My 16-year-old may be the first adolescent in history to deactivate her Facebook page. “What?” I asked, incredulous. I felt a little panicked that she was moving on just when I was catching on. Apparently she’s committed to returning to a simpler time, when email and text were the main vehicles of procrastination–I mean, communication. “I spend all of my time on Facebook,” she explained. “It’s habit to automatically type in the URL.” Even I have it bookmarked; how come she didn’t? “I replaced it with The New York Times on my Favorites bar,” she said. My head started spinning a little. I felt like we were staging another remake of “Freaky Friday”–I was living her life, and she was living mine. I would have been proud of her initiative if I weren’t so busy feeling insecure and envious. Why couldn’t I display such sensible judgment? Maybe I’d actually get something done.
I have seen her take other dramatic measures to control her Facebook addiction. Once while studying for exams, she set the parental controls on her own laptop so she couldn’t access Facebook. That proved faulty, however, when she figured out the password she’d chosen and kept circumventing the system. Then she downloaded an app called “Self-Control” that you can set to deny yourself access to certain sites for specific stretches of time, and it will not let you connect under any circumstances until the clock runs out. That worked; she studied with uninterrupted focus, and performed well on her finals.
I was, ironically, on Facebook when she came in to tell me she’d quit. She walked over and typed her name into the “Search” bar. Nothing came up. “It’s like you don’t even exist!” I said. “Aren’t your friends wondering what happened to you?”
“They probably haven’t even noticed,” she said. “Anyone that needs to talk to me can text or email me. I deactivated my account last night and hardly anyone has mentioned it.”
“You’ve been without Facebook for 24 hours already? How’s it been?”
“It’s been liberating, Mom,” she said sarcastically, and headed upstairs to do homework. My husband and I are taking bets about how long she’ll hold out. If it keeps up, I may just have to dig our old typewriter and rotary-dial phone out of the attic.