For Those Times When Facebook Gets You Down

Sorry, no “Foodie Friday” here today. I worked some basic magic with apples, but it wasn’t anything special enough to chat about. Otherwise, life’s full of musicals and family and Christmas shopping and all the other wonderful things that this time of year brings. So, my post can staaaaaart….NOW!

I have what I like to call a lukewarm like-hate relationship with Facebook. I’ve talked about my attempts to cut down (or *gasp* even cut out) my use, to no avail. After all, it’s the best way I have to let people know that this blog even exists. It is what it is.

It’s easy to hate the thing. It has become a place of hatred…a means to bully…a way to say the most scathingly cruel comment in relative anonymity. It’s a spiteful place full of leftists and Tea Partiers who care not whose brain they make explode with their unreliably-sourced opinions. I could clearly go on…

But…

But…

Today. (It’s Halloween, as I type this.) Today, I was made aware of the uplifting side of Facebook. The side that makes you despise people a little less. The side that makes you grateful (yes, grateful) for the chance to connect to these people I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate with…ever. Sure, some of my “friends” I actually get to see regularly. Still fewer I get to see on a rare treat of an occasion. But, then there are those that, without Facebook, I literally wouldn’t know existed anymore.

Colleagues from jobs past. Teachers who touched my life in an inexplicably real, unforgettable way. Long-lost relatives whom I’m glad to know — for real, KNOW — just by seeing their regular day-to-day thoughts. Those friends from high school and college who were FAMILY (not “like” family, but FAMILY — we knew everything about each other, even if we didn’t hang out as besties). Those dear family friends whom I had thought melted into the recesses of my bittersweet memories. Again, I could clearly go on…

It was a simple moment. I had posted a collage of Hadley’s Charlie Brown “costume” (a yellow polo shirt with the Charlie Brown zig-zag and black pants and sneakers, and a Snoopy stuffed animal; I wanted to make the shirt, but it was impossible to find a plain yellow one!), and one by one, the “likes” started slowly coming in.

Sure, I’ve had plenty of “likes” on posts before, especially Hadley ones and profile pic changes. Heck, when he was born, he got TONS of FB love. But, for some reason, it hit me hard how many people think my son is as great as we think he is. (I know he’s not perfect, but he IS freaking awesome.)

Awesome former students…who still remember me as much as I remember them.

Friends of my husband’s who have since become MY friends, even vicariously.

Parents of friends.

Co-workers.

My SISTER’S co-workers.

My 9th (or was it 8th?) grade math teacher. The one who got me the 91 on the Regents.

Cousins. Aunts. My sister’s in-laws. Students-who-were-like-daughters.

Friends who started as farmers’ market buddies.

People who remember me as the annoying little sister following around the bigger kids in marching band.

Friends I’ve had since 2nd grade.

People I met through every job I’ve ever had, who are still kind enough to keep up on my goings-on.

Dave’s former co-workers.

My kindergarten teacher. Oh, the awesome memories with her! Those were the days.

My brother, whose “like” on ANYTHING sends my heart soaring. He’s a busy guy, and doesn’t dole out “likes” for just any old thing.

My godmother, who moved away to Florida when I was in junior high. She was like another (cooler) mother, and her son was like a best friend and brother rolled into one.

People I acted with onstage YEARS ago who have since moved far, far away.

The list just keeps on comin’. I realized that these people are a part of my history in one way or another. Some, I don’t speak with today, but past negative experiences have washed away to a simple, “Oh, it’s nice to see that she’s a happy mom of some beautiful kids today.” Others, it’s awesome and uplifting to reconnect with.

All I know is that it filled me with some happiness. For once, Facebook was able to provide me with some positive perspective rather than the general, “What’s wrong with the world?” thoughts that usually pop up.

I still try to limit how much time I give to Facebook, because that’s what it is — handing time over that I’ll never get back which, for the most part, consists of anger or hurt or rudeness.

Except when it involves George Takei. Or a little boy’s Charlie Brown costume.

Overcoming Facebook Addiction 2.0

Two and a half years ago, I posted about trying to overcome my addiction to Facebook. The fact that it’s my #1 blog post makes me realize that I’d better revisit the topic. Actually, I think this calls for an update, a confession/reflection, followed by penance and some small changes that we (yes, you, too!) can make to take control of our lives back. Come along, won’t you?

