x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

There's no denying it: we are given to distraction

Facebook is the best procrastination tool available. Since it is on the internet, it is always just one tempting click away.

The temptation to spend time on Facebook rather than doing schoolwork can be too great.
The temptation to spend time on Facebook rather than doing schoolwork can be too great.

My priorities are confused. I'm supposed to be doing homework, but that's become a minimised icon at the bottom of my screen that hasn't been touched for at least 50 minutes. Instead, my attention is completely captivated by the social networking site Facebook. It has grasped all my concentration. It is 8.18pm and 51 of my Facebook friends are online. I flick between writing this column and checking for updates that could have been posted in the last 30 seconds. Someone says they have fallen asleep in front of their computer. This really is no concern of mine - other than the fact it is distracting me from my homework - yet I can't seem to stop flicking back and forth.

Facebook is the best procrastination tool available. Since it is on the internet, it is always just one tempting click away. You can look at pictures, play games, send instant messages and write on people's walls. There must be some poor Harvard students - whose parents spent their life savings to send their children to school - who never graduated because their classmate Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook. I'm sure they found it just as difficult as I do to concentrate on schoolwork when the temptation is at their fingertips.

No doubt this pattern has repeated itself innumerable times as Facebook has spread across the globe, becoming the world's largest social networking site with more than 300 million users. Zuckerberg has cunningly plucked the most addictive aspects of other social networking sites and combined them into one irresistible portal. Ironically, Facebook allows its users to be faceless. There are two ways in which you can remain anonymous. The first is that you can confront somebody without interacting with them personally. Instead, you can have your face-to-face in cyberspace. Many a bully who may never approach anyone in person has left negative comments on someone's profile.

Facebook also allows you to check out people you may be interested in without them ever discovering you have done so. This year our school began to monitor student internet use due to the excessive amount of time we spent on Facebook. We didn't really believe the school would do this and continued to rebelliously "Facebook stalk" during our free periods, sometimes even sneaking checks during class.

Our bubble was burst one morning when we entered the common room and saw a sheet of one student's internet use stuck to the noticeboard. All the sites the student visited were printed on the page as well as the percentage of time she spent on Facebook this year while on school computers - 90 per cent! The headmaster had scribbled a stern note underneath the list, threatening to ban the student from the school's computers. Since then I am in constant fear of exposure of my addiction.

Come exam time, a few of my friends deactivate their Facebook accounts in order to stop themselves from being distracted. This sounds like a good idea in theory, however all my friends know each other's passwords so they just log in through another friend's account. This makes matters even worse because now they are exposed to a whole new group of people whom they can look into. Last summer on a holiday in Canada, my family and I were looking around a shopping mall. A group of girls a few years older than me passed by and I suddenly felt a sense of déjà vu. I had seen one of those girls before but I was unable to place where. Then I realised that she was my cousin's friend's friend, whose Facebook page I casually stumbled across one day. I held my head in shame as I realised how creepy it was to see someone whose Facebook page I stalked - and in another country.

Every time my father sees me on Facebook at home, he shouts: "Addict!" I used to shout back confidently: "No I'm not. I'm just on it because I'm bored." But I think I was just in denial. I researched the definition of addiction and came up with this: "Being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming." This sounds a lot like me, and even more worryingly, it seems to define my Facebook usage perfectly. Now every time my father walks by the computer and says "addict", I do not reply. Instead, I roll my eyes in annoyance because I know I have no counter-argument. I have grudgingly come to the realisation that, yes, I truly am a Facebook addict.

Zoya Zajac is a 17-year-old student in Abu Dhabi.