Quitting Facebook seems to be the thing to do to make a statement these days. Tired of the drama? Pull yourself out of it by deleting your Facebook account. The truth is, I know very few people who don’t have a Facebook account, and I can’t say I ever handle it gracefully when I find out.
The conversation usually goes pretty much exactly like this:
Me: I’ll be in touch. I’ll add you on Facebook and then just send you a message.
My Conversation Partner (CP): I don’t have Facebook
Me: *stunned silence* You don’t… have Facebook?? Why not??
CP: It’s a big waste of time and I just don’t like dealing with all the drama.
(or something fairly similar to that)
I think that the reason it always shocks me so much is that I absolutely love Facebook. To be honest, I spend an inordinately large amount of time on Facebook, and while the drama has gotten to me from time to time, I find I can usually solve the problem by unfollowing something or taking a break. I have never wanted to quit before.
Until about two weeks ago.
I couldn’t bring myself to actually cut the cord, because the reasons I love Facebook are that I can keep up with family and friends that I don’t see regularly, and the idea that I wouldn’t be able to see what those peeps were up to broke me a little bit. But those same reasons that I love it are also the reasons I was hating it.
I’m mostly an extrovert. For the past 6 years, my entire summer has been spent at Camp, surrounded by people, and at most times with not enough alone time. I’ve got a few introverted tendencies that pop out when I’ve just spent too much time surrounded by people, but I just need a couple hours to myself (usually with a book), and then I’m good to go again! I would hands down consider myself an extrovert. This summer though, I came home early. I wasn’t working very hard and I missed my friends, so a week and a half before the end of the ministry season, I packed my car up and made the trek back South. The first two days of unpacking, cleaning, and organizing while getting ready for another school year to start were amazing. They were what my tired body and soul needed, even though it was exhausting. I’ve never gone into a school year all unpacked with a clean house before…. likely because I tend to get home from Camp at 11:30 pm on Labour Day, and have to get up 7.5 hours later and go back to work. I was loving every moment of my solitude, and I wasn’t spending a lot of time on Facebook OR Netflix (which was precisely what I told everyone I was going home to do).
Then I got lonely. So, so lonely. I had nothing really to do once I was unpacked and my basement was clean and organized, so I collapsed onto my couch with a bag of chips and logged into Netflix. While binge watching Being Erica, I scrolled mindlessly through Facebook to catch up on things I’d missed from having limited and unreliable Internet access for 8 weeks.
But it made me sad! Facebook isn’t supposed to make me sad, but I found that while I sat by myself, after more than enough alone time for an extrovert, I started looking at the cool things my friends were doing, and instead of being happy for them and enjoying the adventures of the people I care about, I got jealous. And sad. And lonely.
After a day or two of mindless scrolling, getting sadder and sadder and more and more lonely, I came to the fed-up conclusion that I needed to take a break from Facebook. I needed to quit. I needed to walk away from it, and even though I’d be sad not to see updates, it would better for my mental health.
Except I made it only a few hours before I wanted to share a picture. And then I made it only another half an hour before someone commented on the picture and I wanted to see what they said… and so on.
What I discovered was that I didn’t need a break from Facebook. Sure, I probably needed to not spend hours at a time just scrolling through my feed while I binge-watched Netflix…. I did go play my violin, play with my dog, write for a bit, organize more things, and get my back to school shopping done… because that much screen time isn’t helpful or healthy no matter what the circumstances… but I didn’t quit Facebook. I discovered that it was my attitude toward the information I was receiving that I needed to change.
While I was scrolling, I came across this post from Blog Her written by a woman apologizing to a friend for unfollowing her on Facebook because she was jealous of the great life she appeared to have. When I read it, I remembered some of the statistics I’ve read while looking into the effects of Social Media on my students. Apparently I’m vulnerable to the effects myself….
If we compare ourselves to others, regardless of the circumstances, we will never be satisfied with what we have. And how can we be happy and content when we’re constantly jealous of what others have? But what I have to remember is that while I’m sitting on my couch and I’m sad because I’m bored and lonely, I’m comparing myself to the version of reality everyone else is posting. Their best faces go forward on Facebook, just like mine does, and that’s what I think is one of the biggest dangers to the comparison game.
I stumbled across this yesterday, which is also apt here.
The reality is that somewhere, someone may be scrolling through their feed and wishing their life was as cool as mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok for me to compare my life to anyone else’s.
My life is great. I have fantastic friends, and an exciting new job adventure starting on Tuesday, and so I don’t need to read what my friends, family, and acquaintances are up to and be sad. I instead can praise God for the great things they have going for them, and I can be thrilled for their successes.
It’s when I stop being able to do that that it may genuinely be time to get off Facebook… because otherwise what’s the point?