A Virtual Book Club - What are YOU reading?!

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Discovering Small Spaces

There are spaces built into our lives, small stretches of time between tasks where we used to take a breath and think. I started to re-discover these spaces this past month when I deleted Facebook and then Instagram from my phone.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you probably know that I’ve had a long-term love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve written about it a lot. Honestly though, I have a love/hate relationship with just about everything. How much I love it or hate it depends on my mood of the day (or hour), but in the long run there is little that I truly abhor.

Ultimately, I love the concept. I love being able to stay connected through the internet with friends and family. I love being able to share pictures, books, and articles I find interesting with whoever wants to listen. No more losing addresses or phone numbers. No more having to print and send pictures of the kids. No more photocopies of articles tacked to the bulletin board.

But there are downsides, that’s for sure. We all know them well.

With all the hubbub in the world, I found myself needed to put a little more distance between my home and the online world, so I decided to take the apps off my phone so that I couldn’t just unconsciously scroll. I didn’t leave the platforms, I just limited when I could interact with them. That’s when I discovered the spaces.

Once the apps weren’t at my fingertips, I found myself daydreaming more often. And it’s so nice. As I finished my coffee, caught my breath after a walk, waited for the dryer to finish; whenever I had a moment, I sat there thinking instead, staring out the window, or doodling on a piece of paper. I found a few epiphanies to write about. And I relaxed.

Over the course of a few weeks, I realized that, with the apps right there in my hand, I had been filling those quiet spaces with other people’s thoughts and I was losing mine.

I’ll admit, I have considered leaving social media completely, but I just can’t seem to justify it. I can’t think of a convenient way to stay in touch over long distances. I want to be there so that my people can find me, so I stay.

I now have two social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, I get on the computer and share a few things each morning. Depending on my mood and my availability, I chat with a friend or jump over to a friend’s page and see what’s up. You, my sweet reader, can “follow” me there if you like. I post many things publicly.

Instagram is different. You can only post to your page from the app. I can still follow interesting pages and comment from my computer, but I can’t post my own. I tried having the app on my phone and self-limiting my time there so that I could post, but I kept inadvertently filling in my spaces, so it had to go, at least until I can develop a stronger habit of not scrolling.

My social media use has evolved once again.

Should I Stay or Go? – The Verdict

So my kind and wonderful reader, I hate to say it but I still don’t have an answer about social media. My thoughts over the past few weeks have sat firmly on, “If this is social, I’m not sure I enjoy it.” And if I’m not enjoying it and it doesn’t serve my life, what’s the point of being there? Would I keep going to a party filled with people that I don’t enjoy being around? Would I keep working at a job that brought me only stress and no income? Would I continue a relationship with a person that only made me cry?

Of course, I wouldn’t, but is that what social media is doing to me? No. In the past, the negatives were buried far beneath all the positives. Logging on each morning and scrolling through the “gossip pages” (that’s what we should really call it) brought me a bit of joy: my friend from high school got a new job, a cousin had a baby, my mom went fishing, etc. There was a bit of news from around the world. My writer group and my inspiration pages posted some tidbit of joy.

I’d share a piece of my life there as well and feel a connection with friends and family as we bonded over the jokes, photos, or articles we posted.

The negatives? You know what they are. A new medium always brings out the weird in some people. Social graces, manners, and rules of etiquette have to be reestablished. And there are always things that people share that you just didn’t want to know about them. It was easy to ignore the minor squabbles and navigate around the things I’d rather not discuss. “To each his own.” I’d think and move on.

This month, as we all are very well aware, has been different. Our lives have been abruptly changed by outside forces and we’ve all had to suddenly adjust. For me, the biggest hurdle hasn’t been the change in lifestyle but has more to do with dealing with people’s reactions online without the important benefit of physical and emotional context.

I’ll admit, which I really didn’t want to do and why I took a pause over the weekend to think about it, I’m struggling. I’m struggling to hold on to my compassion for others. I’m struggling not to withdraw and be fearful of others. I’m struggling not to lash out in my fear and anger.

Like someone threatened with drowning, I have to make a choice. Do I push people off my raft because I know they’ll pull me under? How do I stay alive without losing my humanity in the process? It sounds so overly dramatic but mental health is like that. No, I’m not threatened with immediate physical harm. There is no one with a gun pointed to my head or a mob at my door with a rope, but here I am with my heart rate up and my breathing rapid. Our minds are awesome and terrible things.

