Help! Facebook is Taking Over My Life.

facebook-notesA 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.

someone-is-wrong

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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Me Time

me-timeA couple weeks ago, my sweet friend took my boys to her house for a day of cookie baking, playing with playdough, and swinging at the park so I could relax with Leila. We’ve been trying to work this out since right after the baby was born. The initial intention was for me and the little princess to take a nice long nap together. Now that she’s 6 months old (WHAT?? How did that happen??) I’m not desperately in need of sleep like I was at the beginning, so I figured I’d spend the day grocery shopping or catching up on homework. Since it was the end of the semester, and I still had two papers to write, a test to take, and a final to study for, school won out. I put the baby to bed, sat down at the table with my computer, Bible, concordance, Catechism & course notes, and tried to get to work.

But I couldn’t.

It was just too quiet. How do people think when it’s so quiet? It was so quiet I could hear the water moving in the fish tank! I just couldn’t focus in all that quiet! (I know, I know…something’s wrong with me…) Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done.

Since I’m never, ever home alone, (Literally. I don’t know if I’ve ever been home alone since we started having kids.) I decided to have a “me” day. First, I was totally bummed because it’s FREEZING outside. I would have loved to grab a Bud Light Lime and go lay out in the backyard. Cold aside, there were still good times to be had.

So just what did I do with my stolen time? Well, let me tell you:

  1. I listened to lots of old favorite songs that I would never, ever expose my kids to. We only listen to kid songs or Christian music when the kiddos are home. We decided to use media as a force to backup our morals instead of questioning them for as long as we are able. We know that the time will come when the situation will reverse.
  2. I jumped on my bed. Yes, I really did.
  3. I danced around wildly to my blaring old jams. We dance around all the time, but it was still way fun.
  4. I took some selfies on Photo Booth.
  5. I watched the Teen Mom 2 season finale.
  6. I had a few facebook conversations with old friends. (I so much rather would have had lunch with them, but they are far away. A phone call would have been nice, but facebook allowed me to talk to several of them at once. I guess sometimes I don’t hate facebook after all.)

All of this silliness lead to a few epiphanies. Being rather thick, none of them hit me immediately. They’ve been slowly developing over the weeks that have past since that day.

Epiphany Number 1: (Thanks to my school friend, Callie.) I’ve been a total hypocrite about silence. Not a hypocrite really, just every bit as much in need of learning the value of it as everyone else I meet.

Epiphany Number 2: (Thanks to my spiritual director.) I absolutely have to let go of the “shoulds” that I impose on myself.

Epiphany Number 3: (Thanks to a car ride to Missouri with my sweet husband and confirmed by this little article.) I have to start taking care of myself. It’s my job, not my husbands. He can certainly help, but, ultimately, it’s my responsibility.

I know I often make false promises about what I plan to write about next, but my intention is to write more about each of these epiphanies and link them to this entry. We’ll see how that plays out…

me-time-word-artIn the meantime, the moral of the story is it’s ok to take care of myself. In fact, it’s more than ok, I have an obligation to do it so that I can properly fulfill my other duties. I’ve heard this millions of times, but never really took it to heart. Maybe I even quietly thought that it was something that only wimps needed to do. But as one who has spent the last 6 months (or 3 years…or 14 years…depending on when you start counting) feeling as if I’m one straw away from a broken back, I finally see the truth in it. It’s time to start taking care of me. Now I just have to figure out how to start doing that.

Dislike.

What’s the point of Facebook anyway? It’s just a giant sounding board where people either brag about how awesome they are, or how crappy their lives are, or simultaneously do both at the same time. Seriously. I don’t know why I still have one. Or even why I ever had one.

