You won’t see one of those Facebook break-up posts from me anytime soon. My original love of Facebook came from the connection it gave me to friends and family at a distance. We could share glimpses of our everyday, funny photos, and even a morning’s frustration without picking up the phone or sending an email.
I adore many of my internet friends who’ve become Facebook friends, taking our friendship a bit farther than the standard blog friends. I enjoy interacting with readers on my Facebook blog page, connecting with groups of like-minded individuals, and even participating in some online social activism.
Sometimes, though, Facebook can cause us to believe in a somewhat distorted reality. It’s a place where we interact behind a computer, sometimes showing our artificial best selves, other times letting loose the ugliness we generally hide behind facades of politeness. We post a meme, like an outrageous post, tell an offensive joke, or post about a pretend life and this begins to color our reality.
My involvement in some recent activism, something deeply personal to me, reminded me how Facebook can never replace real-world interaction, face to face conversations, and grassroots work in our communities. I was buoyed by the larger community of like-minded, passionate individuals I found on Facebook, but wary of participating in an echo-chamber. When I ventured beyond that group, however, the judgment, spite, contempt, condescension, and downright meanness pierced me.
I bemoaned these interactions to my husband one afternoon and he replied that there are always small, loud minorities in any group – this didn’t mean they represented the whole. And he was right – Facebook is a microcosm of a much larger world, a garbled version of reality. It’s a great addition to my life, but should play no central role in my life beyond connections that enhance my everyday.
I made a commitment this week to simplify my life and to pick up a book or choose another activity when Facebook came calling. It was a simple goal, but it made a big difference. I felt lighter, more in control of my time, less distracted, and less irritated. I maximized my Facebook time to scroll past the irritants and focus on the connections.
And then one day she realized that Facebook was an artificial world. A good place to share photos, stay connected, and sometimes know you’re not alone in your views. But just one small world within a much larger, living, breathing, vibrant world. She didn’t need to disconnect always, but just to make it one piece of her world; a distorted reflection, rather than a mirror image.