Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thoughts on social media

This picture is from the plane trip to Washington at Christmas.  The littlest was watching a cartoon here, and this post isn't about children and media - it's about my own issues actually.  I just thought this picture was cute and sort of fit.

I've been sick this past week and haven't been able to do as much as usual, but I've had a lot of time to think.  For two days straight I couldn't do more than sit on the couch and whisper to my girls (lost my voice) if they needed something from me.  The great thing about homeschooling is that even though we didn't get as much done as usual my girls got to learn some independence and my oldest helped get food and other things for her littlest sister.  I want to talk about homeschooling and parenting in another post though.  Right now my thoughts are about Facebook.

I should start this out by saying that these are my own thoughts on how Facebook effects me and how I want to try to improve my use of it.  If none of this is an issue for you than don't worry about it.  I'm never out to try to force change on other people just because I need change in my own life.  We've all got something and I tend to share what my own issues are.  I know people like to appear to do that just so they can point out another persons flaws, but I don't do that intentionally.

My habit on Facebook has been to scroll through the news feed and open up stories in multiple tabs that could be news reports or blog posts or really anything that seems interesting from a friend or from a page that I've "liked" and read them whenever I get around to it.  When I was only able to sit on the couch for a couple days though I did a LOT of reading and some thoughts that I'd started to contemplate in the past began to percolate again.

Facebook used to be (at least when I joined in '08) a closer knit group of friends.  It seemed to be more about sharing about our lives rather than sharing everything else.  This is partly due to how Facebook has changed and what it is now designed to show in the newsfeed.  There are so many causes out there and so much information.  Not all of it is bad, but I've been feeling so "full" for so long with just too much information.  I don't watch the news and we don't have regular TV (just netflix) so I miss out on commercials and many "current" things, but I tend to know what is going around Facebook (at least with my own friends group which isn't super large compared to most.)

Recently I heard a radio program that was talking about relationships and this lady was saying how she was extroverted, but she was spending so much time keeping up with old friends (through Facebook and other places) and current friends that she had no space whatsoever to make new friends.  I've had a few people tell me that I should make more of an effort to make friends here.  We've lived in Dallas for 3.5 years so far and when I look back at what I've done and not done I can't say that I could have done more to try and build friendships (Note: someone with a different personality and energy level might have been able to do more.)  Some people that I started to be friends with decided they didn't want me for a friend and some people just never seemed to have time to get together.  It's admittedly really hard with kids and their sleep schedules and if you add any extra curricular activities that everyone in the big city seems to be swamped with and then add to that a bout of sickness or travel times the actual time available is so little it's difficult to get anything going enough to even know if you'd want to be friends.  And yes, partly my personality doesn't lend itself well to "getting out there" to make friends.  I physically can't handle more than what I'm doing and my goal in our family is so often to make our lives simpler and freer.  We could more easily adjust to get together with someone else if we were ever invited to do so, but doesn't that go back to the trend now?  The majority of people don't have time to make new friends because even if they are extroverted naturally, they are apparently getting everything they need.  Or at least they think so.

So, we all tend to turn to social media.  The wonderful land where no one can hear your voice and know your true meaning or humor.  The place where everyone can dump their interests and sound (whether they mean to or not) like they are bi-polar or unbending and dogmatic about everything they believe or are even vaguely interested in.  That place where your acquaintances think they've gotten to know you and decide they don't want to know you further because they've already grown tired of everything you might have to say.  The place where everyone learns to not agree about disagreeing (that one is perhaps the internet in general, but this is amongst our own "friends" so it's probably worse.)

But isn't it all just an illusion?  Unless you actually start a dialog with someone on some level, there is really no "relationship" or friendship at all, is there?  It's one thing to write back and forth in a private message, but far too often the only time I hear from certain people is only when they comment about something they disagree with about some random thing that I re-posted.  I've tried so many different tactics to make Facebook work better..  I've put my friends in different groups so that the majority of the people that see everything that I post are people that will be able to "agree to disagree" or who will actually be interested in what I might say instead of judging.  I've unfriended people that didn't know me (the ones that I met only once or twice in person for instance) or who I'd found out didn't like me (why would they want to be my friend on Facebook if they didn't care about having a real life friendship?) But so far, nothing that I've tried has helped much with my ultimate goal.  = I want to keep in touch with old friends and keep from getting distracted by all the "noise" that is on there.  It feels like Facebook is now set up to have "spam" almost.  Email was great until everyone started forwarding things and spammers took over, snail mail is fine too, but there's the junk mail to deal with.  There's just so so so much noise and commercials and information and voices pummeling us at every turn.  How can I focus on what's important?