I recently whittled my friends list down to people I actually was friends with at some point in time. I thought that would help this icky feeling. I was never friends with people I didn’t know at all, but I did have a lot of very casual acquaintances on there, as I assume most people probably do. But, truthfully, at this point in my life, I don’t even know most of the people that made the cut either. I certainly never talk to them other than Facebook. That doesn’t seem to quite qualify as a friendship. But maybe I’m just being cynical…

Really though, why does anyone have a facebook? Do we all think we’re so important that world would be lacking in someway if there was no log of where I checked in for dinner or my witty opinion of some commercial I just saw for the first time? Does it really matter if people I don’t ever talk to see my most recent vacation pictures or how cute Jack is while he’s sleeping? Do people really care who I voted for on American Idol or that I’m playing tetris to kill time instead of doing the laundry? Of course not. This information about my life can’t possibly enrich your day. Similar information about your life certainly doesn’t enrich mine. So why do I feel the need to compulsively log on, read my entire news feed up to the point where I last left off, and, perhaps, even share one of the above mentioned details from my life? I truly have no idea. I have no idea what could possibly be so compelling about that.

Does Facebook give us all some false sense of security? Some sense that our lives do actually have meaning? A sense of unity and connectedness to all 785 people we’re friends with? Evidence that we’re not floating around on this planet alone? I mean people wouldn’t comment if they didn’t care, right? Or maybe we’re all just so bored with whatever is going on around us that we’re desperate for the next hilarious YouTube video, life changing blog post, or sweet comment from someone we haven’t seen since 7th grade?

Ok. It’s obvious. I’m a little cynical…or at the very least a little negative…about this whole concept for some reason. I don’t know why. Just like I don’t know why I’m on Facebook. Maybe that’s what bothers me. That I’m so consumed by something as nonsensical as a newsfeed full of usseless information that’s likely only posted as some vain attempt to keep up with the Joneses. I would like to think my life has more substance than that. But my actions clearly indicate otherwise. Maybe that’s why I’m so cranky about it all. Because I don’t like who it implies that I have become.

So why can’t I just log off? Why can’t I just click that little button that deactivates my account? Am I really that afraid that without my connection to Facebook I will have no connection to these people who were once such a huge part of my life?

Yeah.

I guess I am.

I guess I know that, when I click deactivate, all those people and all those memories that were once such a huge part of my life will no longer exist in a very real way.

Despite the fact that they haven’t been a part of my life for a very long time now, that somehow makes it more real. I guess that’s hard to deal with. I guess that’s why I’ve grown such a disdain for Facebook in general. For me, it’s a very real representation of one of the harder parts of growing up and moving on.
Hmm. That’s a little sad. Having to be faced with the reality that people and circumstances that were once of the utmost importance to me just aren’t anymore… Well… I just don’t know what to say about that. Who knew that my little rant about Facbook would end up revealing something real about me.

 

 

Finding Time to Love

While reading an article about the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I came across the most simple and profound quote. Jim Caviezel, the actor, quoting Ivan Dragicevic, stated

“Man always finds time for what he loves. If somebody who doesn’t have any time finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her, he will always find time for her. People don’t have time for God because they do not love Him.”

I love it when something so simple rings so clear and true. Even though I didn’t come up with this on my own, these are my favorite kind of epiphanies. Furthermore, this is such a fitting statement to summarize some of my Lenten experiences.

As you may recall, one of my Lenten epiphanies was about being called to tithe our time. Most days during Lent, I probably did a decent job of doing this simply because of what I chose to do for Lent in terms of prayer. Added on to my regular daily prayer time, by the end of the day most days, I’d probably shared about 10% of my awake time with God. But what about now that Lent is over? And what about the fact that it was kind of happening by default, not because I had a burning desire to spend as much time as possible with the Lord in prayer?

I think Ivan’s statement sums it up perfectly. Even though I’ve grown SO much spiritually, I still have such a long way to go. Yes, I love the Lord. But do I love Him with the same passion that I love my husband? Or greater for that matter? I’m always a little emotionally high maintenance, and during my pregnancies it can amount to downright neediness. Recently, I’ve found myself almost daily begging Josh not to go to work or to come home early or whatever else will get me a few more minutes with him. Where is that same passion for more time with the Lord?

One thing I’ve been praying for a lot lately is for our marital love to become the love that Christ intended for it to be. In Ephesians Chapter 5 we’re told that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church does to the Lord and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It really moves me and its something I greatly desire for our marriage. (Although I’ll be quick to tell you, I hope Josh never has to hand himself over for me in the manner in which Christ did for his bride, the Church.)

