Facebook seems a little like a temperamental teenager, which probably makes some sense since the social media giant turned 15 a few days ago. The journey has been fraught with highs and lows and what I'd consider growing pains.
A couple of months ago, I finally figured something out. Facebook is a tool that lets me connect with friends and relatives — especially those who are far away. But it's not where I want to put a lot of my time. And it has been telling me perhaps a bit too much about those distant friends and relatives. I'm sure they feel they've learned more than they want to know about me, as well.
Mostly, though, Facebook has created divisions in my life that really don't need to exist. Plus, it was taking up time that I could spend more wisely doing things that bring me joy, rather than aggravation.
Just because I don't agree with a particular relative's politics doesn't mean I don't love that relative with all my heart. But there I've been, on Facebook, tilting at windmills to try to align that beloved soul's mind with mine on points I deem critical.
I have let myself be exhausted — actually, enraged — by the amount of false information I see people I respect and care about embracing online. But I can't actually do too much about it. Efforts to provide better information are usually met with the cyber equivalent of "I don't think so." And though I've been more than guilty of the exact same thing, repeatedly arguing a point makes me the person I genuinely don't like online: The one who insists on hammering her own points on someone else's news feed.
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that while I am committed to and believe completely in freedom of speech, I don't want people fighting with each other on my feed or treating each other disrespectfully because of something I posted. In my dream world, people would certainly be free to express their opinions — on their own posts and feeds. Especially if they tend to be unkind about it. More often than not, I end the argument by pulling down my original post, so why bother?
But the biggest moment of clarity for me was realization that I was scrolling through social media during moments when I could be joking and playing and having tender moments with my girls, who are now in their young 20s and living lives in which I no longer have a starring role — at least in terms of time together.
Or I could be tapping into hobbies that used to bring me joy, before I let myself become so distracted. I could even just watch TV and snuggle with husband and my pets — surprisingly hard to do when you've tethered yourself to tech.3 comments on this story
I haven't divorced Facebook. I suspect I'll always check in to see what friends are up to by scanning friends' feeds from time to time. I post articles I find interesting, though I'm posting fewer that are overtly political, "I'm-right, you're-wrong" types because in all those years of cyber arguing, I never saw a single conversion to my viewpoint and I very nearly learned to dislike people I once held dear. I bet they feel the same about me.
That's a very high cost without any noticeable gain. And I've never believed that we're stronger when we surround ourselves solely with those who think and act like us, but that's been my inclination when I go online.
The most interesting thing about cutting back is how much happier I am overall. The reduction in social media has been the feel-good equivalent of getting blood pressure medication without the copay or the wait at the pharmacy window.