A lady I know from Church was lamenting on Facebook today. She said she was considering deleting her account because it wastes her time and because she often feels stressed or inadequate as a mother thanks to the rampant advice polluting her newsfeed. Despite the 75 comments her post had collected, it seemed inappropriate to offer my two cents when she just stated she was overwhelmed by unwanted advice. I think what I would have said is helpful, at least it has been for me, so I’ll share it here, where she won’t have to read it unless she wants to.
If she is feeling as overwhelmed as she stated, and if her daily priorities are out of whack because of the time she spends on facebook and/or articles she links to from facebook, it is most definitely time for a break. I know this because I have been there – multiple times. There have been times when I have allowed my children to sit in front of the tv for hours on a perfectly beautiful day while I perused the internet. I find this unacceptable. My children deserve more than that. For me, that is a sure sign that my priorities are way out of whack. Truthfully, I probably ignored many signs prior to that big glaring realization.
There have also been times when I have been drawn into debates of one kind of another. These are a big no-no for me. When I find myself arguing with the stove-top while I prepare dinner, I know I’ve let facebook get the best of me. I’m all for conversation and sharing opinions, but let’s be real: no one wants to consider my opinion (or anyone else’s) when they’re on facebook. They only want to share their own. Loudly. And repetitively. I’d have better luck debating my 2 year old with his fingers stuck in his ears. One simply can’t take the bait. It won’t be a real conversation, it will never truly be resolved, and you’ll just end up shouting at yourself in the shower. From what I’ve seen in my newsfeed, my church friend not only takes the bait, but she dangles her own. Facebook is not an effective platform to resolve the worlds problems. Save yourself some stress. Don’t debate on facebook. Block your friends that dangle bait from your newsfeed. Life’s too beautiful to put that much effort into something so incredibly ineffective.
So, here’s my advice for my friend, take a break. It’s the best way to gain some perspective. For me, I fast from Facebook every Lent. When I come back after the 40+ days (because I don’t log in on Sunday’s either) I am shocked at the drivel in my newsfeed. It is such a wake up call for me. Then I am able to start cleaning things up. I unlike or hide pages that aren’t offering me fulfilling information. That helps immensely. I have a really bad habit of liking pages. Any time I see a yummy recipe or a good blog entry, I like their page, envisioning all of the future entries that will enhance my life. It rarely works out that way. After a year of accumulating new likes, they desperately need to be cleaned up. The time away from facebook allows me to see my newsfeed with a fresh perspective. Over time I become desensitized to all the crap. When I come back from my fast, I am able to see with new eyes, and quickly discern what needs to go.
Next, I don’t allow my friend list to grow larger than 300 people. There’s nothing magic about the number 300; it’s simply what I decided was a realistic number of acquaintances. This decision has two components.
- My primary motive for having a facebook page is keeping in touch with friends and family that are spread far and wide. As such, I often post pictures of my kiddos and family updates. Although I never post anything extremely intimate, I don’t believe it is appropriate or necessary to share these details about my life with someone I used to run into at parties in college. Therefore, I try to make sure everyone on my friend’s list is someone I actually communicate with (or want to communicate with) in some way.
- When I started cleaning up my newsfeed like I mentioned above, I starting “hiding” a bunch of “friends.” This caused me to think about the nature of these “friendships.” In most cases, these were people who were sharing facts about their life that weren’t really intended for me. An acquaintance from 10th grade can’t possibly be posting pictures of her kid for me. Quite frankly, I didn’t care about the pictures of her kid because I never knew her all that well in the first place. As a result, my general rule of thumb is: if I’m going to hide them from my newsfeed, I should probably just unfriend them. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like family members who want to dangle bait, but, for the most part, if I don’t want to read what you have to share, we’re probably not really “friends.”
My unfriending principle lead me to a realization. There were many people that I wouldn’t really consider myself friends with, but whom I didn’t really want to delete. Their lives were simply too interesting. When I stepped back and thought about it, I realized just how creepy that really is. I was watching their lives the way people watch the lives of celebrities, a trend which I find disgusting. As such, I have to make myself follow this rule: if I don’t feel comfortable liking or commenting on their posts, I have to unfriend them, no matter how fascinating their lives are. Otherwise, I’m just using them for my entertainment, which is not something I want to do, even from afar.
I guess the point of all of this is that I have finally resolved my turbulent relationship with Facebook. I now realize that my disdain actually stemmed from the unchecked and often times inappropriate place it held in my life. Now that I have created some much needed boundaries by defining the role I want Facebook to play in my life, I’m much happier with it. I would like to encourage my friend to do what is necessary to accomplish the same.