Sunday, February 17, 2013

Social Media and Sanity

I read an article recently that looked at the ways social media can distance us from the tangible things in life. How the distractions of ‘friending’, ‘un-friending’, and arguing ad nauseum with strangers online can chip away at the real and beautiful things in life: our relationships, the sound of the wind against the windows, that first cup of coffee in the silence of a new day. The author’s words are coming back to me today. For the first time, I’ve ‘un-friended’ someone on facebook that I know, that I haven’t ‘just fallen out of touch with’. I did it because her updates became something completely other than what I wanted my online experience to be.

I don’t go on social media to push an agenda, to argue forever about politics and religion. I don’t want my time online to take me away from those I love or to hover in my mind throughout the day and getting between me and the real moments in life. That doesn’t mean I want to agree with everyone, it does mean I want to continue to respect everyone I chose to interact with though. And I want to be treated with respect by them as well.

I pursue this attitude toward media imperfectly, but intentionally, by:

~ Only friending people on Facebook that I’ve either met in person, or in a few exceptions (Jenna! Christie!) people I feel I know well enough and want desperately to meet in person. This is because I do consider my account to be like a giant party, and I’d rather invite the people I trust to visit me there and watch my life lived out in pictures and snatches of conversation.

~ Only being Facebook friends with people I am actually on friendly terms with. That way I avoid the temptation to excessive voyeurism and avoid arguing with people who’s feelings I don’t care to protect.

~ Avoiding toxic relationships. Obviously this is just as applicable to the real-world, but I think, for me at least, it’s easier to allow a toxic relationship to grow and fester online, because you can just turn off the computer..and then turn it back on again five minutes later..and then talk about it for hours with your husband while the dog takes advantage of your distraction..

What do you do to keep your online social life sane?


  1. Awesome post. One does have to do something.

    I don't read the comments on popular controversial posts, not even on Facebook. Speaking of FB, I use SocialFixer to hide most political status updates. I check some sites and let others (Pinterest, for instance) languish except when I want to use them, and I stay far, far away from Twitter. :)

    1. Yes. One really does have to do something! But not reading controversial posts!! That's my main joy in Facebook ;) I did use SocialFixer on this person, but I would have had to fix away everything, and at that point, I began wondering "what is the point?"

      Avoiding controversial posts might actually help though :(. I'm impressed with your will-power! I think I'm beginning to try to direct my time online - deciding what I actually want the experience to be out here, and what only gets in the way of that..a guy I know edited his friend list to make his updates visible to only a small percentage which is a good solution to people with huge 'friend' lists, but not so much for me.

  2. Excellent food for thought, especially for Lent. You must have been reading that Soul Gardening article. c;

    I think a year ago or less, I would have felt that turning off Facebook entirely or censoring it would have been the best choice for my peace of mind. But through continuing therapy while John's away, I've learned a lot about how to not let people who don't mean so very much to me affect me to the point of incapacitating me; in other words, learning detachment, and how to separate peoples' opinions with their attitudes toward me.

    Now I'm more judicious about what and who I choose to respond to on Facebook (and other social venues). If it's someone with whom I've dialogued before and come to realize they've no interest in genuine truth-seeking and mutual respect, I leave it alone. If, on the other hand, it's a discerning person, I feel almost as if it's doing them an injustice not to point out a differing point of view or present the subject in a way they would not have seen otherwise.

    As for me, I try to limit what I put up, but if it something that I particularly enjoy, find humorous, or powerful, I share it, with limited comment. Then my Facebook "friends" can chose to read and/or respond or not. And if they chose to ignore it, that's perfectly fine; I try to make it easy enough for them to do so.

    Gosh, what a mess internet anonymity and hiding behind screens and keyboards have made of human interaction!

    I've read your poem, btw, and am letting it rest before further studying it.

    1. I have read the Soul Gardening article! And it did give me a lot of food for thought. I am not considering leaving facebook, as she did, because I do have so many far-flung friends and it is a good way to keep in contact, and because I do actually like seeing what people make for lunch ;) But I know what you mean. I've been careful with what I share there, to not make people I love feel either judged harshly or competitive, and in general, I do think it works well, but my first time culling my friends due to the toxicity of one person's regular updates and comments was still really hard.

      What do you girls do, or..what responsibility do you feel to respond to direct slanders against the Church? This was one of my main troubles, as I often felt the need to respond and attempt to clarify, if not for the poster, at least for any readers who might be open to it, but I also knew it would lead to argument. Do you just stay away, or do you put out the Catholic perspective and leave it, or do you argue away as charitably as possible?

    2. Christie, I like your point about choosing to respond based on whether a person is likely to hear the response or not. If they're not likely to, I feel--perhaps wrongfully--like anything I say will only, by making them more defensive, solidify them in their position.

      Masha, when it's a direct slander... it depends. :) I've been known to offer clarifications in the case of misperception, generally trying to keep my commentary as light and inoffensive as possible.

      But I have a couple of female relatives who post women's issues stuff now and again, and some of that tends to come with slander against the Church. I have a relatively stable truce with both of them over it all, and we just don't hit Like on each other's posts when offended. One of them, however, has crazy friends. Not cute crazy. Frenzied-against-all-goodness-and-common-sense crazy. And I'm not jumping into that wild pig pen unless God says Go and gives me a great big push besides.

    3. Jenna~
      Thanks..Good thoughts! It's been great to sort of rest in the calm thoughts you and Christie shared on the whole facebook thing - it was such a place of drama for a while for me, but I'm making it a happy place of peace and love ;)

    4. Meant to reply to your question:

      about slander against the Church, or any other irksome Facebook update, I recommend NOT replying right away. Step away from the internet, take some time to surround yourself with the people and things you love, and then, from that place of comfort, reassess what you think would be the best course of action. xx

  3. That is such a good thought! I tend to respond right off..which is sometimes awful..the act of defriending though, took me away from everything for a while to think and pray and decided if this was actually for the best..hopefully it'll become a habit! (not un-friending, but reflecting :) )