Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

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

More than a year ago, I wrote about the Fallacy of Facebook addiction. My view remains unchanged, it is not possible to be addicted to Facebook. I like to know what the 54 members of my extended family are up to and 63% of them are on Facebook. Instead of calling or sending sms to each of them, I just go to their profiles and check. It’s not Facebook I am addicted to, but my family. If you think Family addiction is a problem, try eating rice, cucumber, avocado and salmon rolled with nori from an epidermis.

Be that as it may, as Facebook friends increase, you’re likely to spend more time checking on them. Or even if they don’t increase, there will always be those that get your attentions with their hourly updates or updating every minute. If you work 8 hours, you may very well end up spending 2 hours or more checking the News Feed on Facebook. You also want to know how he/she responded to the last comment you made on their status. With privacy levels pretty low on Facebook, you may also want to keep an eye on what photos have you been tagged on lately (without your permission).

Let alone that most people are not neccesarily friends with most of their Facebook friends. In fact they are not even acquaintances. You often spend 16% of your day reading about people you don’t know and you may probably never know.

About 85% of my Facebook friends its people I know in person but I can’t waste time reading about them sleeping and waking up and taking a shower.

I know some of my friends are spending lots of time checking up on Facebook friends. Some go to sleep, phone-in-hand, browsing through the news feed. Others used to pray when they wake up, they now reach for their mobile phone to check what’s happening on Facebook instead of talking to their creator.

Some of my Facebook friends suspect I spend a lot of time on Facebook, while in reality, I don’t. I shall now share how I do it. This is to share, not to prescribe thankyouverymuch.

Facebook provides an sms service for interacting with it. They call it Facebook mobile. An sms is sent to your phone, free of charge, everytime a person of your choice updates their status. I subscribe to the status updates of about 16 people out of the 1800 Facebook friends I have. In this way I don’t have to spend my time reading status updates that are not worth my time at the time when there are more important things to attend to. Of the 16 people I subscribe to only about half updates their status daily with only one who updates hourly. Others updates once in 3 days up to once in 3 months (only one person updates once in 3 months). For this reason, my phone is not flooded by sms to the point of freezing.

I know this sms subscription business may seem boring but it isn’t, unless you have boring Facebook friends. For example, the status updates of Maduane Jussir Mars, Ndumiso Ngcobo (formely a great author turned mere radio personality and columnist) and Philani Msweli are always filled with more than enough humour to get me through a bad day. The other subscriptions are family and close friends, plus a couple of people I spy on or stalk.

Facebook mobile also allows you to update your status via sms. You simple sms the status update to a number they provide you and it will become your Facebook status update. However, the trick is not to exceed standard 160 characters in your sms, otherwise your status update will split into 2 or more separate status updates depending on the number of characters you have put beyond 160. This is the limitation I can live with. My status updates are rarely longer than 140 characters because I send them to Twitter via sms as well.

After you sms your status update, every comment on that status will be delivered to you by sms. You can reply to the sms to comment on it. The same goes for the Facebook status updates of the people you subscribe to, you can comment on their status by replying to the sms that gave your their status. However, you do not receive comments in other people’s status updates as sms. You’d have to login to go check your notifications in order to comment further on others status updates.

You can also get sms for inbox messages, wall posts and tagging in photos. Facebook mobile lets you choose what you want and what you don’t want to receive, though within its limitation. You reply to the inbox or wall post by replying to the sms that brought you the inbox or wall posts. Be careful not to accidentally reply to a wall posts thinking it’s an inbox and end up having your clean linen in public.

Since I removed myself from a lot of Facebook groups, I rarely receive inbox messages. Very few people ever write Wall posts and am rarely tagged on photos. The sms notifying me of any of these come at a frequency of about once in 10 days. Obviously people who flirt a lot on inbox or who have joined the Facebook groups where they send you an inbox every 3 hours would recieve a flood of sms if they susbscribed to these notifications.

On a busy day, I often recieve up to 43 sms from Facebook. I feel it is better to read the 43 sms in my own time than to read 300 paragraphs in status updates every hour for the whole day about things I may not neccesarily need to know such as that a friend just killed a fly.

In case you were wondering, this does not lead me to missing important sms. The numbers that Facebook use to send sms is unique enough to be able to differentiate from ordinary cell phone numbers. I can scan through the sms inbox on my phone to read sms from people and leave those from Facebook for later, like when I’m in the White House.

The added advantages are that you can use Facebook even on a phone without internet and you can use stay in touch even when the IT unit prohibits by shutting down Facebook on your PC.

The downside to using sms for Facebook is that you’re likely to comment less on the status updates of a lot of friends whom you don’t subscribe to. You are even likely to comment less on your own status updates. Some of the friends (who may or may not have low self-esteem), who usually comment on your status may notice that you don’t comment on their status updates or respond to their comments on your status and suspect you are ignoring them. Some of the Facebook friends actually like to see comments on their status updates even if the only things they ever update about are the weather, Generations and God, which are issues that don’t neccesarily elicit the urge to comment. If you can live with this perception of self-centredness then you may use Facebook mobile, but if you can’t then you can continue spending 16% of your day reading hundreds of pages of useless information.

Facebook is a great tool for communication. But communication can consume a lot of time if poorly managed. I know some friends made it their 2011 resolution to spend less time on Facebook. This is my little contribution to their efforts.

The next time you see a lot of status updates from me, I would be probably sending text messages one after the other not that I’d be reading through paragraphs of Pirates fans status updates complaining about the coach and their inability to win games.

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How to subscribe to a friends’ status update

1) Go to on your phone. If you use a touch screen, make sure you are not a the touch version of the mobile site by checking settings on the top of the screen.

2) Go to the profile of the person you want to subscribe to (this can be done by using “search” on the bottom of the screen)

3) On a person’s profile, go to the bottom of the screen and select the “subscribe via sms” option

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