A week ago tomorrow I was done. Absolutely finished. I couldn't stand one more minute on Facebook. So I decided to take a break.
I didn't start out planning to be off for a week. Just a few days to cleanse my system. It was making me anxious. I was feeling social pressure (that probably wasn't even there but was just in my own head). I felt compelled to like this or comment on that to make sure she knew I was reading her stuff or he knew I still paid attention to his life or she felt like I liked her. Seriously, it was ridiculous.
I was not feeling peace. I wasn't acting; I was reacting. I wasn't being true to myself. And I am not okay with that.
So I announced my departure and went away.
And very soon I was anxious about being away. I missed it terribly. And I started to wonder why. I started to examine my feelings and their causes. Why was I uncomfortable being away? What was it that Facebook was fulfilling in me that pulled me back even though it had been causing me negative feelings?
So I spent the next few days watching my own behavior and paying attention to the pull.
This is what I learned.
The thing I missed most was knowing what was going on in my friends' lives, especially within my own neighborhood. I missed knowing when a friend was having a bad day or hurting. I missed knowing who was having a birthday that day. I missed knowing when someone in my neighborhood needed help. Facebook has opened up communication in a way that just wasn't there before. People share more. I can get the info immediately or whenever it's convenient for me. We can have a communal conversation over several days. It's awesome like that.
But the flip side of it is over sharing or people sharing things I just don't want in my life. Political/religious disagreements. Posts with the F word. Griping/whining in a victim-y way, with the same complaints over and over with no intention to try to make their own world better. Pity parties. Sexual images and/or status updates. Non-stop selfies. Contentious behavior of all kinds. And certain people who just rub me the wrong way no matter what whom I hid from my feed but then they show up anyway because one of our friends in common likes or comments on their post. I didn't miss those things.
Of secondary importance, I felt like I lost my voice. My ability to communicate with the world was severely diminished. Many times a day I wanted to share something and didn't. I think this was the most important area for me to evaluate and an area I still need to work on.
I've always been curious. I find many things interesting and always have. Growing up I used to talk all the time -- ALL THE TIME! I made people crazy. I could sometimes sense it but didn't understand why. The things I was saying were so interesting (I thought). I don't remember how old I was when I finally understood (but it was probably much older than I should have been). I don't remember what happened to precipitate it, but I remember distinctly realizing that I didn't need to share every thought that popped into my head. In fact, it made people crazy that I did that. It was truly an awakening moment for me. It's taken years for me to learn to be quiet, because my brain never shuts up. (It was many more years after that before I learned that other people want to share, too, and it's so important to listen.)
Facebook has been this lesson all over again. I find so many things interesting in a day. I have so many thoughts that I think are incredibly clever. So many observations I find fascinating. So many news stories I think are noteworthy and/or important. I want to share them all. And some days I know I'm sharing more on Facebook than others want to read/know, but I just can't stop myself. I can hear people rolling their eyes at me when I post the third news article in a 15 minute time span. To all of you who are my Facebook friends, please know I do try and I do censor and you aren't getting half the things I want to share. You're welcome.
And it would be bad enough if that were my only sharing problem, but it isn't. I started paying attention to the status updates I wanted to post. So often this last week I found myself wanting to post snotty or complaining status updates. The kind of communication that has become so much a part of our society. The kind of communication that takes place on so many of today's TV shows that it's just become how we communicate with each other. The kind of communication that's flippant and sarcastic, that we've all come to accept as appropriate humor. The kind of communication that isn't Christlike or kind or sincere.
I don't want that to be my communication style.
Facebook is just too easy and quick and removed. I don't have to think through, censor, or see the reaction to my thoughts the way I should.
I also missed seeing the updates from my daughter who is on a mission and knowing she's still okay. That was hard on my heart.
There are lots of other things I missed and lots of other things I didn't miss at all.
So am I ready to get back on? Kind of.
I still don't feel sure of my ability to regulate my behavior in a way that will bring me peace. So I'm going to ease into it. Tomorrow I will begin reading Facebook again. I will communicate through the private message system about important things. I will like my missionary daughter's posts so she knows I'm seeing them. But I will not "like" any other posts. I will not comment on any other posts. I will strive to be an observer for a while as I continue to examine my thoughts and feelings.
When I feel like I can be true to myself and behave in a way that brings peace to my heart, I will participate fully again. Until then, I'm going to practice observing and listening.