Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Since you’ve been gone…”

Recently, I haven’t been able to blog because my computer has been broken.  To my surprise, these past few weeks of minimal technology have taught me some things.  First, I missed blogging.  Second, I did not miss Facebook.

Again, I am reminded of how much I still use blogging/writing to cope with my depression and anxiety tendencies.  I depend on the blog to help me just as much as I’d like it to help others.  I tried writing things down the old fashioned way – paper and pen – but it just wasn’t the same.

I bet part of the reason I like typing as opposed to writing is because you can easily fix mistakes and the document still looks clean.  With a pen, the paper is full of scratches, cross outs, and barely legible handwriting.  I’m such a perfectionist that I’m sure the act of writing was a hindrance on the therapeutic process.

The second thing I realized from my unintentional technology hiatus was that I really liked not being on Facebook.

In the past, I’d log on to post a blog, but, first, I’d end up checking my Facebook account…then get stuck looking at whatever Facebook deemed important for me to see.

Several months ago, I limited my access to whose notifications would pop up in my newsfeed.  You can read about why I did that and how to do that here.

Even though I’ve dramatically cut back, still being “connected” on Facebook has some implications I hadn’t realized before.

During these past several weeks, I didn’t have that feeling of being “connected” to anyone or anything.  At first it was kind of freeing.  I had no obligations to the Internet and it had no demand over me.

But then, without proactively thinking about it, I sought personal connection by other means.  I ended up writing more letters, making more personal phone calls, and visited more friends in person than I have in long time.

After my computer was fixed and I could go back to the World Wide Web, I hesitated.  I didn’t touch the thing for days.  And I started thinking about whether or not I wanted the Internet back.  My life seemed more fulfilling without it.  So, I pondered why I was feeling this way.

I came to the conclusion that Facebook gives you a false sense of connectivity.  You feel like you have a lot of friends, but, in reality, those relationships can be very shallow and unfulfilling.

True friendship is the opposite; true friendship is fulfilling.  Not that you should have friends just in order to get something from them.  True friends, real-life friends, can help you become a better person, help you through tough times, make you laugh, pick you up when you’re down, and all those good things.

Yet, in order to have good relationships, you have to put forth effort.  It takes work to maintain a solid friendship.  And, the time you take to make it work can make a world of difference.

So, time and effort are key ingredients in friendship.

Facebook doesn’t allow for those essential ingredients needed for lasting friendships.  On the flipside, it makes it too easy to connect.  Facebook requires so little effort on our part that it’s hard to see how any “real” relationships can be generated or sustained through this social medium.

For example, it’s so easy that on your friend’s birthday all you have to do is write a few words on their wall.  Facebook even prompts you to remember whose birthday it is each time you log on.  It only takes a few seconds, requires no memory on your part, and demands, possibly, the least amount of physical effort for you.  Sure, it’s nice to get many happy birthday messages…but does it really mean that much when you know how easy it is to happen to be on Facebook that day, happen to see that it’s so-and-so’s birthday, and then type 13 characters in the space provided?  Maybe you add an exclamation mark or a smiley face…it’s quite amazing, you don’t even have to be smiling, but somehow that little icon makes everything OK. J  Get my point?

Facebook is seemingly personal, connecting the whole world together with a few clicks of a button.  But, in reality, Facebook actually separates the “face” from the person.  A person can be suddenly reduced to a comment, a picture, or a status update.  Because we cannot see them or feel the real emotions going on behind the screen, it is easy for us to look at that person with less dignity than they inherently deserve.

So, Facebook seems very personal at first glance but, I think, it is taking us farther and farther away from personal relationships than ever before in recorded history.

The true essence of friendship is sacrifice; it is sacrificing your needs for the well being of another.  Christ said, “No greater love has man than this; to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)

I don’t see love when I look at Facebook.  All I see is venting, unproductive debates, narcissism, and jealously.  I see people so desperate for human intimacy that they post anything and everything just to get “likes” or comments.  I see people so starving for self-esteem that they post pictures of themselves to get constant approval.

Another downside of Facebook, in my opinion, concerns Facebook friends that I’m not that good of friends with; it becomes difficult to know certain information about them from what they post.  I’m not that good of friends with them, yet I get the privilege of knowing things that their significant other might not even know.  With knowledge comes responsibility.  What do I do with the information I read on Facebook?  I can’t possible share that friendship accountability for 300+ people in my life; it’s just not physically feasible.

Friendship takes more effort than what we are giving it these days.  Facebook is making it too easy to have “friends” and as a result, makes less and less true friends.  Facebook is more about “news” or gossip than about fostering real relationships.

So many people are afraid to give up Facebook, I think, because they are afraid of “missing out”.  Facebook does have it perks – if you live far away and want to see pictures and updates, if you have lots of family and you can’t keep up with everyone, etc.  But then again, Facebook only makes it easier.  It’s still possible to keep in touch without it.  What do you want, easy or true?  What you can gain by fostering real friendships will far outweigh what you will miss on the Internet.

Side note: I’ve never heard anyone say, “Wow! I feel so good about myself, I feel so loved, and I feel so uplifted after that 30 minute Facebook session!”  Yeah, it usually goes more like, “I’m doing nothing with my life, I wish my pictures were like that, I need to get this or that, and I wish I looked like this or that.”

In conclusion, Facebook is really unfulfilling for me.  During my sabbatical, without its false sense of security, I turned to other means to let my friends know that I love them.  And the outcome was way more satisfying and productive.

So, as a result of this unintentional experiment, I’m henceforth giving up Facebook!

This means I won’t be able to post on my “Have a Nourishing Life” page anymore.  I might lose some readers because it won’t be “easy” to see when I’ve posted a new blog.  But, I think, for me, the benefits will be worth it.