Facebook. It’s a double edged sword. A love it or leave it phenomenon. A ubiquitous presence in our culture. Along with other social media platforms, twitter, instagram, Snapchat and others that seem to pop up daily, facebook has tremendous reach and power in the way we interact with each other. It’s entertainment, information, connection on some level and overall a powerful tool that can be used for good and in growing frequency as a platform for anger, frustration, bullying and political discourse.
I opened a facebook account several years ago. At the time, I wasn’t that interested in it, didn’t understand the point behind it and it seemed like a huge waste of time. And in in all honesty, it really does eat up time I could be spending on more important, albeit not as entertaining activities. Funny, how first impressions are often spot on!
When facebook came on the scene, my children were among the first generation to have this type of platform during their formative years and I wanted to have some insight into this new frontier of what we now call social media. Hence, my reason for opening an account.
Fast forward several years, and Facebook seems to have become more popular among the middle aged demographic than ever. While it appears that millennials use instagram and snapchat more frequently to “tell their story” – it seems that people in my age range (and yes, I am that middle-age demographic I speak of) seems to use Facebook as their preferred avenue to share their opinions and day to day activities. And while I do have Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn account, I rarely use them and therefore, can’t speak to their affect on my life.
I do admit (albeit begrudgingly) that I am a pretty active user of Facebook. I wake up each morning, grab my iPad along with my coffee and toggle between email, online news, facebook and perhaps some online shopping. I love to read and even somewhat enjoy the political banter (although recently, it’s anything but enjoyable – more on that later). And it goes on throughout the day. Between exercise classes, meetings, errands, etc., I’m checking my phone for new email, notifications and news. Research has shown that every time we get a new email, “like” or other reaction, our brain releases a hit of dopamine which fuels the addiction to the never ending supply of information. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
I can see in my own activities how easy it is to get distracted and sidetracked by social media and continuous checking for email and notifications. It’s a slippery slope. Just as I know that what I eat, how much I exercise and the amount of sleep I get affects my physical health, I know that what I allow into my mind; the news, the never-ending stream of personal opinions, the pleas for “likes”, and the subversive advertising has a huge impact on my mood and my overall mindset. It’s made me think long and hard about how I use facebook. And how it affects me.
There have been a handful of times that I’ve taken a “break” from Facebook. Just stopped checking it for a few weeks. Stopped posting things. Left it alone. And it felt good. And I know that many of my friends have done the same. Some announced: “I’m taking a break from facebook, I’ll miss you..” As if not checking Facebook has any serious impact on real relationships. Life goes on. But I always come back. Not everyone does.
One friend told me she was “tired of seeing pictures of her friends at events she wasn’t invited to” and so she closed her account. And she is doing just fine! Another was fed up with the “constant bragging people do about their perfect husbands or children or vacation.” And I’ve felt their pain. I’ve had times when I’ve been struggling with things and a random facebook post can feel like a slap in the face.
And I’ve also probably posted things that have made someone feel left out or have come across as bragging. And I feel bad for making others feel bad. It cuts both ways. And this is why I’ve given a lot of thought to how I can best integrate social media (in my case, mainly facebook) into my life in a positive way.
Here are my guidelines for making my Facebook experience more positive and not a complete waste of time. Feel free to agree, disagree or completely ignore. I’m not asking for a like.
First the positive: these are things that add value to my day. Things that bring a smile to my face, or inform or enlighten me.
- Lifestyle. I love posts about healthy lifestyle, spirituality, exercise, meditation, uplifting articles, positive quotes, etc.. I look forward to them. Positive thoughts and gratitude are a wonderful way to start my day.
- Food. I really like those recipe videos. I rarely make them, but they are amazing to watch and motivate me to cook more. Keep them coming.
- Cute Things. Like puppies. Or cute baby animals of any sort. Cliche, but how can anyone not smile over a video of a pile of puppies sleeping or any animal that fits into a tea-cup?
- Grandchildren. It’s okay to brag about your grandchildren. You’ve raised your own kids and this is your reward! Bring it on. Plus, like puppies, who doesn’t love an adorable baby?
- Informative Scientific Articles. I have a science background and love reading articles related to heath including studies on research for cures. I have a vested interest in what’s being done to find cures for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer. I suspect many of you do too. It’s fascinating what brilliant minds and the right funding can do. Knowledge is power.
- Sports and other hobbies/interests. It’s great to see posts about your favorite teams, sporting events. etc. and also fun to connect with other fans.
- Ways to help. Is there an event or fundraiser that needs promoting? I’m all for it, especially local events and charities. It fees great to give back to the community.
- Pictures of your vacation. I may be jealous, but love seeing the beaches, mountains and sights. Plus, I’ll be posting mine eventually, so what’s fair is fair! Also, love the pedicure view while lying in the lounge chair on the beach. Let’s share more of those!
- Family milestones. I love seeing wedding, anniversaries, births, graduations, etc.. Family is so important. I realize that some of these posts can cause painful feelings, jealousy or memories of losses for people. I know this from personal experience. But I want to encourage people to appreciate the good times and the people in their lives. I want to be happy for others even if its not always going my way. That is a personal goal and challenge that I embrace.
- Humor. Especially things other people’s kids say and do! As long as it’s not mean spirited or at the expense of others. We can all use more laughter.
The not so positive: These posts cause anxiety, frustration or sadness. No need to keep them in the feed.
- Negative, Hateful or Judgmental Posts: I edit my news-feed by hiding posts from particularly negative or hateful sources. I’m open to all opinions and views, but if it’s all about hate or judgement, it won’t be in my feed.
- My own political views: In this current political environment, I’ve decided not to post, share or like divisive articles. While there may be an occasional exception, I’ve found that the mood on facebook has become very dark due to extremist viewpoints. I have my political beliefs and enjoy a healthy debate and keep up on the news, but when it comes to politics, I’d rather not debate them on social media. Next..
- I hide most ads. I try to separate my shopping from my social media. I also hide most multi-level marketing promotions. If you friend me only to sell me something, it’s probably not the right approach.
- Bragging. We are all proud of our accomplishments, and those of our family – but I try to walk a fine line between being proud and being boastful. I realize that there a lot of people out there going through rough times and posting a continuous stream of “look how great my life is” may be fueling their pain. There’s nothing wrong with posting a picture of an anniversary bouquet or sharing major accomplishments, but in my opinion, a little goes a long way. There’s a lot to be said for being humble.
- Fake news. It’s out there and I try to avoid it as much as possible.
- Gossip. Celebrity or otherwise. Who needs to know what someone you don’t even know is doing in their personal lives?
So what should we talk about, you ask?
I like to share and hear about everyday life. This is where we all exist, where we all can relate. Where we truly connect. Life is not just a highlight reel. Can I make someone feel better by sharing a common struggle instead of a perfect picture? Dog destroy your slippers? Having a hard time getting motivated to decorate for the holidays? Do you hate cleaning? Need help selecting plants for your yard? Let’s share our thoughts and ideas and help each other navigate what we all struggle with.
None of us have perfect lives, so why do we try so hard to portray that we do on social media? So many people are anxious and depressed because they don’t feel they measure up to others. Are we feeding that by the way we use social media? Food for thought.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on facebook or social media in general. Here’s to using it in ways that enhance our life and improve communication and the exchange of information. Here’s to keeping it positive!