Okay, first, the hard part: confession! (Recovering Catholic, can’t ya tell?) If you’re “friends” with me on Facebook, you see that I’m sporadically on there; sometimes I’ve got crickets chirping, other times I’ve got one thought-provoking (hopefully) meme after another (weird how the good ones pop up all at once – Must. Hit. Share.). 


I must be an addict. What else would explain the amnesia that strikes when I find myself staring blankly at my phone (iPhone be damned!) thinking, “Mmmkay, well how’d that app open?” Seriously, zero recollection of opening it. It’s the only app I get the amnesia over. Think it’s a coincidence? (Side note: Is there a MySpace app? Or is that site just for musicians and stuff now?)

So, there we have it. The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. And I do. 

I know Facebook isn’t a drug, and it isn’t all bad. Hell, most of my hits here (over 1,000 a month, thanks, guys!) are from FB. I don’t see myself able to ever give it up 100% because, honestly, I want this blog to spread its wings and soar with the eagles. Or at least some Canada geese. Love those birds.

But, at the same time, I’m sick of feeling owned. Like, I enjoy Pinterest and Instagram but I feel in control of the situation. A day (or a week) can go by easily without my having to check either. I also don’t allow myself to feel like crap (like so many others in articles and posts  I’ve read) by the beauteous projects and lives that people display. When and if that happens, I’ll revert to trolling home magazine sites for inspiration that I need and taking plain ol’ pictures to edit with Picassa. S’all good.

With Facebook, it’s not all good. There’s a smidgen of good surrounded by any variation of:

Drama – Personal, political (often one and the same), veiled posts trying to start something, and rude comments from people (both friend and stranger), and let’s just say I’ve fallen victim of the “public fight with a strong-willed stranger” a few times.
Fishing – I’ve got low self esteem and even I don’t do this. Soooo what does that say about you when you’re using FB to fish for compliments and validation? It’s even more interesting when no one bites… Awk-ward. Find life-fulfilling, honest ways to do this, folks.
Over-sharing – Hardly ever intriguing, usually disturbing, alarming, or obnoxiously immature.
Mean ol’ guilt-trippers – Being an animal lover, I’m connected to several animal rescue pages. Some do an awesome job of informing the public in a respectful manner, but more and more are made up of some mean muthas (and I don’t mean Mom) who use the site to badger people for not calling a government official in Maine (I live in NYS) about a horrific animal abuse case. The guilt is horrible and the tone with which they lecture followers is like a reprimanding. I wish I could save every animal from pain and suffering, but I kind of have a life…and a baby…and three cats I’m too busy spoiling (since they’ve had rough lives before finding their “forever home”, too). It’s like an online version of those ASPCA ads without the music but with insults.
Super political/self-righteousness – This can be individuals or groups. Let’s just say I’m a left leaning individual just because, well, I am. However, because of my environment and the respect that I have for those around me who may be moderates or right-leaning, I try to post the non-offensive stuff. I follow a couple of groups that post maybe 20% valuable, rational ideas while the rest are Republican bashing. I know there are groups on the other side if the aisle, as
well. Guys…guys. This is what’s wrong with America today. Instead of considering ideas, opinions, conversations, valid information, etc we go with our guts and fight simply because “He’s a liberal.” When did the U.S. become two high school football teams that people sign up for and root for ’til their dying day? I’m okay with posting political ideas, but not offensive slights. (And, yes, I post gay rights things because I feel strongly in favor and the posts are non-offensive; there is a difference between a post you disagree with and a post that personally attacks you.)

I’m sure I’m missing someone, but you catch my drift. But, on to penance. Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever be a completely healed Facebook-holic, but I hope to lessen my dependence to, well, zero. To be able to consciously use it once in awhile to post a blog post, to avoid the volatility, to respond to a message, and to occasionally unplug without withdrawal. Is that too much to ask?

