We’ve all heard the heartwarming stories, and probably have our own, of finding a new or long lost friend on Facebook. Many have even landed a job - or met their husband or wife. Some companies are finding employees more productive after a 10 minute Facebook break. And how about those birthday notifications — or some good or bad news that gets posted— we certainly have a better chance to show we care when we are reminded or informed?
Clearly, Facebook has many amazing benefits — from inspiring us, to updating us, to connecting us. Yet the findings are mounting that this King of social networking, along with all devise activity, may actually need to come with, WARNING: MAY CAUSE LONELINESS.
While we can now reach people in a broader and simpler way, our connections have grown shallower. Many are calling this the age of isolation. Yes, more access — to people, information, opportunities. And yet, we are seeing signs of greater alienation, detachment, and loneliness. Recent findings have also shown a positive correlation between time spent browsing on Facebook and feeling bad about oneself. The inherent impulse to feel envy and compare, combined with the tendency for people to post only their “greatest hits,” helps to explain these findings.
All the downsides considered, my goal here is not to steer anyone away from Facebook. Rather, I hope to strongly encourage all of us to develop a SELF AWARE AND BALANCED relationship with social media, and all of our device activities. With a few simple steps, we can use Facebook in healthy ways, enjoying the benefits while protecting ourselves from potential side effects, particularly regarding our relationship with our self and our ability to form bonds with others.
Step 1: AWARENESS IS HALF THE BATTLE
It’s important to know that Facebook can be associated with these three pitfalls: 1) a decrease in real intimacy, inner and outer, 2) an increase in loneliness and 3) an increase in sadness and feeling not good enough. Knowing that we might be vulnerable to these negative realities gives us a good start in making balanced choices. We cannot control what we cannot see.
Step 2: EMBRACE TIME WITH YOURSELF
Facebook tempts us where we are most vulnerable, offering us an illusionary security that we will never have to be alone. Rather than turning inside to feel our selves first, we are lured to go outward to try and feel “stimulated.” Instead of turning to Facebook right away — when lonely, restless, bored or anxious — try going inward first and enjoy your own company. We need to learn how to be alone, so paradoxically, we won’t be lonely. In fact, our ability to gather ourselves, to feel comfortable in our skin, builds within us the very foundation to form deep and healthy attachments with others. Good relationship with oneself, better relationship with others. To enjoy quiet time, each person needs to find what they enjoy most, (e.g., journaling, hiking, painting, listening to music, sitting in nature, going for a run or walk, doing Yoga, crafting, etc.) What is your favorite way to enjoy time alone?
Step 3: CREATE TIME FOR REAL CONVERSATIONS
One essential blessing we lose when we connect through little morsels of contact on social media is the full meal of real conversation. All devices tempt us with simple, easy connection. Be wary of that which is too easy — real intimacy and life are messy, hard. Yet we all know that effort is the road to true fulfillment. Face to face personal connections are sacred — with the back and forth, the boring pauses, the self-revealing slips— real time dialogues give us the safe space to open up, be vulnerable, share and listen. Conversations with others help bring down the walls between us and teach us how to listen and have conversations with ourselves.
Step 4: FIND THE BALANCE AND CREATE A PLAN
Spend time monitoring how Facebook, and any of your device time, is working for you. Notice your feelings about yourself while browsing, and after. Be honest with yourself, talk to a friend or mate or even a counselor. Create a plan that feels balanced for you. Some find they do best when they limit time spent or when they go on Facebook for a specific purpose. Others prefer certain times of day or with others vs alone. Many find it best to connect to a limited circle while others enjoy the global sweep. Facebook can become like a drug. How many people have you heard say in jest, “Facebook, OMG it’s so addicting.” Don’t be afraid to acknowledge where you might lose your free will. We are all vulnerable to addictive behaviors, and without self-awareness and balance, Facebook has all the potential ingredients.
Step 5: DON’T COMPARE: BE HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
People typically put their best side and events up on Facebook, which can feed the illusionary perception that others have it better, or that they are better. We never know what really goes on behind closed doors. The real truth is, no one is better than anyone else, or worse. We are all part of a common humanity going through life’s triumphs and challenges. Each of us is exactly where we need to be and we have everything we need to reach the potential within our own soul. We must remind ourselves that we are here to live the life we are meant to live, to fulfill our own unique purpose. No matter our circumstances, we have to power to inject positivity into each day, each situation— to do our best. That’s all we need to be busy with. Catch thoughts toward wanting what others have, or to live their life, and replace them with appreciation for yourself, your own life, and the people you love.