What I find so funny is that I’ve been asking to grow in this kind of marital love without really understanding what it even means. My actions show very clearly that I have more passion for my husband than I do for the Lord. That being the case, I think it’s laughable that I pray for Christ to teach us to love each other as He loves His Church and vice versa. Thankfully, God loves me just the way I am, despite my many imperfections and ignorances. I’m confidant that through continued prayer I will grown in both martial love as God designed it and love for God himself. I have no doubt that He can work on more than one part of me at a time.

On a less serious note, this quote also called to mind my Lenten Facebook experience, or, more accurately, experiencing life without Facebook during Lent. There are several people I keep up with on Facebook. There are many more that I am “friends” with, read their status updates, look at their pictures, but never actually communicate with. Regarding the later, I’d say I am not actually friends with those people, regardless of what I’d like to think. All relationships take effort to sustain and reading about someone’s life on Facebook doesn’t count. As for the former…well that’s the question that really got me thinking.

Previously, I would have told you that I rely on Facebook so much for communication because I’m too busy for other forms of communication such as lunch dates or even phone calls. Taking into account Ivan’s statement, which I wholeheartedly agree with, if I am too busy for time with these people, am I even really friends with them?

Being out-of-state from many of my closest friends, the ease and convenience of Facebook for feeling involved in each other’s lives is unparalleled. I don’t dispute that. But what if its come to the point where Facebook is all you have left? With few exceptions, I didn’t talk to or communicate with the people who I keep up with most on Facebook at all during Lent. I’m actually not even sure if I knew I missed some of them until I “saw” them again on Facebook. I was really excited to “see” them, but it never even occurred to me to get in touch with them without using Facebook. That may just mean I’m selfish. But if the same is true for them, are we really even friends to begin with?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

My point is that love is a verb. For those of you struggling to remember, verbs are words that show action. If we can’t take even the smallest, simplest action, whether it be for our spouses, our friends, or the Lord, how much do we really love them? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Ivan is exactly right. When we love something, we make time for it. It’s not uncommon for Americans to move their whole schedule around to ensure they don’t miss some particular hour of TV. If we can do that for a show that we “love,” why is it so hard for us to make a little time for the people we love and for our God? After all, people and most definitely God have so much more value than anything you could possibly find on TV.

DIY Crazy

Official reports indicate unanimously that I have gone DIY crazy. And we haven’t even closed yet! From spending hours at a time at Lowe’s to watching DIY Network clips online to reading how-to books to making a list of about 100 projects, priority ranked, it’s safe to say I’m definitely obsessed. I’m just so excited to finally have a home that we own, that we can make our own, that we can make real improvements on. I suppose you could be wondering what I could possibly need to improve since we bought a brand new home, but trust me, there’s lots of room for personalization and upgrades!

Speaking of upgrades, we were very careful to ensure we chose a neighborhood where we could upgrade away without worrying about pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood. There are plenty of homes larger and more expensive than ours. So, all of our projects should go hand in hand with increased equity. Ah, sweet equity. I am absolutely thrilled that we will finally be building equity instead of fattening some other Joe Schmoe’s wallet with our rental payments.

So what’s first? Well, the week we close I plan to have the interior painted (no more boring white and beige!!), seal our privacy fence, build our compost bin and rain barrel, and of course move in. I’ve already picked all the paint colors, except for the boys’ room. We went out to the house after church on Sunday to make sure everything worked with the cabinetry, counter tops, tile, carpet, etc. Aside from matching the paint, I’m SO glad we went out there. It was so much fun to see all the finishing touches going in. Our beautiful front door is up, the fence is built, the 2 in blinds are installed, and they extended the tile in the foyer like we asked. I was so, so excited to get an even better idea of what it will be like finished.

According to Andy, we should paint his room and the playroom blue, the living room gray, the kitchen white, and the master bedroom brown. While I love his ideas, that’s not quite how things are going to work out. He’ll be getting some of his wishes as the playroom ceiling will be blue, a pretty pale gingham blue, and a brownish color, Delta Sandbar, will run throughout the house. Other than that, I’m afraid he’s out of luck.