If you’re interested in getting on the wagon, here are a few methods I’m going to be testing out:

Time yourself. You know how there are those methods of quitting smoking that allow you a little bit of it in the beginning? Use that as a guide. Consider what you can realistically do – one check a day for 5-10 minutes? (And you may want to set a timer ‘cuz you know FB is a time loss vortex. Seriously, though, you don’t need to see every single post from the last day; this is when you start getting that “my brain has over eaten” feeling.) As you feel comfortable with once daily, see if you can extend it. If not, once daily is actually a huge achievement and will give you SO much of your life back.
Tally ho! Keep a pen and paper (or make a note on your smartphone…maybe. The concrete reminder may work better.) handy to jot down a tally every time you visit FB, even accidentally. Go a step further and write down the time each time, too. We’ve gotta work on breaking the habit. It’s like having a dieter write down what they eat. You may or may not be surprised by how often you’re perusing Oh Evil Mistress Facebook. 
Purge your list. This will help with the brain-bloat, too. What friends only post things you’re interested in hearing? (ie the ones who don’t suck the air out of the room with every damn post) Which friends or groups give you anxiety or a headache regularly? Lose them, or if you really can’t delete them, edit what posts you receive from them. Seriously, I’ve done this and it has not only saved me some virtual stress but has saved my “real life” relationship with a couple of folks. Not that they need to know that I don’t get their immature, politically-charges rants anymore. Shh!
Be honest with yourself. What do you use Facebook for; alternatively, what does it do for you? Do you use it to stay in touch with friends and family? Sure, right, we all do that…but it’s only 10% of the truth. Figure out your reasons, then analyze whether you need FB to accomplish these things (sometimes you do; case in point, I need to reach readers). This may help you loosen the strings a bit more realizing that FB isn’t the only way to achieve those things you want to do (or those things you realize you don’t need in your life).
Put the phone down! Guys. Since I got the iPhone, I’ve been guilty of this, but it’s part of the process. You do not need to be connected 24/7. You’re not the president, or a member of the fire department (if you are, thank you!), or anyone ultimately important. (Okay. You’re important to me, but I don’t need to hear about your insomnia when I wake up in the morning. Love ya, but no one really cares. If your dog goes missing, however, we’ve got your back. Same with any other truly life altering situation.) But at dinner, when you should be playing with the baby (oh, the guilt) or paying attention to your spouse (y’know how spouses of yore would sit and just stare in stony silence when they reached 70? Yeah. Today, we’re doing it at 30. Stop that. You married a person, not your phone.) Allocate time to check your phone, but always put people first. Please and thank you.
Use the computer. If you must check, only allow yourself to use a computer (and not your work one). The less convenient it is, the less you’ll do it.
Final step: Walden it up. Thoreau is my hero, but man did that guy get crap DONE in a day! So when you’re getting the urge to waste an hour online, distract yourself in other ways. Do some house cleaning (okay, don’t), exercise, paint or draw or make sock puppets (whatever you like to do creatively, no judgement), watch a documentary (or something with Molly Ringwald; again, no judging; I’d watch a Jimmy Stewart flick), or read a book. I highly suggest going outside (as would Thoreau), even just to water plants or walk for a few minutes. Unplugging is so good for your brain. Y’know, as if nature intended it…

So, there it is. My Facebook Addiction Post 2.0. Let me know if you’ll be taking the journey with me! And, yes, I’m going to post this on FB, but be sure you follow my blog page since I’ll be on my personal one far less. 😉

Overcoming Facebook Addiction…Hopefully

Courtesy http://techsavvyagent.com

I recently posted on my Facebook page that I’d be using it less frequently, eventually (maybe) becoming Facebook Free. Casually, my husband and I have discussed the fact that FB seems only to birth annoyances and frustrations, and finds a way to actually delete people, in the literal sense, from our lives. I can recognize all the good that it creates for us — probably the most important, for me, is the fact that I can very quickly tell how my friends and family are doing (the only time that I communicate with some is through their status updates), and somehow it’s become another form of email. For others, it creates entertainment and fun. For still others, it helps with business, sometimes without needing a professional web site of one’s own, which I get. I see it. I really do.

However, an issue with Facebook, as with most Web 2.0 tools, is the anonymity factor, and the hurt that is sometimes brought by it. I’m not referencing any recent experience or anything; in the distant past, I found myself getting chest pains and literally red in the face over arguments I’d had with complete strangers on a friend’s status update — ridiculous! If I’m so sensitive to people and the way that they treat others behind the concealing black screen of the Internet, why was I made to live in the Information Age?!

But, I digress (as I often do on this blog ;-)). Also, as I often do on this blog, I create lists. So, I feel that’s the best way to let you know my reasons behind this decision.

