We recently had a wonderful visit with family from out of state and one of the more interesting discussions centered around everyone’s frenemy Facebook.
Some refused to use it, some deleted their accounts and others were in favor of limiting their use, even removing them from their phones to do so.
I too in the past have been one of those people who deleted my account. I decided I would never come back to Facebook, that I would be happier (not to mention, productive!) without it. Clearly, I came back. (Follow me here!)
So what is it about this social media site that makes everyone love to hate it? I have a few guesses, five to be precise.
#1 It “Shoulds” All Over You
You really should put down your phone, you know, you should observe and watch your kids because, God forbid they ever look up at you for approval and you’re reading/checking your screen, or, you know, doing dishes or cooking. How dare you, mom? You should be watching them all day long with adoring eyes. (I hope the sarcasm is coming through. I’ll stop. I will, I promise.)
But the “shoulding” unfortunately doesn’t end with making you feel guilty about your screen time. There are other forms of shoulds so common on social media, we almost don’t even notice them.
You should be more loving, you should be eating ice-cream, no, wait, that’s not healthy. You should be eating healthier, you should be working out. It’s your birthday? It doesn’t matter that you want to stay home and read. You should be out having fun.
It’s not that anyone comes out and says it to you per se, of course. It’s just that social media in its highly selective (all your friends) and yet universal (all your friends from everywhere you’ve ever been) creates an environment that fools you into believing that all those opinions matter.
It shoulds all over you.
#2 It Creates a Community of Sufferers Suffering Together
How many times have you been so angry you had to go to your Facebook page to vent and later regretted it?
You’re not alone.
Angry vents make up quite a bit of my personal newsfeed and I imagine yours as well. What does that do to your emotional state and how you respond to your world? After all, remember this experiment conducted by Facebook?
The researchers found that moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts.
Perhaps the worst thing that does is justifies your bad mood by commiseration. Now think about what would happen if you didn’t share that experience. You would probably brush it off. You would maybe even forget about it.
But now that you have five hundred of your closest friends commenting on it and discussing it days after it happened, you’ve prolonged your indignation.
#3 It Interrupts Your Day
Which leads to the next reason for my frenemiship with social media: interruptions.
I noticed that ever since I downgraded from a Samsung Note to a Motorola, (thanks to Republic Wireless for bringing down my phone bill to $10 a month!) my Facebook notifications are hit-or-miss. And you know what, I couldn’t be happier!
Turning off notifications meant I wasn’t interrupted throughout my day. As I have written in another blog post, I already deal with interruptions through my day and they have a way of draining me and leaving me with a feeling of not having accomplished anything through my day.
Social media notifications add one more interruption to the mix. It’s hard to ignore the flashing light when the children are doing their math drills or writing practice for the day. It’s easy to pay attention to the urgent and ignore the important.
Thankfully, this one is easily fixed. Turn off notifications.
#4 It Forces You To Think In Snap Decisions
If you’ve ever read historical letters, you would likely be struck by how well-argued they were. These were times when people sat down and thought through their theses, took pen (or quill!) to paper and – most importantly – formed a coherent opinion.
We all know about the “type Amen” or “Pass it on – God is watching” posts and, rightfully so, ignore them. But how many of us repost or hit the thumbs up “like” on things in a hurry in our newsfeed just because they agree with our knee-jerk response?
Worse, how many of us are found forced to form opinions in the midst of cooking dinner – or teaching reading – about big things like guns, life, death and the next Presidential Election and then trying to write about them on a small screen letter by painstaking letter?
We can only be passionate about a handful of things at a time and they’re probably all related. But they show up on our newsfeeds as a constant barrage. Write a book or a letter; avoid sharing them on social media. Just a thought.
#5 It Offers the Perfect Life
We all know about this one. We’ve all read the post about why yuppies are unhappy and how it relates to social media.
Of course no one puts pictures of sad things and things going wrong on Facebook and I would argue that doing so – far from giving you a sense of balance – would seem equally glorifying of the lazy, ugly and unruly side we all possess.
Just the fact that something is on a screen and being watched gives it value in our minds. Just like putting something in a book gives it a certain respect. No matter what. (I don’t know if it’s years of media exposure or what, but changing what we put on the screen to reflect reality just does not work. Because ultimately in choosing one or the other, we edit, opine and otherwise stitch things together to present to an audience.)
And, honestly, I find it takes much less time to clean up a room than to take pictures of it and post it to show how “real” I’m keeping it.
All this to say, I still love Facebook and see it as an integral part of my day. But I try to remember that nothing is perfect and trying to keep the above five things in perspective helps me distance myself from much of what would otherwise be a small annoyance or probably just ruin my day completely.