Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Removing Your Face From Facebook: The Importance of Solitude


If you're like me, you spend a lot of time on Facebook. You may - or may not - moan and complain over the various changes that Facebook makes over time (i.e. Timeline, the ticker, etc), but you still use it. Some people only check their Facebook a few times a week - these are the ones whose primary means of communication is - gasp - email - and they don't spend many hours on Facebook or Twitter for that matter. 

I have been thinking lately about how much time I want to be spending on Facebook. If you were to ask my FB friends, they'd tell you that I post quite often to the social networking site. Those of us who post multiple times a day post about what we had for lunch and where, how cute our cats are (with pictures), or meme's that we think other people will laugh at. With each post we hope - let's face it - that the "likes" and comments will roll in at the witty things we've come up with to post on Facebook.

Some of us go further. We post our innermost thoughts, like flinging them out to cyber-nowhere just hoping that one or more of our friends will take the bait and either feel sorry for us or laugh, depending on our post. Whether we mean it or not, Facebook is often making us more narcissistic.  

It is also doing something else. By jumping online and posting every random thing that we do throughout the day, plus everything we think, we are losing an important sense of solitude, that aloneness which we all need - at least I do - in my life. We are often afraid to spend time alone with ourselves, because our thoughts and feelings bring us stress and depression. However, by turning outward instead of inward we lose a sense of who we are. Perhaps this is also why so many people today have a hard time with insomnia; when we turn out the lights and turn off our iPads we are faced with our spinning minds.  Solitude is something that takes practice - and frankly - I suck at it.

But I think that it is in solitude that much of our personal growth takes place. When we're out for a walk on an early spring day. When we're journaling private thoughts that will not be placed on Facebook. We - I - need these times. This doesn't mean there isn't a place for personal reflection on Facebook, sure there is. But perhaps we need to ask the question before we post these reflections: Am I doing this so that others will fix my pain, or am I simply sharing and trying to help others with my insights?

I know that in the course of the next few weeks I will be slightly less active on Facebook, and I will try to take more time in solitude to hear the affirming inner voice of love that dwells in my heart.

Mark Andrew Alward