On being a Facebook addict, privacy, and pleasing people
Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings

On being a Facebook addict, privacy, and pleasing people

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It’s been 27 days since I first deactivated my Facebook account. In that time, I realized that I am definitely a Facebook addict.

I had to reactivate my account to help my husband with job-search related queries to potential employers. Having my account technically open, but keeping it mentally closed for social-networking purposes, has presented some challenges. I log on to check for responses but find myself browsing the top few posts of my news feed. I’ve also had a few people try to chat with me and post things on my profile, and I have felt guilty if I don’t respond.

I’ve also found a way to keep my blog’s Facebook page open under a secondary profile and have posted a few updates and pictures on there.

That said, I’m amazed at how different things look in Facebook-world from the perspective of an “outsider.” Seeing Facebook friends “in real life” was so awkward. I don’t know what’s going on in their life! And they don’t know what’s going on in mine! I didn’t know what to talk about. But I have found that while the frequency and quantity of my social interactions has diminished, the quality of those interactions has increased. For example, instead of a quick Facebook post to a friend about meeting for coffee, we shared a five minute phonecall about parenting instead.

Facebook addict withdrawal is real:

I was still thinking in status updates and then remembering, oh wait…I’m not on Facebook.

Now, I’m really enjoying this newfound measure of privacy that exists from NOT posting every little detail of my life on Facebook. I’m enjoying the fact that the network of 300+ people is no longer hearing about what I’m eating for dinner, where I’m shopping, and how many hours my kid slept last night. Now I’m living my life simply to live it…not for the benefit, opinion, and comments of others.

This led me to evaluate why and how I became a Facebook addict: 

I want people to like me. It’s that simple.

For the last 5 years I have been living my life for the attention and praise of others to find my sense of self-worth, instead of and finding my worth in Christ.

I walked close to God in my high school years, but when I went to college I experienced several heartbreaks that rocked my faith and caused me to doubt God’s love for me. All of this happened in 2005-2006 and, as part of the healing process, God led me to some forums and consequently Facebook through which I met some amazing friends. Unfortunately, because I was still struggling with doubt and anger with how God had “failed me,” I turned to others for their love and attention and lived in denial about the strained relationship I had with God.

I never stopped believing in God, or loving Him, but I stopped letting Him love me. Most days I would have never admitted it though. In fact I was “happy” most of the time. I have a great marriage and family that many of my “friends” envy. People compliment me for being pretty, helpful, sweet, and good mom. etc. But I’ve been judging my spiritual and social success based on how people online see me.

As Facebook has changed over time, and as I’ve relied more and more on this atmosphere of the praise of men – my insecurity and self-confidence has plummeted…it’s never enough. So what do I do? Post more, seek more attention because it temporarily makes me feel better. Until I see someone else’s post about how they are doing this or that with their kids, or do Jillian Michaels workouts, or cooked something amazing, or lost more weight, or can handle four little ones with ease, or whatever, and I feel worse all over again!

Then there is the bigger questions of how to exist online:

If you don’t post often enough, but read the posts of others, you are a “lurker” who makes people uncomfortable. If you post too much you are too newsy. If you post only the good things, you aren’t being genuine and honest. But if you post too much bad things, you are a drama queen. If you want to post about the bad stuff going on in your life (to “keep it real”) but give too many details, then you are “airing your dirty laundry.” But if you don’t post enough details, then you are being ambiguous and vaguebooking.

Am I the only one whose mind is reeling now? No matter what you post, it’s always wrong.

“Who cares? It’s my profile I can do and say whatever I want whenever I want!”

But is that the kind of woman I want to be? Swinging like a pendulum between trying to please everyone or not caring about anyone at all?

I logged in the other day to check something quickly and I browsed the first few posts in my feed. Within five minutes the only thought I had was “wow…I don’t miss this at all!!!” I had been having a perfectly peaceful day, and suddenly I was thrown into a vortex of distress and drama.

My life is more peaceful without having to scroll through the details of 300 other people’s lives. I’ve had more time to cook, take care of my home, and spend time with my family. Being offline has shown me how much time I wasted on Facebook when I could have been doing more productive things.

Me 1: You can still have Facebook, but you don’t have to be an addict. You don’t have to read through your entire feed every day.

Me 2: Then what’s the point? If I am going to be “friends” with someone, shouldn’t I read all their posts?

Me 1: You don’t have the time or emotional energy for that.

Me 3: Just unfriend people and just keep up with family and close friends!

Me 2: Then people will be hurt because they think I don’t like them!

Me 3: They can just get over it!

Me 2: That’s rude and selfish. Just get rid of Facebook completely!

Me 1: What about my family? It’s the easiest way to share photos and videos! What about my aunt and friends struggling with cancer? And my military sisters needing encouragement? Is not having a Facebook account equivalent to shutting people out of my life who really care about me?

These are my questions. Part of me wants to walk away from Facebook completely. Part of me wants to cut my friends list to the 50 people I feel closest to and keep my blog for everyone else, but isn’t it selfish to ask people to keep up my life when I’m not willing to keep up with theirs?

I’m not writing this for answers or solutions. I wrote this to process my thoughts. I don’t think that anyone else can help me with this decision.

A friend of mine asked why I can’t just stay on Facebook but be balanced in how I used it. Right now, I’m not sure I can do that. Until I can be on Facebook without being an addict, I need to stay off.

I do know this: If and when I do come back, things are going to be very different. I’ve come too far to go back to the way things were.

_______

Do you want to learn more about where this path led me? Read the follow up posts about being a (recovering) Facebook addict here:

Facebook: the flip side ~ on relationships, community, and who I am

Facebook Recovery (Update)

On {not} being a Facebook addict, privacy, and pleasing people

Dear Facebook: an open letter on our ten year anniversary

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