Friendships on Facebook can easily become one sided or superficial and giving us all the illusion that we know each other when we really aren't making an effort to.  Can't interactions on-line turn into a "friendship" like you could have by listening to someone on the radio or watching someone on TV and you think you "know them" but in reality you don't, because you haven't talked to them.  Even if you read or hear everything they put out there you can't know someone unless there's a two way street. Someone reading this blog might think they know me really well since I share so freely, but you only know what you think I mean.  You can't know what I truly think and mean unless you share what you think I mean about something and then I can ask what you think and what you mean and we can then find common ground.  Of course, tone and expressions are lost through this medium as well.

I feel like I've lost the ability to communicate (if I ever had it) because communicating on Facebook is so often sharing information or ideas rather than actually getting to know a person.  And I do see that I might have more energy to put into new friendships if I didn't spend so much energy on Facebook friends... or I should say, on the "news feed" of it all, but more on that later.

BUT what I noticed for a few days this week (when I couldn't get off the couch for being sick) was that I felt so much more tired spending time on Facebook and reading articles and so on than if I'd spent the whole day watching "What not to Wear" (for instance) because I think there were only 2 articles that I'd read all day that were actually encouraging.  I feel like my attention span is growing as short as a child's the more I'm distracted by the "but there could be something great just a little ways down the news feed" feeling.  Everyone talks about "savoring the moment" or being "intentional" yet we have SO many distractions in our lives that I wonder just how that is possible?  There's so much "hurry hurry" out there that it's hard to breathe sometimes. 

With my own children, whenever they want to tell me something I try to help them say everything they want to say.  As in, even if I know what they might be trying to tell me, I wait for them to get it out (hopefully showing them more patience than I feel sometimes), but I don't see that in the world around me.  I don't see people encouraging children to be children.  When we go to the zoo I've even had a few kids latch onto my kids and me as their parent trails behind them talking on the phone.  What a great opportunity for me and my kids to make friends right?  Wrong.  It's really sad, I feel sorry for those kids who are obviously really craving interaction.

I feel stuck in a position where I need and want to make better friends, but I'm in a world that is too busy distracting themselves to be a friend.  So I have this illusion that I'm getting what I need through Facebook, and all it does is alienate some people and cause stress for me which then makes me be less present with the little people that are right around me. I don't think the answer is to delete my Facebook page (I have too many pictures saved on there to want to do that anyway), but the lure of the news feed with everyone's thoughts or causes or interests randomly flashing past me is overwhelming.  I can't give any one of my friends my full attention because there are too many.  Cutting back on who I see in my News feed hasn't helped either (already tried that).

I've been asking myself how I can make Facebook simpler and more personal like I'd like it to be.  I can't catch up with all my friends all at once every day of the week.  I just can't mentally stay in this place any longer, but I want to know what my friends are up to.  So, here's my idea  (Yes, I'm NOT just "nay saying" without any idea of how to improve this!)  I don't know how I want to "schedule" this since I really don't schedule things well, but *what if* instead of having everything on the news feed I simply went to someones profile page every so often to "catch up" with what they are doing and possibly private message them or write on their wall asking how they are or if we could get together or whatever?  What if THAT was the normal way (for me or any of us who are overwhelmed by Facebook) to make it work?  Maybe I shouldn't scroll through the News feed for the pages that I've liked for articles that they might have posted... maybe I should just go to their page when I feel like reading somethings on that subject. 

Some of you might already do this and it might seem like a "duh" moment for you, but hey, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and when I was nursing a baby I got into the habit of getting on a lot more often.  These days I need to change up how I do this so that I have the time I need with a very active 2 year old. 

And, besides those little changes I mentioned in a previous post about journaling and sitting at my desk instead of my computer and writing in a "one line a day" book I'll probably be blogging more often (though hopefully not as late into the night as tonight!) than posting on Facebook as well, but I do want to still keep up with my friends so I just need to adjust how I use it a bit.  I think this "uncluttered" way of going about it will work much better.

If anyone has other ideas of how they've made Facebook work better for them please let me know!  I'm always full of ideas but not in a way that excludes the input of others. :]

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