I’m starting to feel slightly unhealthy about Facebook. I find myself constantly tapping the screen to see if anyone has responded to a recent post or if anything new has come up. I’ll open it for any reason. In the middle of doing the dishes, back from a ten-minute walk, just came out of the shower; check my phone. Once it is open, I feel compelled to reply or scroll just a little. Over the course of the day I lose hours of my time. For what really? If someone wanted to say something that couldn’t wait a day or two, wouldn’t they call or message?
Last month, I decided to take a break. For one week I absolutely refused to check my feed. And it felt good. I felt free and a little lonely. I wrote a note to myself, “Check FB on Fridays between 12pm and 5pm. Leave it alone for the rest of the week.” I did it for two weeks. I did share articles I had read or written, but I didn’t open the app on my phone or my computer until Friday afternoon.
And then my son and I went to Knott’s and he encouraged me to post pictures as we went through our day. I only posted though, waiting until the next day to look at the responses. And then throughout the week I found myself checking it on my phone more and more often; in line at the post office, before I ran into the grocery store, while my made tea, or between writing sessions. Again, I’m right back where I started.
Is there anyone that does not have a love/hate relationship with social media? There are people that aren’t participating at all. They are out there. I’ve met some. I also know quite a few that do participate but regularly post that they hate themselves for it. Then there are people that are constantly there, posting and commenting to their heart’s content. And then there’s me, in and out of it, hoping it’ll get better and wondering what in world I’m even trying to do.
Backtrack a bit here. I was never very good at socializing before social media. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have friends; it just means that I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t go to parties or host them, sit with a bunch of people at lunch and breaks, or go out with a bunch of people after work. Every once in a while an extremely outgoing person would convince me to tag along, but generally, I was a loner. But I did have close friends and good relationships. I never felt lonely.
Then came Facebook. It was so much easier than meeting people in person. I could think about what I was going to say before I said it. People only saw what I wanted them to see. I could walk away for a while when I felt uncomfortable or tired of being there. It gave me enough space to feel comfortable socializing.
I loved Facebook from the moment I found it. A friend of mine suggested I get online and sign up when she learned I would be moving from the area. It would be an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of my homeschooling acquaintances. Once I got home and checked it out, I was hooked. Where once I had a one or two old friends that kept in touch through email and the occasional lunch date, I now had them popping out of the woodwork, so to speak, from as far back as elementary school. It was exciting. I felt popular for the first time in my life.
I started to think that seeing what people posted on Facebook was the same thing as seeing people in person or having a relationship with people. I’m starting to realize that it isn’t. Like drinking a lot of water will make your stomach feel full for a while but won’t sustain you or give you the energy to keep living, I used Facebook to feel like I was getting my needs met socially but finding myself still hungry for connection at the end of the day. After ten years, I’m starting to starve.
Facebook is great for socializing with distant friends and acquaintances, much like the occasional office party or family reunion. And it’s great for seeing your cousin’s newborn baby or your son’s trip to Germany, but it does not replace a relationship with other human beings. Relationships need to be in-person to thrive and grow. Like writing letters or sending the annual Christmas card, Facebook helps us stay connected. But we can’t live on that alone. We need to make time for each other where we can touch each other, share a meal, talk about our lives, and share our feelings.
I recently read an article on Medium by Scott Galloway called “Humans Cannot Survive Alone.” He made a great point about social media. Social media is “Co-opting terms that reflect some better things about our species: like, share, friend, engagement.” I remember reading somewhere about changing the meaning of words and changing society, probably a “1984” reference.
Are we becoming a more passive society because we use these words in the context of social media instead of real life?
We like what a friend shares on social media without really engaging. People don’t read it or discuss it. They agree or argue. They don’t try to learn from each other.
Humans are social animals. We NEED to interact in person not just through the written word. We need to use all our senses in a real relationship, not just our eyes. We get our cues from hearing, seeing, touching, and even smelling and tasting. And different social situations teach us different ways to get along: work, school, family, bar, grocery store, church.
I need to be out among people in different social situations to really thrive emotionally. I need to be able to reach across a table and hold someone’s hand, to hug them hello or goodbye, to laugh and cry and hear their laughter and tears in return. But seeing people on Facebook from the comfort of my own home is so much easier, just like watching videos about working out and reading commentary is a lot easier than going to the gym or going on a long hike. It just isn’t healthy.
Our physical interaction with each other teaches us, feeds us. We each have different levels of need, sure, but we can’t survive without it completely. I think we crave it and that may be part of what is creating a lot of anger and depression in us all. We lash out on social media like frustrated toddlers.
Another thing I’m wondering is if staying in contact with everyone we have ever met is creating stagnation in us. Before social media, we lost friends and acquaintances over time. If we left a school or changed jobs, we’d keep a couple of our closest friends, but our acquaintances would fade into the background. Maybe that was good for us, like sloughing old skin. Have we become dull?
I’m not leaving Facebook. It’s a wonderful and amazing tool. It’s great for businesses and communities. I have met new people there, found old friends and started up new relationships, and found places to go and adventures to go on. I post there to share with my family and friends the things I find interesting and enlightening. I like using it as a public scrapbook. But I need to start being in the world again, joining a club, meeting for lunch dates, inviting people over for parties.
The trouble for me is that I’m still not good at socializing and building relationships and now it’s just too easy to opt out and view the world from the safety of my phone screen. I can drink a big glass of water or two and feel full for a while, but I’m still starving.