What’s your point, Michelle? Where are you going with this?

I’m getting to that. Hold your horses.

Human nature makes us do crazy, stupid, and terrible things to each other when we’re scared. I am human. I don’t want to add to the chaos, so I withdraw my participation. BUT, I also don’t want to withdraw my own point of view from the world outside my own four walls. I have joy and peace to share, experience and insight. I love my friends and family that I only see through social media. I love my readers, my fans, and my followers. You all add to my life in a very wonderful way. I don’t want to push you off my raft!

So what can I do? I’m still not really sure but I know what I’ll try. I’ll keep posting my joy and peace. I’ll continue to write and think and share what I’ve found and learned. I’ll allow you into my digital world to do the same as I want for myself, take what you want and pass on the rest.

“Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken
And thoughts unclear

What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you through

Just a box of rain
Wind and water
Believe it if you need it
If you don’t, just pass it on

Sun and shower
Wind and rain
In and out the window
like a moth before a flame”

“Box of Rain” by The Grateful Dead

Should I Stay or Should I go?

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This graphic was posted on a relationship group I follow, but it hit me in such a way that I felt compelled to share it here today, right now.

Why?

Because it’s true for any relationship you may have: a friend, a career, a school, a book, a romance…tequila. At some point in any relationship, we all ask ourselves, “Is it worth the effort to continue? What am I receiving from this?” And then we have to make the decision for ourselves.

And here I sit at one of those crossroads.

Now you’re really wondering, right? Is her marriage on the rocks? Or…is she considering giving up writing this blog?! God, please, no! Not now, when we need her wisdom and wit the most!

Don’t worry. My husband is the rock my life is built on. He’s going nowhere…even if he wanted to. And this blog? Stop writing? Oh, hell no. You, my affectionate reader, are the lover I will never kick out of bed for eating crackers.

I’m talking about the dreaded, the lovingly loathed…SOCIAL MEDIA.

I know. I know. I’ve extolled the virtues of it in the past. I’ve told you how much I enjoy what it has brought into my life. I’ve waxed poetic about how we should try to grow as human beings and learn to use this fabulous new tool in our lives instead of shunning it like Luddites. But I’ve come back around to the corner of “stay” and “go.” And here I sit listing out the positives and grumbling about the negatives once again.


Over the weekend, I’ll be spending some time apart from my second favorite distraction and, hopefully, I’ll be able to articulate my feelings better on Monday.

Catch ya later, friends! Love on!

Is Social Media a Waste of Time or A Call Into the Canyon?

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Something that has kind of bugged me for a while now is, “What in the actual F am I doing?” I’m trying to write daily and sometimes it’s decent enough to post, but really, why? Practice? I’m not sure really.

I have my Instagram page humming along. I’m getting far more followers there than on my Facebook page, but I post there daily as well. I share things to my Facebook page that seem interesting, that flow into my consciousness. But then sometimes I’m sitting there scrolling through both, wasting my own time looking at mindless crap that I know is all geared to market someone else’s product to me, and think…that’s what I’m doing. I’m marketing my mindless crap to others, pulling their attention away from their real, physical life, to show them mine, in the hopes of gaining followers so that I can market a book. What am I doing? Really? Do I have anything important, anything tangible to add to the conversation? Am I doing the world any good?

I believe I am. When I think of pulling away, it makes me sad. I have words to say. I have ideas to share. Why should I stop trying to influence others? I want to be a positive, joyful voice on the internet. That’s why I’m online. That’s why I check in with Instagram and Facebook.

Where does this voice come from? This ugly one that whispers in my ear, “You’re feeding a monster.” These are the times when I look around me and think maybe I do spend too much time there. Maybe my time and creative energy would be better spent elsewhere.

There’s that old buzzword again, “balance.” Ugg…I hate it. “Everything in balance.” I hear people say. “Everything in moderation.” Should I moderate my joy, my patience? Should I balance my time between good and evil things? No, not everything. There are loads of things that should give in to with abandon. I should love without moderation. I should share my passions without a filter. And that’s what I feel like I’m doing when I’m scrolling through feeds and sharing my thoughts anywhere on the internet.

There are times when I look at my own posts and wish I had more interaction with people, though. Why don’t people share my posts? Why don’t people comment? I started doing more of that myself. I comment when I see something pretty instead of just “like” and I share when I feel like other people would probably love this as much as do, or they’d at least know me better because I shared it.