I’ve really been surprised at how much Andy has gotten into our pre-DIY research. He sits right next to me on the couch and examines paint samples, looks through how-to books, and watches video clips with me. He even picked out two of the paint colors we’re using after I completely missed them. I think he’s most excited about all the tools we’ll be gradually acquiring and planting and working in the vegetable garden in the backyard, which is pretty high on the priority list after unpacking.

It’s definitely safe to say that I have become consumed with planning home improvement projects. In fact, it’s probably completely counteracted my giving up facebook for lent. Initially, I had a lot more “extra” time to spend in prayer or reading or whatever. Now, all my free time is completely absorbed. I guess I just replaced one time-killer with another. At least this time-killer is a little more worthwhile than monitoring status updates and picture uploads, as if those activities somehow imply that I have a real relationship with the posters, but that’s a topic for an entirely different post all together. Feel free to follow our DIY escapades here. Since it’s all I ever talk about anymore, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it a lot too! And if you have any helpful tips along the way, feel free to share them. We have no idea what we’re doing; we’re just learning as we go.

Called To Tithe Our Time?

I had a little epiphany tonight that I just thought I’d share. If we were to tithe our time as we tithe our money (And why wouldn’t we? Our time is very much a gift and every bit as valuable, perhaps more so, than our money.), I figure the average person should spend about 1.6 hours with the Lord each day. Assuming the average person gets 8 hours of sleep each night (I know, laughable, right?) he/she would be awake for 16 hours each day. 10% of 16 hours is 1.6 hours. However, that’s kind of like tithing based on net income as opposed to gross. I know some people who feel very strongly that tithes should be based on gross income. Applying that logic, we should each spend 2.4 hours with the Lord each day. I was blown away by this thought, as such a thought had never occurred to me before. Yet, upon further reflection, it seems that this, also like a monetary tithe, is just the jumping off point. After all we are called to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Isn’t amazing what one can come up with when she’s not spending her idle time on facebook? :)

What We’re Doing for Lent

I’ve been asked several questions about what my family is doing for Lent. Just to satisfy curiosity, I’ll fill you in.

Of course, we’re observing all Church traditions regarding fast and abstinence. Josh and I both spent time in prayer to discern what God was calling us to give up. I’m giving up Facebook and Josh is giving up espn.com. Bless his heart. When he felt God calling him to give it up, he was a little disappointed to say the least. He most definitely does not want to, especially with March Madness just around the corner. And I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about giving up facebook. However, I know if I spent a fraction of the time in prayer that I spend on Facebook, God would most certainly be able to work wonders through me! With the boys being so young, we didn’t expect them to choose something to give up. Instead, we decided this would be the ideal time to take their tv privileges (or more accurately, lack thereof) a step further. They’ve been without cable for sometime, but we’ve decided to remove all DVDs and videos that aren’t either educational or spiritual in nature.

For our family almsgiving we’ve stocked up on non-perishables. Each day, both boys will get to go to the cabinet and pick one item each to donate to our box. We will deliver the box to the poor at the end of Lent. We’re also participating in CRS’ Operation Rice Bowl. I love Operation Rice Bowl and we add an additional fun twist. Josh and I deposit a quarter anytime we use a curse word, gossip, make a judgment about someone, or engage in general negative commentary. CRS provides a calendar that has a suggestion each day for either giving alms, Lenten Scripture passages, stories from the less fortunate around the world and more.

To increase time in prayer Josh has chosen a devotional book, Classic Catholic Meditations to Enrich Your Faith & Help You Pray by Fr. Bede Jarrett, OP. I will be making the Stations of the Cross each day. It just occurred to me that we haven’t selected an activity to help the boys spend more time with Jesus in prayer, so we’ll have to get on that this evening.

We’re also planning to spend each Friday evening at Church this Lent participating in our parish Fish Fry, Mass, Stations and the Lenten Speaker Series. This is what I’m actually most excited about. I think these Friday evenings will be invaluable time together as a family, with our Church and with the Lord.

This is by far the most we’ve ever planned in advance for Lent. That makes me nervous. You know what they say about God laughing while we make plans…. I recently read a fabulous article in the February issue of Liguorian magazine about seeking God in not only in the sacrifices and circumstances that we choose but also those that we do not choose this Lent. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the Lord has in store for us as we seek Him this Lenten Season.