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This post is a continuation of my inner thoughts and turmoil about my decision to stay off of Facebook or get back on May 1st…if you have not read my previous posts, PLEASE read them here, as they are important for understanding the entire picture of what’s been going on:
After my last post, I felt very overwhelmed. It was so refreshing to get all of my thoughts sorted logically and spit them out on screen, as it provided clarity…but it didn’t really seem to provide me any answers or direction. There was still so many problems I saw with either staying off Facebook completely or jumping back on. I felt a little bit lost.
And so even though my prayers have been less than purposeful (it’s been a rough week) and have been more like random disconnected thoughts and questions tumbling around in my head, I’ve still been leaning heavily on God, asking for some sense of direction.
I also feel like some people may not realize how weighty of an issue this is for me or may wonder why I’m making such a big deal about this. For people who have never used Facebook regularly, I can understand how it may seem like I’m making a huge deal about nothing. It’s just a website…and you would be right, it is.
But it’s not. Facebook is its own subculture…its own community. Being a part of that subculture has provided me with a sense of community that I had never had before. It has changed me from being a wallflower who is awkward in social situations and thinks no one likes her into someone who can comfortably interact with almost anyone I meet, whether they are a stranger or not. And for that I am grateful.
The thought of hitting that final “delete account” key is much akin to thoughts I feel about moving away from Fort Knox, or getting out of the Army. It’s leaving something familiar where strong relationships have been formed and amazing memories have been made. A place where I’ve reunited to interact regularly with extended family instead of simply seeing them at funerals and weddings, where I can reach out to encourage friends who are struggling, and where I have a small community to go to when I simply need a friend. So, one of the biggest concerns I have with getting off of Facebook completely is leaving that community and shutting myself off from people, losing relationships with close friends and family members…becoming isolated and lonely.
Shortly after writing my last post, I picked up the book I’ve been reading You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth and turned to where I had left off… Oh great, just what I need to hear about…the next two chapters are on relationships and how I connect with people!!! *sigh and eye roll
But, God has used these chapters to provide some further clarity to the very thing that I’m struggling with the most, and even shown me some of the reasons for my frustration that I hadn’t even realized yet. I hope that you will bear with me for the rest of this post as I am going to be doing a lot of quoting from the book, and interjecting my own thoughts as they apply to me and the decision I am contemplating.
God promises to always be with us. Yet it seems He also created within us a deep desire to share life with each other…We need others to speak truth to us, remind us we’re amazing, walk alongside us, and encourage us in all God has called us to do.
We may tell ourselves, “If only I were closer to God, I wouldn’t feel like I needed other people so much.” But Adam lived in a perfect place. There was no sin. He had an intimacy with God we can only imagine. Yet God still said that Adam being alone wasn’t good.
So that ache you feel, that longing you can’t name? You don’t need to feel guilty about it. It’s the magnet God places within you that draws you to other people. It’s part of his plan. It’s good. (Page 73-74)
But even in churches it sometimes feels as if needing other people is a sign of weakness.
If only my relationship with God were stronger, then I wouldn’t be so lonely.
If only I could get my act together, then I wouldn’t care at all what other people thought.
But wanting other people in your life isn’t weakness. Instead it’s a reflection that you are created by a God who is inherently relational. Look at the lengths He’s gone to just have a relationship with you.
Why was Adam being alone not good? Because it’s not like God.
The kingdom we serve in is one of love, relationship, and intimacy. We’re not made for each other, but we’re certainly made to share life with each other. (Pages 74-75)
I had never really thought about relationships with other people in this way. I realized that yes, while everything that I mentioned in my previous post (about Facebook drowning out my relationship with God and creating an addiction to pleasing people) definitely remains true and will continue to be something that I very much have to guard against, the flip side is that I still need other people in my life. That’s why God created friendship and relationships. And with many of my friends who I am closest to, Facebook is the best way to continue to cultivate those relationships just because of the nature of the society in which we live.
And yet those other questions are still there. I know that IF I stay on Facebook, something has to change as far as how I interact with people, if for none other reason that simple time management. It’s just getting impossible to keep up with! And yet if I go picking and choosing to keep connected to some people and boot others off of my friends list, aren’t I playing favorites? Won’t I hurt people? I know that not everyone will understand why I chose to disconnect from them!