It seems like hating the internet and social media is all the rage lately, but I just can’t understand that. There are downsides to everything. Just about everyone can use anything in a negative way. But overall, it’s a good thing to me. It’s brought me quite a bit of joy. It’s helped me make new friends. It’s helped me reconnect and keep in touch. It’s shown me whole other worlds and ways of thinking.

Why am I there? Why do I have my blog, my Medium account, Facebook AND Instagram pages? Because I want to add to the conversation and share in the joy of this world. I have something to say and something to show. I’m yelling out into the canyon and waiting for the echo. I’m waiting for an answer to my call.

Hello? I’m here! Is anyone out there?

You Can’t Make Me WANT Your Social Gathering!

I had the book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” by Robert D. Putnam on my reading list because it was on Mark Manson’s list of “5 Books That Explain Why it Seems the World is so Fucked.” SEEMS is the operative word here, by the way. It really isn’t and he was right about this book! It’s a great read for those that think that social media is what is killing our desire for community. The book was written in 2000, before the advent and spread of Facebook. And he writes about things that have been in decline for the previous 30 years or so. He writes about my generation, the one that seems to have picked up the anti-community ball and ran with it.

The first thing that I found so intriguing about this book is that I have always believed I was in the minority when it came to my feelings about social gatherings of all types. I have never been a “joiner.” I have never wanted to be part of a club of any kind that wants to meet on a regular basis, other that maybe a book club or writer’s club…which also doesn’t seem to exist anymore. And even if it did, I’d be too scared to attend without a wingman. When I have been coerced into joining something, I find the group so desperate for leadership and volunteers, that I feel like I’m on a sinking ship trying to escape with my life. It turns out I am not in the minority at all. It’s more of a generational thing.

It also turns out that a lack of community isn’t a new thing. It looks to be cyclical. It isn’t that the world has always been a wonderful hodgepodge of community involvement and now because of social media addiction, everyone stays home. It rises and falls in popularity, mostly during times of crisis or scarcity. When there is a big war or famine, people tend to group together tightly for a generation or two, then the feeling wanes and we go back to our independent loner natures for the most part.

Weird to find, once again, that we aren’t in the throws of end times, but merely experiencing a low in the natural cycle of humanity.

There is one problem that I see becoming prevalent. Humans have a natural hormone response to being near each other, it doesn’t work through the computer. Bonding with and caring for others doesn’t happen through pictures and written words the same way it does through interpersonal contact. Is social media bringing us closer? In some ways yes, but not if we limit our interaction to online.

We should be spending some time together in a physical way: dinner parties, bar-b-ques, and community projects, are all ways we can build social capital that allows us to trust each other. It makes us happier people. In the past, we (most of us anyway) felt compelled to put in the effort of going to see each other. How else are you going to know what kind of a monster your cousin married? How would you get to know your nieces and nephews? And how would your Mom know you were happy and healthy? But now we have social media. We can see what everyone is doing without actually going. But it shouldn’t replace actual, in person contact. It should be enhancing it.

We can’t blame social media for what’s happening. It’s only building on how our generation has been feeling. It’s escalating our isolation from each other, but it didn’t create our need to isolate ourselves. That is a whole other ball of wax and this book gets into the patterns that have been manifesting themselves for several generations. And it does so without making us feel negative and hopeless at the end!

The answer isn’t more or different government, more voting, social media/internet bans or regulation. The answer is more socializing. And we have to want that ourselves. We cannot be coerced into it or made to enjoy it. We have to become aware that we need it and then seek it out. Personally, I think it’s a cycle we will work our way through all by ourselves sooner or later. Eventually, a few of us will get lonely enough, unhappy enough to want to change things. We’ll start seeing people more often, doing things together in small groups that build up into larger groups again. These things will build trust between us and will open us up to relationships and happiness we can’t get alone. We’re social animals after all and, contrary to popular belief, I think we’re smart enough as a species to know when we need to do something for our own immediate good. Those that aren’t and don’t have friends and family to pull them along, won’t make it. Evolution is alive and well.

The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about when it was written, 2000. What would the author think about the state of community today? Has it gone the way he imagined it would? Does our current situation surprise him at all?

