Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Answer to the Question: What to do with Social Media?

{Photo credit to Craig Borchers}
I wrote about this topic several weeks ago.  If you missed it, click HERE.

After writing about the pros and cons of social media, many conversations and discussions ensued.  This issue of what to do about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, is near and dear to many people’s hearts.  I was happy to find other’s who were grappling with this same question.

The bottom line is: we all are trying to do the right thing.  We all recognize that the Internet is an amazing resource, yet we can see that, if not given some guidelines, it can take over your life.

Last time, I didn’t have a sound conclusion because, well, I didn’t know what to do.

Since then, I think I’ve found the answer…at least for now…at least for me.

I had a wonderful conversation with a sweet friend of mine, Joanna.  She has a very precious blog about her family life called “The Milroys”.  We chatted about Facebook, analyzed, scrutinized, and broke it down into tiny pieces.  She sent me this AWESOMELY insightful article titled, We’ve cured boredom and that’s not good.  The article put words to my hesitant feelings.

Here’s a blurb for your curiosity:

But wait — we might be in dangerous territory. Experts say our brains need boredom so we can process thoughts and be creative. I think they’re right. I’ve noticed that my best ideas always bubble up when the outside world fails in its primary job of frightening, wounding or entertaining me.

I make my living being creative and have always assumed that my potential was inherited from my parents. But for allowing my creativity to flourish, I have to credit the soul-crushing boredom of my childhood.

The insistent nature of Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand games in your pocket has produced a generation that never experiences a dull moment. That means we also never experience a contemplative moment, a reflective moment, a creative moment…Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by…distraction."

All glitter and glam aside, “What is the purpose of Facebook?”  Joanna and I came to the conclusion that Facebook, or other social media outlets, should enhance the relationships you already have.

If you are browsing through other people’s pages and pics who you barely know, or sorta-kinda know, in your newsfeed, it feels a lot like gossiping.  (It’s not, it just feels like it.)  A lot of the time, I don’t feel like I was intended to see or hear some of the things I see or read on Facebook.  Facebook is like the third party friend with all the juicy information – the gossip source.

If I am only acquainted with a Facebook friend, and don’t really know them for who they are, then I am more likely to judge them or misinterpret the message they are trying to portray.

For example, let’s say I have a FB friend (but don’t really know them in real life) who’s passionate about sunflowers.  They like to post pictures of sunflowers, write about sunflowers, and comment about sunflowers.  They grow sunflowers in their garden.  Let’s say, I see this sunflower obsession on FB and think it’s a little flaky.  “What good do sunflowers do?  They are practically useless.  They just take up space.  There are better things to grow in your garden besides sunflowers.”  I might think that they are wasting their time with this sunflower business.

But, maybe I don’t know the whole story.  What if they were going through a tough time and sunflowers reminded them of their childhood or happier times.  Maybe the sunflowers are a reminder that there is more to life than suffering.

I know that was a lame example but, you see, FB is only a small slice of life.  The user can pick and choose what they want to post.  If you don’t really know them, you might misunderstand the message.  (In case you hadn’t figured it out, that example was about me.  I LOVE sunflowers. J)

Some people feel like FB is a base form of stalking.  “Stalker-book”, “Crack-book”, “Time-sucker-book”.  All of these Facebook slang words allude to the fact that FB can be weird, addictive, and a waste of time.

I had a conversation with my husband, Craig, about the pros and cons of Facebook.  We came to the conclusion that sometimes people over-share information (duh, that’s a no brainer).  Why is this harmful?  It can be bad for the person because they are sharing important stuff with the wrong people.  While sharing your life with others is a really good thing, it is important to do it in the context of the appropriate relationship. 

More often than not, Facebook is becoming a replacement for communication, especially between spouses or significant others.

We humans are communal beings.  Ingrained in our nature is the desire to share our life with another.  We are made to live in community.  We are made to live in relationship with other people.  Because of all the modern conveniences, however, we don’t ever have to interact with other human beings face to face if we don’t want to.

When I see over-sharing on Facebook, I often think that the person must be lonely.  Or at least, they are craving something that is missing from one of their primary relationships.  (There I go judging again.)  There is no way one person can have hundreds of solid, fulfilling relationships.  It’s not humanly possible.  If you are lacking intimacy in the relationships you have with your loved ones, you might be a Facebook victim.  I’ve been guilty of this too.  The distraction of your FB friends is way easier than mending a relationship in real life.

The ironic thing is that Facebook was intended to bring people together; however, all it has done is replace real human to human interaction.

The more we crave intimate relationships, the more we turn to social media – which is the last place that will satisfy our needs.  It’s like a mirage.  We are duped into thinking it’s the real thing, but after all is said and done, we realize it was just a mirage and we’re still thirsty.

So, in conclusion, I’ve decided that I want to moderate my Facebook usage.  At first, I was ready to give it up completely.  But, I don’t need to give it up altogether because FB put in a really handy feature for people like me.

Did you know you can modify what shows up in your newsfeed?  Maybe you already knew that and are thinking, “Welcome to the 21st century”.  Or maybe you’d like to know how to control Facebook rather than have it control you.

Log into your FB account, and then go where all your friends are listed.  Hover your cursor over the name or picture and it will give you a list of options.  You can choose to “hide” them, thus preventing their information from showing up in your newsfeed.  They can’t tell you did this either.

I hid everyone I sorta-kinda knew.  Now, when I log onto FB, I only see the stuff my good friends and family post (which is still like 30 people).  No more never ending newsfeed, no more feeling like I am gossiping and judging, and no more anxiety when I log on to Facebook.  Viola!  If you are wondering whether or not you made the cut, you probably didn’t.  Just being honest…

From now on Facebook will enhance the relationships I already have.  And if I want to make new friends, I am going to do it the old fashioned way…with email. J

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  1. Thank you. I had no idea how to do this. I will find your advice truly helpful!

  2. I have recently launched a creativity sharing website with some social networking features. The idea is to share unique work by yourself or those closest to you in a Gallery and Collect favorite works by others. So it becomes less about talking about the everyday stuff. Less of cutting and pasting others' words and/or images to express who we are. More about sharing a piece of our uniquely true selves.What is your take on this sort of thing being an artist yourself?
    "My creativity. Shared."
    check it out if you like.
    Phyllis Collar

    1. What a cool site! As an artist, I love the idea of sharing creativity with others. I get inspiration from seeing the creations of other people. I will check out the site and see how it's going.