Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Frustrations With Using Facebook

Some of you who are reading this may be quite familiar with my seemingly love/hate relationship with Facebook (and I'm sure that I'd have a similar relationship with other social media sites if I in fact used them - the only other one that I sporadically use is Twitter). When I first started using FB several years ago, it was all the rage, and I hurriedly added anyone I may have met in my life as a Facebook friend. However, those were also the days when I was in quite a needy place in my life, and what better way to gain attention than to post a status saying how happy or crappy I was feeling. Then I would wait, as many of us do, to see how many people would "like" or comment on my posts.

I have come a long way since then, and in the last couple of years have really wrestled with what kind of Facebook presence I want to have. Some observations:

1) I have wrestled with how many people - and which people - I want to have access to my information, updates, & pictures. I have gone back and forth on this several different times in the not-too-distant past. Questions that arise for me include: what is my definition of friendship? Are some or many people who I once was close to in my past still "my friends?" Or are we just Facebook friends? Are we more like friendly acquaintances now, and if so do I want to be sharing a lot of personal information with them?

2) Does Facebook disrupt the natural flow of life? Before social media, we would go to elementary, secondary, & post-secondary school, and while we might have a lot of acquaintances, usually after a few years would pass, we'd only be in contact and share personal things with only the handful of CLOSE friendships that endured. Now, it seems many of us, and I've done this, can't enjoy a sandwich or hold a random thought without broadcasting it to someone who we merely brushed paths with in second grade. Bottom line: I think there is a reason that people come and go in our lives; that's a natural process that Facebook can completely ignore if we let it.

3) "We no longer live our lives, we Facebook our lives." This is a thought that I've had for a long time. It seems that a great deal of time and attention is spent on "checking into" places or "liking" things, rather than simply enjoying places or things. Also, instead of simply enjoying our salad, or the sunset, or our infants giggling, we must grab our camera and post it online for all to see; of course there are privacy settings we can change. And this is perfectly ok for many people, I'm not judging you (particularly the ones who videotape their infants giggling - I have a soft spot for those). I'm just saying that for me, who already has a pretty packed mind, adding these online steps to my experiences are seeming less and less beneficial.

4) I, especially in the past, have been prone to use Facebook as a means of trying to gain attention or to soothe inner pain and loneliness. What I am actually doing is, metaphorically opening up a wound and bleeding all over the internet, again hoping that someone will pay attention to me or even hopefully solve my problems. All that this does is make me feel worse when, inevitably, the magic solutions or comments do not come. One of my greatest spiritual inspirations, Henri Nouwen, speaks of "crying inwardly" and seeking out a trusted group of friends, advisors, or therapists to find healing, rather than bleeding all over the place.

These are only MY current thoughts on Facebook and social media; other people with different perspectives and personalities may not resonate with my thoughts at all. Also, I definitely think there is a place for social media. It can be a great way to share things with family and  friends in a quick way. Also, it can be an excellent way of spreading knowledge and encouraging important social action.

Many of you will have noticed that I have wavered over my use of Facebook and who I want to "share" things with. I have added, then removed, then re-added, then re-removed people. I understand if this has angered you or made you scratch your head. I am sorry for this. For the most part, if I "remove" people, it is not because I hold something against them, but because of this continued reflection of what - if any - part that I want Facebook to have in my life.

I am going through a time of deep personal healing with the help of professionals; as I do so, I again am feeling the need to reduce my online presence a bit. I see myself continuing to use Facebook in order to share articles that I write, promote social justice, post the odd photo, or share my brand of quirky humour. I will probably remove a few more Facebook contacts as I continue to unclutter and go through this process; again, this is most usually not because people have offended me. If I offend you as I go through this process, I understand.

If you need to get a hold of me, my e-mail is

Mark Andrew Nouwen