One really funny thing before I end this! I keep notes about the books I’m reading in a paper journal. I keep the journal and my favorite mechanical pencil with the book, underlining passages and making stars where I have a note in my paper journal as I go. While reading through my notes to refresh my memory about this book, I found myself trying to use my finger to scroll up on the paper page! I think I’ve been spending a lot of time reading articles on my phone lately.

The Mall of Social Media

Why do we treat social media as if it came from another planet entirely? Why do we act as if it did not evolve from human wants and needs and isn’t only using a new technology to connect an already existing human society?

My social media profile is like me walking through the mall. I chose to visit that mall. It is private property that I have been allowed to visit and transact business on. How I present myself is completely up to me.

You remember hanging out at the mall, don’t you? It was pretty much a universal teenage activity for those of us that grew up in the 80’s. We’d wear our coolest outfits, gather with our friends, and enjoy the air-conditioned indoor space. We’d buy the latest clothes and gadgets, we’d eat in the food court with our friends, and make out in the darkness of the movie theater. Some of us, never me because I was always such a good kid, became a bit destructive and disruptive while we spent time there. Some of us even got thrown out by security when we decided to test the limits of conformity in a public space.

Social media only provides us with a similar experience with more people, more stores, and more “hangouts” and “make-out” spots. People aren’t any more fake on social media than they were at the mall. We have all put on a façade that attempts to portray who we really are. All social media does is make it easier for the more shy and quiet people to have a bigger voice. When you’re the lone Sci-Fi fan in your town, you tend to not wear your cape around the mall for fear of standing out a little too much. On the web, you find your tribe of weird and wear your cape, boots, and carry a scepter for the world to see. You are not alone. You are part of a group. And being part of a larger group equals safety to humans across time. There are positives and negatives to that of course, but it isn’t new or alien.

Ironically, it seems that it is more cool to hate social media and to proclaim that hate loudly on social media, like hating the commercialism of the mall but still going there because that’s where “1 Potato 2” is. I’ll admit openly, I love it. I have my favorite platform that I use most, even though it’s not perfect, just like the mall that doesn’t have a Rubio’s anymore. Overall, it has enhanced my life. I’ve kept in touch with people I would have lost in time. I’ve met new people that share my interests. I’ve learned about things I never would have heard about, let alone gotten to understand a better. And I’ve gotten to share my life with some of those people on a regular basis. It makes me happy.

There is one thing I would like to actually complain about though. We need to stop thinking that social media needs to be fair and unbiased. It is not a news source. It is not the place to get a liberal college education. It’s SOCIAL place. It’s a party and a marketplace combined. A place to hang out with friends, notice new things to spend our money on, and play. You don’t go to the mall to find out what’s really happening in the Middle East or who to vote for in the next election. You go there to socialize and meet friends. Yes, while your scrolling through your media feed, you’ll only see what you want to see. You’ll be among friends, hopefully, and those you have something in common with. It’s called “social” media, not news media. We should be treating it as such, in my opinion.

Just as when I’m at the mall, I have every right to shop and eat with who I want to shop and eat with. If you approach me and ask to sit at my table, I will be polite and either say yes or no. And to be socially acceptable, you are required to accept my yes and my no. We may start to talk and find out we have a lot in common and become friends, or we may find that we don’t like each other and go our separate ways. I don’t have to let everyone sit at my table, but you can if you want to. That’s the glory of socializing. It’s completely voluntary!

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the mall of social media. I’ve been having fun and putting many of my responsibilities to the side. I’ve been more interested in making new friends and playing with my old ones, than being productive. It’s been fun but I do need to get back to work. I’m not leaving it forever, I’m reprioritizing. I have work to do in this world. Life is not all fun and games you know!

It’s Friday, my Friends!

There was no Friday post last week! Guess why?

It wasn’t because it was a holiday the night before…or wait…maybe it was. July 3rd and 4th were pretty darn fun in all the best kinds of ways: food, friends, good times. On Friday morning, I wasn’t sure if all the fun caught up to me or I had caught a virus. It could very well be that I caught a virus because the fun caught up to me. I woke up with a terrible sore throat and a fever and spent the next three days in bed reading a book. Oh! Poor me! If it weren’t for the worst sore throat and ear infection ever, I would have called it a “retreat.” Thanks to our fabulous urgent care and the miracle of antibiotics, I was still exhausted but up and at ‘em again on Monday! I’ll still have a sexy gravely voice for a week, but I’ll take it! The upside is that I finished three-quarters of “Under the Dome” over the weekend!

