Should anyone in your family deactivate Facebook? Or even (gasp!) permanently delete an account?
With the first option, your profile disappears. But it still exists, hidden from view. (People can't search for you or see anything about you. But you can reactivate at any time, with all your old information magically appearing again.)
With the second option, your profile vanishes forever, with, as Facebook says, "no option for recovery." It's the cold-turkey choice.
Recently my friend Stacey Wilkins thoughtfully let me know she planned to take a break from Mark Zuckerberg's social network. It makes sense. She is heading to an intensive training course in Belgium, with little time for checking messages and posts. "I won't have time this summer being in Europe, and I don't want the people I care about to think I'm ignoring them," she says. "But I'm making sure to tell those people."
Over the past year or so, her friend and fellow teacher Melissa Ginsburg has deactivated and reactivated a half dozen times. "I found it was just taking up so much of my time needlessly," she says. "It was just there. Pretty soon you start looking at people's pages, and there are games on there, and there are all sorts of ways to waste time. I was spending hours on Facebook doing virtually nothing...I needed a break."
Should you try deactivating, too? Some questions to ask yourself - and to get friends and family members to ask themselves:
Is the social-networking site interfering with your life? "Things like Facebook need to be a way of enhancing our social interactions, not replacing them," says Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. "If you really have trouble avoiding Facebook, deactivating it is a good idea." Tempted to reactivate immediately? Ask a close friend to change your password, says Turner.
Do you feel you "need" Facebook for your job? In some professions, social networking is essentially part of the job description. "It's in the fabric of our lives now," says Turner. "At the same time, as human beings we are not wired to deal with people in a computer context."
Are you job hunting? Social-networking sites can help you find positions - or lose them. If you're nervous about anything on your page or about your privacy settings, you may want to deactivate.
Do you think too much about your next Facebook "fix"? Norwegian researchers developed a "Facebook Addiction Scale," which rates people based on how much time they plan to use the social network, how often they feel the urge to go on it more and more often, how much they turn to it to forget about personal problems, how frequently they have tried and failed to cut down on it, and how much it negatively affects their work and studies.
Do your family members think you should deactivate Facebook? Just ask them.
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