity I subscribed to happens on facebook, like someone sending me an inbox message, posting something on my wall or tagging me in a photo. This is not addiction, it is the same sms messaging just bigger, better and cheaper.

Yesterday I had a conversation with my little brother for 3 hours. We eventually slept at about 01h00 in the morning. I don’t regard that as an addiction, it is communication. As I type here my phone keeps interrupting me because of smses I am exchanging with my cousin sister. That is communication, not addiction. Once I finish typing this post, I am going to check on facebook. That is not addiction, it is communication.

The failure of some to appreciate and harness the communication tools available in the 21st century should not mislead them into labeling those who do. The next time you think of labeling someone a facebook addict, think whether are you not a facebookophobe (suffering from facebookophobia), the fear of using facebook effectively.

At the same time, the lot that is disorganized; like those who have their ringtones on at church and at the cemetery should not be used to judge the rest of mobile phone users. Facebook users who add all sorts of add-on applications to their facebook and who lose concentration on other things because of it should not be used to judge the rest of sane facebook users. Such bad mannered people make bad name for some of us who are sane users. Unfortunately they exist everywhere be it religion, politics, road users, media and so on. All spheres of life will always have their deviants, the wisdom is in seeing the deviants for who they are and not use them to judge others.

Next time someone calls you a facebook addict, look them in the monitor and say this is the 21st century deal with it.

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