While I was laying in bed…dying…I considered getting up and writing my Friday post, but then thought better of it. I’ll just catch up later, I thought. I’ll be better tomorrow. And then suddenly it was Tuesday.

So here I am. You can’t catch up with life anyway, you can only pick up where you are!

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope your weekend is filled with adventure…even if you’re watching it on Netflix!

Thing I learned: There are amazingly interesting people on the internet! I joined a new Facebook group this week and have been devouring all its content for days. The people! Wow! So many interesting points of view, so many ideas, so much love and interest in being kind and supportive. It’s kinda hard not to invite them all over for coffee! I hear so much negativity about people on the internet, and I do understand it, but I have a feeling we’ve all been adjusting to the new medium and we’ll come out the other side a bit scarred from battle but wiser for the wear.

Thing I’m reading: “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” by Tom Nichols. Ok. First of all, just the title of this book irritates me. And then when I started to read it, I started to better understand the idea of term “triggered.” Which made me want to read it more! He has some seriously great points to make and I’m understanding something about myself that I don’t like. I’m one of those “don’t tell me what to do” people and sometimes it’s not good for me or the people around me. One thing I started to think while reading it is that specialization is a good thing for society. I agree that division of labor makes everyone’s lives easier. We can’t all be experts at everything! But what do we do when lose trust in just about everyone around us? I’m hoping he has some answers to that by the end of this book!

Thing I heard: A new friend introduced me to a new bluegrass band, and while I’ve never been a big fan of the genre, this was interesting enough for me to listen to a whole album, “Yoder Mountain String Band.” Lucky for me, I have Amazon Music, so I downloaded a couple albums and have been snacking on their tunes as I drive the desert roads.

Thing I want to do: Focus! Oh, lord, please help me focus! Ever since I got back from our vacation, I feel like I’m in a million places at once; like a kid in a candy store, rushing from one bin to the next, shoving every piece into my mouth, my pockets, my bag, and running out before someone tells me no! What am I going to do about it? No idea. A friend shared a picture on Facebook yesterday that I was totally going to post myself and now I can’t because it will look like I’m just copying him! But I digress, again. The picture was simple, “Temporarily Closed for Spiritual Maintenance.” That’s what I need to do, close. I need to shut down social media, turn off my phone, and do some serious re-focusing. But then again, do I really need to? Maybe next week! At the moment, I’m having to much fun to change anything.

Picture of the week:

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This was unexpected! I’ve been trying to post one picture on Instagram every day. Why? No idea. It just seemed like fun. So, the sun was starting to go down and I hadn’t taken a good one that day and I went out into the yard looking for a subject. My yard is a wealth of photo subjects!

Right outside was a birdhouse my Mom and brought over years ago. I had stuck it up in the crook of a Joshua Tree. I seriously doubt any respectable bird would ever make his home there, but it looks pretty sitting there. It’s above my head, but I didn’t bother to get a step and try to take a good picture. I just lifted my phone over my head, pointed it in the approximate angle of the front door, and snapped. I came inside (out of this blasted heat) and posted it on IG. Done!

Here’s the funny part. A few minutes later, a friend commented “Inhabited! Excellent!” What was she talking about? I opened the picture and zoomed to find…a lizard staring out the front door! What?! Another friend said I should call it a “Beardie House.” It was hilarious and adorable!

There has to be some philosophical thing to learn here. Right? We really don’t know what we’re doing when we do it most times. We just point and shoot and share…who knows what magic we’ll find! But what if I hadn’t decided to post a picture a day? Or what if I was just decided, eh…who cares…I’ll skip it today?

Bad Art

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Is there such a thing? Really?

I just read a headline on Facebook. I’m supposed to be writing…anything…but I can’t seem to focus. I only clicked over to read a message and, of course, stopped to look at the feed as well…distractions…or fuel?

“Study says art makes you mentally healthier, even if you’re not good at it.”

A study! Someone decided to do a study to see if doing something you like doing, whether or not you are good at it, makes you mentally healthier? Paint nights, karaoke clubs, blogs, and YouTube could have told you that. We all love our art, no matter what it is. Why? Because it makes us happy! And happier people are mentally healthier!

What is art anyway? It is an outpouring of an individual’s (or group’s) soul, a different kind of communication with the world around us. A baby’s cry isn’t good communication, but it works. We don’t need to be a good at speaking to communicate a need.