– This is #1, and I give credit to my mother for saying it (and, undoubtedly, thinking that I wasn’t listening. I’m 28 now, and I do listen to my mother.) Living life. Living life and knowing that you’re living it. Looking at what’s around you and not immediately thinking, “I’ve gotta take a picture of this to post.” (Mind you, I occasionally do this for the blog, but it’s also because I want to remember the moment.) Just loving it, in that moment. FB is a pretty big hindrance to life living, for me.

Forcing myself to make separate connections to friends and family. It’s easy, REALLY easy, to comment on someone’s post or shoot them well-researched suggestions when they put it out there in their status update. But, what communication are we truly achieving? There’s a back-and-forth, sure. Do I really know that this person is my dear friend now because they left a kind word on my FB page? Wait, do I even know who that person IS? The human’s intrinsic need to find friends is being exploited by the FB company. You can pick out the people who are simply using FB to “get more friends,” regardless of the true connections they share. The more people who use FB, the more jump on the band wagon. The more users FB has, the more income. I don’t care about these stats! I want to figure out who my real friends are, and see them face-to-face or talk to them over the phone! (I will accept email and snail mail correspondence, of course, as well.) It’s time-consuming, but there’s a reason that it worked just fine for our parents, grandparents, and so on. I’ve gotta relearn how to do this.

Simplifying; sifting through the crap to leave behind only what I need to focus on and attend to. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. While I’ve been under the misconception that FB seems to make life easier — get home from work, hop on, waste lots of time — those dishes are still sitting there, the cats look bored, the house could use some sprucing up, and I’m feeling L-A-Z-Y. Then, when the guy gets home, after working overtime (yet again), how do I feel inside that he heads straight to the dishes? Pretty crappy. I’ve got a good 3+ hours of free time at home before he gets home, and FB can’t be an excuse anymore. I’ve got to be doing more of the stuff I need to attend to around this place in order to analyze what want out of life — which, in essence, is more simplicity.

– Something about the status update has an addictive quality. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Oh, so-and-so’s kid is sick, bummer. Apparently the Jets won, as is evidenced by at least 23 updates. Someone needs help harvesting their farm; actually, several people do — if only those were real farms and they were feeding real people. This is such a sublime waste of time, and I’ve become excellent at it. I gave up all the games when I was planning the wedding, and haven’t looked back. I don’t like feeling like I NEED to do something, but I go ahead and do it anyway. This is the FB addiction. I must retrain my fingers not to send me there.

Answering questions:
Would I use FB in the future? (That is, if it hasn’t gone the way of MySpace. Can you imagine THAT happening? …You can’t? We used to think the same thing about MySpace.) I would consider using it, actually, and probably still will — in limited capacity (at least, at first). I will post my new blog entries on FB. I will continue to update Ilion Little Theatre Club’s Facebook page. I will use it to advertise any future projects (creating a new profile for those companies/endeavors) – commercially.

As a library media specialist, how can you turn your back on 21st century tools? You may not know it, but this actually would be a pretty big deal in some library circles I’m a part of. But, I don’t think I’d be embarrassed to announce: “I’ve given up Facebook” to students and fellow teachers. I’m incredibly familiar with the site. I know that it’s not something that I need to make a part of my future. While I do my best at my job, I don’t find my career to define me – it’s what I do, not who I am. If anything, the fact that students are finding me online is as much of a reason to quit FB as any.

Aren’t you being condescending to all of your friends who use FB and enjoy it? (This question is a case of self-reflection and over-criticizing myself, more than anything. ;-)) Touche, if you’re thinking this. By no means do I intend to be the person standing on her soap box telling you about the evils of ANYTHING. And, no, I don’t think FB is evil. I just think that it’s one of the lesser-positives of our current society. Also, I do apologize if anyone reading this is taking offense or finding me to be too self-aggrandizing or even too complaint-driven (I truly dislike when blogs are used to rant about things, seriously). So, you may think I’m a hypocrite. But, I’m just trying to, in essence, make some sense of my life and what I’m doing with it, to simplify it all down to the things that I a) HAVE to do (ie work, cleaning the house, etc) and b) WANT to do (ie the theater, drawing, writing, etc). I’ve found that FB has, simply, kept me from too much.

Do you have thoughts on the FB subject? Please feel free to leave comments – but I do ask that, particularly if you disagree, please keep them respectful. 🙂 Oh, and if you see me responding to anyone who’s commenting on my latest post (or posting at all), please be kind — this is definitely an addiction, and it’s hard to break. As I said, I will be posting a link to the blog when I update.