Holley continues to read my mind in her section on “Why We Hold Back” – one of the answers being “We’re Afraid We Won’t Be Loved.” (Page 75)
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). This verse has come to mind over and over as I’ve thought about relationships and why they’re so hard for women. We strive for perfection, after all. It seems like the ideal insurance policy against rejection, doesn’t it? If our house, habits, and heart are just right, who wouldn’t love us? And yet all the time we know that we aren’t perfect…Round and round it goes until God stops us…and tells us again, “Beautiful daughter of mine, you don’t need to be perfect. You are already perfectly loved.”
The hard part is translating that into our relationships. Perhaps we can grasp that God loves us, but it seems more uncertain that our friends or family are likely to follow suit. I recently pondered that, and it seemed God whispered to my heart, “There is no fear in love–if you are acting out of insecurity, then you are not living in love.” That hit home.
I protested, “But God, I want people to like me. I want people to be happy with me. Isn’t that what it means to be loving?” And as I dug deeper into his Word it became clear that, no, being loving doesn’t mean pleasing people. We are to love people, but we’re only asked to please God. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
We’re called to care about others, to be kind and considerate, to try our best to bless them. But, ladies, we don’t have to make everyone happy. An if we don’t have to make everyone happy, then we don’t have to be perfect. God has already declared us good enough, worthy in his sight, valuable, and with much to offer the world. (Pages 75-77)
I honestly breathed a big sigh of relief when I read this, as one of the things I have been considering most of all is paring down my “friends list” to be only close friends and family. After having been in 4 schools, 3 colleges, and close to 15 churches in my lifetime, not to mention all of the contacts I have made through military wife forums and groups…that’s a LOT of people that I have known in my lifetime, and it just so happens that about 90% of them have Facebook accounts. Remaining “friends” with all of them is simply impractical.
But the truth is I genuinely DO care about the people Facebook might call “acquaintances.” Am I emotionally invested in their lives? No, not that much. But I hate to be rude. I’ve unfriended people in the past and inevitably people get upset and send me messages like “What did I ever do to you?” Or “Have I offended you?” and get really bothered that I have chosen not to be connected with them anymore. And I HATE going through that, because then I feel like the bad guy, when in reality all I’m trying to do is manage my time more wisely.
A few pages later Holley addresses the subject of boundaries in relationships:
We don’t have to hide in our relationships with others…As we talked about earlier, we’re called to love those in our lives, but we don’t have to please them…
While God does want us to be open with others, he also encourages us to put boundaries in place as we do so. He talks repeatedly about guarding our hearts…guarding is a proactive choice to protect what matters most…it’s okay to limit how we share ourselves… (Page 78)
I’m taking this portion slightly out of the context in which Holley meant it (which was much more about avoiding unsafe relationships), but I felt it was applicable. When I think about what matters most to me, it’s my family and my relationship with God. My time with my Father, my husband and my son…and then my immediate family like my parents and siblings. I have to protect that. And protecting that may mean limiting how much of myself I share with people that I’m not as close to.
Now, for what I feel was the most enlightening section…
…”How do I build relationships?” The answer to that question is as unique as you are. Just as God has given you specific strengths and skills, he’s also created you to connect with others in particular ways…
When we think about the biblical command to “love one another,” it seems like the way we go about doing so should be one size fits all. But the way God expresses his love through you will look entirely different than the way he does it through someone else. And that’s good. (Page 82)
She then goes on to discuss the social settings in which a person most comfortable: One-to-One, One-to-Few, and One-to-Many…a quick read revealed that I’m definitely a one-to-one kind of person:
You prefer situations in which you can focus intently on an individual. You listen carefully and seek to offer your full attention. Your conversations are likely to have depth, and you want to hear what’s really going on in the other person’s life an heart as well as share the same. While you enjoy people, you probably don’t have the desire for an extensive inner circle. That would require spreading yourself too thin. After all, a relationship is a significant, serious investment that requires the best of you.
In a group of people, you may feel overwhelmed or frustrated that you can’t give each person the attention that you’d truly like. You also may have little patience for small talk and chatter, seeing them as a distraction from what matters most. You have a strong capacity to make people feel truly valued and heard. (Page 84, emphasis mine)
I’ve always known that I’m more comfortable one-on-one with people, but the way that she wrote this was so enlightening to me as for how it applies to the whole Facebook situation. The truth is that, as much as it’s true that I crave attention, I don’t really like having a lot of “friends,” because it distracts me from caring for, focusing on, listening to the people who matter the most to me. I feel tired, frustrated… “spread too thin.” Especially having been off of Facebook this past month, the few times I’ve logged in, I’ve been even MORE frustrated just scrolling through a few things, because I keep asking myself “why does all of this stuff matter?” I know, I know, I’m horrible at posting the “small talk and chatter” myself, but when you have an entire community of people doing it, it’s distracting from getting to know what’s really going on with people. I want to be fully invested in my friend’s lives so that they can feel valued and heard, so that I can reach out to them with my entire being. And because I can’t do that with everyone, I find all of the other “fluff” distracting and frustrating, but then I feel incredibly guilty that I CAN’T be that way with everyone on my friend’s list. And I didn’t even quite realize all of this until I read this description. My frustrations make so much more sense now.
