AN essential part of modern living or a creepy waste of time? KELLY BUCKLEY and LOUISE MACKENZIE look at the ups and downs of Facebook.

Facing up to an addiction, by Kelly Buckley

“FACEBOOK is like crack”, a friend once said to me after forcing herself to close her account and go cold turkey, because her addiction meant she couldn’t get any of her college work done.

I have to agree. But it’s a legal kinda crack, so that’s OK.

I am a fairly recent junkie, having just started properly getting involved in the activity I like to call stalkbooking, earlier this year. I opened the account many moons ago, but hardly looked at it. I thought it was weird, creepy even, that everyone was telling each other their every move.

But then...

After missing a few parties, and feeling the wrath of the hosts who said they’d invited me via Facebook, I decided I ought to get more involved, see what it was all about.

I opened the virtual door, and left my soul outside. I was hooked.

It started harmlessly enough. My first status update was written. I pressed the “share” button nervously. What if nobody took any notice and I looked like a total Billy No Mates saddo? Would anyone really care what was “on my mind’?

Within seconds friends started replying, the japes flying thick and fast. Phew! This was fun. A whole heap of your mates out there up for the craic at the tip of your fingertips. FacePARTYYYY! Whoop whoop!

And there is the lure. As a party girl, someone who loves nothing better than to be part of a crowd, a cyber social event is just too much fun to resist.

Photographic evidence of last night’s soiree being posted up, with everyone commenting on the embarrassing, but funny hazy memories. It prolongs the blast, cements friendships further, enforces the comradeship of your crew. And the invites – fantastic! You can see who is going where and when, invite more of your mates to come, brilliant... whether real-time parties have become an extension of Faceparty or the other way around, who cares?

Bored of keeping up appearances, by Louise Mackenzie

TURNING off the computer after an hour on Facebook feels a bit like eating a massive takeaway, enjoyable at the time, but afterwards it leaves you feeling decidedly guilty and a little bit queasy.

Why did I just look through a friend-of-a-friend’s holiday snaps? Why do I actually feel upset to discover a distant friend I haven’t seen for ages has culled me from their friend list?

As any dedicated Facebook follower will know, it can all be a minefield of emotions – especially if you log on drunk/depressed/recently dumped.

It hasn’t always been like this. You see, me and Facebook have a bit of history and like some relationships it has gone decidedly downhill.

I first started using Facebook at university. I was amazed at how easy it was to stay in contact with buddies at home and away.

The honeymoon period was a frenzy of uploading photos, “poking” friends, funny status updates and catching up with old schoolmates.

I would always keep an eye on what photos appeared on my page and deleted any that were too embarrassing. This suddenly became a lot harder when friends started using their phones to take photos and upload them – giving me no chance to vet out the bad ones.

I started to worry about what was on my profile page and began to feel the need to check it regularly to make sure no unsightly photos had slipped through the net.

Presenting a polished version of yourself – minus the drunken photos on Saturday night – can feel like a full-time job and a bit of a hassle.

The turning point came when I decided to keep big events, like getting engaged, or buying our first house, to myself.

Once I decided that I didn’t want to put the good or bad news on my page. There wasn’t really any point carrying on so I deactivated the account.

Admittedly, sometimes I can’t resist a quick peek, but like any break up, I can honestly say I’ve moved on.