Art, in all its forms, is only communication after all. We tell something about ourselves through our chosen medium. We don’t need to be good at it to do it. We only need to try.

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Just about anything can be seen as an art, right? I stack rocks in the desert and call it art all the time. And some people have said my use of profanity is also an art form. But this, what you’re reading right now, is my real art, my words jumbled together and spun out in lines, my heart in the form of letters. I’m trying to communicate something to you. I may not be very good at it, but I try, and it does make me happier and healthier to try…most of the time, when I have my head in the right place.

We don’t need to be “good” at breathing to breathe. And we don’t need to be “good” at talking to talk. No one expects you to be “good” at anything to do it, other than art. We just go about doing the things we need to do, even if we aren’t good at them. Personally, I suck at meal planning and grocery shopping, but I still do it, and no one tells me, “You have no talent for this! Why do you even try?”

Seems strange to me.

Surprise! Communicating makes us mentally healthier! Every time we attempt to communicate in some fashion, we learn something and can communicate in better ways the next time. It’s the same with art.

You may not be able to make a living at it. Maybe your art isn’t something anyone else wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s not doing something amazing for you.

I think I have finally come to understand what “Art For Art’s Sake” means!

Feeling “Unhealthy”

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.

Real Love Sets Us Free

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I found Wild Woman Sisterhood about a year ago and have loved just about everything they post. I am only saddened by the negativity of the Facebook comments they seem to get. I’m not sure if it’s social media itself or the people that tend to follow, but many commenters seem so self-centered, immature, and negative. Then again, maybe it’s just the written word that causes the confusion. It’s hard to write one or two lines and get a solid meaning across.

When I see a post on any page that I can’t get behind or doesn’t apply to me, I just keep scrolling. I’m sure it’s out in the universe for someone. That someone isn’t me at the moment. There are times when I do make a comment when I disagree, but it’s usually because I know the person that posted it personally. I’m talking to them directly, just as if they had said something over coffee. I don’t agree and I want to talk about that. But I’d never do that to a stranger and I especially wouldn’t do it on a social media post.

Maybe I just use it differently.

They posted something beautiful this morning and I felt compelled to add my own ideas to it. I kept thinking about it all morning. I even talked about it with my son as we went hiking through the desert.

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My morning routine was broken up today because he wanted to go hiking and, since it’s warming up out here in the desert, it couldn’t wait until the afternoon. After a lunch, a rest, and the dishes, I sat down to write, and the idea was still swimming around in my heart.

Here’s the quote.

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And this was my comment.

Such a beautiful sentiment!

A caged bird is “loved” too. But the best love is the kind that supports freely, the kind that makes you feel like you can do anything, including walking away.

That kind of love is precious.

I’m bound to my love, not because I feel like I have to stay but because I want to, because here, with my partner’s love, is where I grow and thrive best!

And then, when someone insisted that a caged bird is not really loved at all…

The person who caged it does believe they love it. They love it as an object to be taken care of like a book, pen, or chair.

Humans should never be loved that way, but we often treat each other as objects instead of beings. That doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. It means we haven’t grown enough to know the difference yet.

It takes a strong person to love another human as a separate being and not an object.

Lovers that treat their partners as objects to be kept, get scared and angry when their love isn’t returned or if their partner changes their mind.

Parents treat their children as pets, something to be controlled and cared for, instead of distinct individuals with their own wants, needs, and agendas.

And sometimes we treat our friends that way when we insist that they spend time with us and only us, as if they aren’t living their own life when we aren’t around.

Loving someone and letting them go, allowing them the space to be free, to say no to us, to walk away, is terrifying.

What if they find someone better? If you loved them, you’d want them to if they could.

What if they grow away from me? If you loved them, you’d want them to be the best they can be with or without you.

What if? Don’t ruin the time you have with your loved ones worrying about the future. Love them completely right now, so if the worst happens, you have all those beautiful memories to look back on.

If you LOVE someone, something, set it free. If it doesn’t come back…

Hunt it down! That’s what my Grandpa used to laugh and say! But we all know that just doesn’t work. The caged bird is safe and secure, but it will never fulfill its true reason for being on this earth.

The caged human is the same. She will never reach her own potential. He will never be who he was truly meant to be.

Love them but do not cage them. Support them, share with them, help them, but set them free and watch what they become.

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