She further goes on to discuss structure in relationships and what is most comfortable for people: Leading, Partnering, or Serving. I definitely fall into the “partnering” category:
If you’re drawn to the partnering structure of relationship, then you view everyone in life as your equal. You want to be side by side or face-to-face. You see connecting with others as an endless process of give-and-take. You care little for power but don’t want to be taken advantage of either. You may become agitated by issues of balance and fairness. You have a strong capacity for coming alongside other and encouraging them, sometimes simply by your presence through whatever they face. You believe we’re all better together. (Page 86, emphasis mine)
Agitated by issues of balance and fairness…as in “how can I be balance my time online while still being fair to all of my friends and acquaintances?”
She talks about “social sight”:
When it comes to life, we all have vision that’s stronger in particular areas. Just as our eyes can be nearsighted or farsighted, we see more clearly in certain social situations. In this case, it doesn’t need to be corrected–it simply need to be recognized and maximized. When you do so, your way of seeing the world can become a strength.
There are two primary types of sight when it comes to relationships: external and internal.
I definitely have internal “social sight”:
If your social sight is internally focused, then you are highly tuned in to the unseen world that exists around you and within those you love. You seem to intuitively understand what others are feeling or thinking, often without them telling you so. You are more likely to live in the realm of the heart…You want to know the passions, desires, and dreams of those you love. You express that you care in ways that are invisible but still deeply meaningful–listening, speaking encouraging words, and silently providing support. (page 87 emphasis mine)
Lastly she talks about the “sphere of needs” that women are usually drawn to: practical, emotional, relationship, and intellectual. This one was a little bit harder to pin down, but if I had to pick just one, it would be emotional:
If you’re wired to meet the emotional needs of others, you offer your heart first. You know when someone is hurting or desires to have someone rejoice with them. You give through intangible ways most often-comforting, encouraging, bringing hope. You don’t need to see actual physical results from the way you give other than a smile appearing or a tear being wiped away. (Page 89)
So now you may be asking, “Okay, why does all of this matter?” and she goes on to answer that question:
We often try to force ourselves to be like others or to simple do whatever we’re asked. Then we wonder why we feel ineffective and exhausted. We are the body of Christ–and that means we not only have individual strengths to offer; we also have unique ways of loving others…knowing how we connect lets us serve in the center of the way God made us. (page 90)
Yes, sometimes women use “that’s not my strength” as an excuse to get out of a legitimate opportunity for service. But more often than I see them ducking out of what God is asking them to do, I see women taking on roles and responsibilities because they want to please people, they feel obligated, or they simply assume that’s the “Christian” thing to do. If that’s how you’ve been feeling, then give yourself permission got serve first in those areas that are in line with who God created you to be and how he designed you to love. He’ll rejoice, and we’ll all benefit. (Page 91)
If you are still reading…thank you!
The bottom line is this: Staying connected to the day-to-day happenings of 300-500 people (over the course of the past 5 years) through an online website simply because I feel obligated to or don’t want to hurt people’s feelings is not only an ill use of my time, it’s not how God has created me to act socially. It’s emotionally draining, and I don’t believe it’s how God wants me to live my life. It distracts me not just from God, my family, and my home, but it also keeps me from meeting the emotional needs of my family, and others in the way that I desire to most. Facebook is an amazing tool to help me cultivate relationships and encourage people, but I am only one person. To interact with people the way I want to and the way that I feel is most effective, I have to limit the amount of people that I invest myself in.
Therefore, when I return to Facebook May 1st, I’m going to be paring down my friends list significantly. I’m not going to give myself some numerical goal or percentage to reach, but I am going to evaluate each connection individual and try to determine, with God’s guidance, who I need to stay connected to at the Facebook level. I hope that everyone who reads this can appreciate the spirit in which I am writing and understands that if you get unfriended, it’s not out of meanness or rudeness or a lack of caring for you personally. I just have to do what works best for me, my family, and my relationship with God.