Monday, March 10, 2014

Facebook: Love and Hate

facebook thumbs downIt’s been getting worse lately: this sense that the balance of my life is off. One of the biggest signs of that is my addiction (strong word, yes, but fitting!) to social media. I have turned to the quick “fix” of Facebook for many reasons. It’s a quick hit of “drugs” to this junkie who thrives on my extroverted nature to make me feel purpose and meaning in this ever-increasing, isolated culture.

There are so many reasons I really love Facebook.

  • Facebook Stories like these
  • Social media connects people in an irreplaceable way. For example, earlier this year when Atlanta was hit with a bad snow storm, I watched my news feed be filled with my friends’ status updates and requests for help. I was amazed that people even ASKED for help and weren’t so independent that they had to do life alone, and also amazed at how other friends answered those requests and went out of their way for strangers.
  • I hate to admit I get a large part of my world news from Facebook, but it’s true. It’s where I first hear of celebrity deaths, natural disasters, and political upheaval.
  • Facebook is also the place I get personal news from my friends: new jobs, engagements, pregnancies, diagnoses, sudden deaths. Two weeks ago, I saw that my childhood best friend’s dad died suddenly. I immediately reached out to her through a private message, and we were speaking on the phone – and crying together – within hours. Without Facebook, I might not have known for months – or at least until I received a Christmas card – or ever! (It’s not something people usually put in a Christmas card, you know.)
  • Facebook put me in contact again with long-lost friends. Dan always jokes with me about how I keep in contact with the most random people, even prior to Facebook. There’s the waiter from our Caribbean cruise and the American woman living in Israel that we met in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. Those are people I kept in contact with through email and Real! Mail! before Facebook was invented. And then Facebook came along, and we can communicate in real time. It’s fantasticly wonderful for Little Miss Extrovert!
  • Since most of my family is now gone, staying in touch with old family friends has been much easier with Facebook. I am included in my brother’s high school and college friends’ lives and events, and my parents’ friends are my friends now too. Something really cool happened earlier this year. A guy who knew my brother in high school (but was between Jackson’s age and my age, so I didn’t know him well) posted a football video and tagged mutual friends in it. I shared the video with my sister, thinking I might have noticed my brother in that video. The guy who posted it contacted me privately and offered to send me a different video of my brother’s high school championship football game. I watched it and got to see Jackson again, and it made me incredibly happy to relive that night.
  • Facebook also keeps me in the pop culture loop. It’s where I go to see video links of stupid human and pet tricks, you-won’t-believe-this! videos, and new music videos. It’s where I post a video of my kiddos doing something amazing or funny or silly (even though this is borderline bragging).

And, yet… there are so many reasons Facebook isn’t all love and joy for me. Those good things above have a flip side too:

  • For every great video link I’ve watched, there are at least ten unfunny/stupid video links. And those stupid captioned cartoons that are so popular right now? For reals, people. Stop posting them!sarcastic card2
  • I have friends who post pictures of Every. Single. Meal. They. Eat. The annoyance I feel is truly unhealthy.
  • Same goes for people’s jerky opinions or dirty laundry they air. I am still shocked and astounded a people who post about a fight with their spouse or post a link to a really offensive political view – or something that’s borderline porn. Ugh! I have to admit I’m also a bit horrified by my friends who have pageant kids (or dance team kids) who post photos of their girls so dolled up that they look like, well… I won’t say, but I know you get the picture. (And, for the record, these are 8- and 10-year old girls.)
  • Really bad photos also get me. I know this one doesn’t bother most people, but the photographer in me shudders sometimes at the techniques out there.
  • People who can’t be real drive me a little nuts on Facebook. There are those who post an inflated version of their reality and can’t be honest. This bothers me so much that I made a pact with one of my best friends to text each other whenever we feel the need to post something “real” but are afraid to. She and I call them True Status Updates and we text the really crappy, bad parts of our lives to each other. It’s partly misery-loves-company, and partly an accountability to each other to be authentic in a SAFE place.
  • One of the biggest traps for me on Facebook is the enhanced feeling of loneliness from reading people’s posts about said inflated reality (see above), which makes me feel inferior. I already feel inferior enough on my own; I don’t need a news feed full of visual reminders of unattainable parenting tips, fashion pinnacles I’ll never reach, or Valentines/date nights/dinners (!!!) I’ll never eat. (Ooooo… now you get the real crux of the matter: Facebook makes me a green little monster!)
  • And while we’re in this jealousy/envy vein, let’s just rip the entire mask off my face: Facebook makes me feel like a loser when I see all the shopping trips/dinners/parties/social events people have attended and I wasn’t included. It feels like 4th grade all over again. And, apparently, I’m barely above the 4th-grade level of maturity! Ick!

There you have it. My partial list of why Facebook is so marvelous and so malevolent to me. (Marvelovent?!) I love and hate it at the same time.

Now the question is: what am I gonna do about it? Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, it’s been getting worse lately. It has sucked away my time with God, my family, my marriage, my housekeeping, and my blogging. It has become an idol for me. I realized this a while ago, but thought I could control it. I went through my news feed and deleted a lot of people (not as friends, just in my feed), but that didn’t help. I promised myself at the start of the year I would only log into Facebook once a day and for a limited amount of time. Um… nope. Didn’t work. I toyed with the idea of deactivating my account, but felt like I couldn’t for a few of those “love” reasons listed above, plus there are people who contact me there for work things sometimes. I floundered. I pondered. I prayed.

And then last Wednesday, it happened. It was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Although I’m Protestant and don’t do a full-fledged Lent commitment, I still like to spend the time preparing for Easter and the work God is doing in my heart. During my quiet time, I felt such a conviction to get rid of Facebook that I immediately got out of my seat, walked over to the computer, and spent 30 minutes shutting it down. (It took a little while because I am the admin of a few different groups and had to pass ownership along to other people.) I didn’t talk myself out of it, and didn’t try to analyze the repercussions (which happened pretty quickly right after; I lost information for some social events happening the next day and weekend).

I simply let it go.

And, honestly? I’m really happy about it. Yesterday was a little difficult because I had three people text me within hours of each other to ask why I disappeared on Facebook. They needed to contact me with some information, or tag me in something encouraging. I explained to them my need to step out for a while, and suggested other ways to contact me.

I feel more free, like I am in control of the media, instead of the other way around. That feels really good to know I’m not a passive victim of the Facebook drain. I choose when and how it will affect me, and how I will imbibe of it. (I told you it sounds like I’m an addict!)

I’m pretty sure my absence from social media won’t last forever because I do have two kids who will, one day, request access for their own social media accounts. Plus, I’m still on Instagram (which doesn’t affect me quite as negatively – yet! – as Facebook does) and blogging (it will be so nice to write more!). Elizabeth is not a complete social[media] pariah!

Like other stuff in my life right now, I’m just going to take things as they come. Today is not a Facebook day, and I will make no decisions or judgments today about whether tomorrow will – or won’t – be, either. Wish me luck!Time Wasted on Facebook



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