five reflections from five months off facebook

5 months ago, just before we went on our summer holiday, I signed out of my Facebook account and quit Facebook. Initially I planned for it to be a fairly temporary thing. But 5 months later, I’ve only just returned.

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(Image source)

This has been a personal journey for me  – I’ve needed space to sort out my heart and mind – rather than having particular issues with Facebook itself. So what have I learnt in this time-out? It seemed fitting on the day of Facebook’s 10 year anniversary to share my reflections during my absence.

1. Facebook is generally a good thing.

There were lots of things I missed about Facebook. I especially missed the news and photos from friends overseas, or friends that I don’t see so regularly. I missed seeing the little snippets of life that would seem too trivial to put in an email or a text message and yet are part of the fun and beauty of everyday life. Maybe some of my friends missed seeing those in my life too.

Facebook gives us chance to regularly connect with friends, to encourage others , share our faith, and laugh. We can communicate with each other what we’re doing, feeling, thinking and processing.  There’s so much fun to be had on a good ol’ perusal and posting on Facebook. However, it’s a bit like the playground: there’s a whole lot of fun to be had – we just have to work out how to play nicely….

2. It’s all about boundaries

We often feel a bit more confident when hidden behind the comfort of a screen. We can say things, or read things from others, that we wouldn’t say, or hear,  if we were face-to-face with people. Jamie the VWM wrote an excellent post on this, where she says this:

If you wouldn’t say it to my face, then don’t say it. Go find somewhere else to pretend to be brave. If you just want to argue, you’re in luck, this here internet is full of  {people} just itching for a fight. I am not interested.

I like the idea of this as a guideline: “If you wouldn’t say it to my face or if I wouldn’t say it to your face, then don’t say it on Facebook.”

Facebook also gives all of us more access to, and more information about, other people’s lives than we would probably naturally have. And like-wise, others probably have more access to our lives than they would aside from Facebook.  My husband (Rich) and I have very differing views about what levels of information we’re happy to share. I recognise that I’m a bit of a sensitive soul and that we all have differing levels of what we’re comfortable with so we need to decide what our boundaries are. On this blog I try to maintain a level of transparency I think is helpful for others to hear, but other things I’d choose to keep private. It’s the same with Facebook. Sometimes, just taking a few extra moments before posting or commenting on something is a valuable use of time. What are we happy to post about ourselves, but also what are we happy to read about others?  Are there times when the information we’re receiving is more intimate, or giving us more access to someone’s life than we normally would have? Clearly our “friend” is happy with the information they’re sharing, but are we comfortable with the access to information we have about their life, given the level of friendship we have with them? It’s worth evaluating who we accept friend requests from, taking into account the type of person you are, and how you wish to use Facebook. Again, Rich, for example, will accept a friend request from a zebra, if requested  (please take no offence if you happen to be his Facebook “friend”/zebra – I’m sure you’re very special to him). The way he uses Facebook is totally different to the way I would choose to use it, which reflects our natural personalities of extrovert (Rich) and introvert (me). And he’s absolutely happy with his approach, as I am with mine.

3. It’s part of life but it doesn’t define life 

Facebook is part of the way many of us interact with one another.  As we eat lunch together in the office we’ll often talk about what’s been posted on Facebook, or it may fuel a discussion on a particular issue amongst friends whilst together offline. Facebook is part of life

But it shouldn’t define life..I wonder how many more photos we take of ourselves, or of what we’re doing, because of the public arena Facebook provides to display our lives. Or, have you ever said, or heard words like these uttered:

“Oh, that would make a great Facebook status”

In my first few weeks off Facebook I reached for my phone several times and then realised I wasn’t on Facebook to share my amazing status update. It’s worth checking our motives here.  You know that old philosophical question : “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I think sometimes we can verge towards living our lives in a similar way: “If an event/quote/photographic moment” isn’t posted on Facebook, has it really happened?”

If we start believing that our lives have to be projected on Facebook in order to give them meaning, we start treading on thin ice….

4. Facebook doesn’t validate me.

Facebook neither has the power to elevate, or demote me. The “friends” I have on Facebook don’t form my identity. Whether or not I write a status update, or post a photo that keeps that little red notification button flashing all day, or whether I have nothing to say, my worth is not defined by Facebook interactions, just as my worth is not defined by any interactions off-line.

The three primary temptations Jesus faced (appetite, ambition, approval), can be subtly played out in Facebook: how many likes or friends we gather, what we do or don’t share with others, and how much time we spend on it,  amongst other things.

5. Less time on Facebook helps me to be more engaged with the here and now

I think for me, the biggest difference whilst off Facebook was that I was more engaged with what was going on right before me. The little sneak peeks took me away from engaging with right now, especially with the kids. I understand the assertion that Facebook is as much “real life” as our life when we’re physically present with others , especially amongst adults.

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(slightly ironic photo)

But that doesn’t apply to our kids who don’t interact with us online and are desperately tying to hold a conversation with us whilst our eyes are glued to a screen. This is a constant challenge for me, regardless of whether or not I’m on Facebook. I love reading online. With enough time I could easily spend a whole day reading blogs. In fact, one of the reasons I love Twitter is because it opens up so much food for thought and discussion on so many topics.

The problem isn’t Facebook, or Twitter or any other social media. The problem is me, and how I choose to use this stuff.

Just like the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, so is social media made for man, not man for social media. In simple language that means that social media serves us, we’re not slaves to it.  I need the little reminders from those who love me to say things like “stay engaged in the here and now.”

My absence from Facebook has given me chance to healthily evaluate how I want to use it, so that I return with some of these reflections in mind.

What never ceased to amaze me during my Facebook absence was the response I received whenever I made a new off-line friend and they asked if I was on Facebook. When I replied,  they invariably said something along the lines of “Oh, that’s probably a good thing. I spend too much time on it” This response came from a whole spectrum of people; it seems that many of us haven’t yet got to grips with how to incorporate it into our lives healthily without having some sense of uneasiness and wariness. I totally believe that if we get the right balance, Facebook and other social media can be a positive and fun part of our lives.

How about you? Agree/disagree? Do you love or hate facebook or do you have a love/hate relationship with facebook, or could you not care less?!!

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2 thoughts on “five reflections from five months off facebook

  1. Great thoughts, thank you for sharing. We’ve been talking this through as a couple & many of your observations match ours… I’ve just taken the app off my phone as a way of making sure I’m not ‘addicted’ to it… Maybe a longer absence could be a good experience for me…

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    • Yes, I think removing the app from your phone is a good idea- a couple of my friends have recently done that. Just actively changing the accessibility of facebook can make a massive difference and help us reach a healthy place of “moderation”, which is often harder than a complete absence.

      Like

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