I’ve read a lot of posts various places lately about facebook. How it robs us of real connections. And then there are the ones that claim facebook “lies” about their lives because of the pictures they choose to post? And then I read this one on Patheos. And boy does he get to the heart of the matter for so many of us. Facebook isn’t the enemy, how we use it is. And in that respect, he gives us some guidelines. All of them are excellent but let me pull a couple of favorites:
4. Manage the timeline. I have some family and friends who I love dearly, but in real life we don’t talk politics. So why do I allow myself to read their political rants on Facebook? All it does is make my blood boil, and there’s no point arguing back — the few times I’ve tried, it always just escalates. Facebook allows you to remain a friend with someone but to disallow their posts from showing up on your timeline. Obviously, if you want to stay in touch with someone this might not be an ideal option, but it can be a great way to keep loved ones in your FB circle while also protecting your blood pressure.
I have had this exact conversation with other bloggers who have tried to have everyone in one place. Sometimes, it’s not the best decision. People I love very much sometimes say very stupid things either out of ignorance or temporary insanity or because they have no tact or any other number of things. When I realize that I am constantly having to tell myself to take a breath…I unfollow. This allows me to keep in touch but on my terms. Just as you have a choice not to answer the phone when you see a particular number on your caller id…you have a choice not to see every person’s every post.
5. Make use of Facebook’s “Friends List” feature. Some people are close friends. Others, just acquaintances. Facebook allows us to invisibly mark each connection accordingly (we can also tag family members and set up custom lists). Then, when we post something, we can decide if the general public sees it, or just friends/acquaintances, or just close friends. It’s a good way to manage who gets to see pictures of the new kitten and who gets to read about our deepest hopes and fears.
After having one too many fights break out in comments on my statuses, it became apparent some people did not need to see others’ comments on particular subjects. Or, for that matter, see my posts on those subjects as well. The friends list is the answer to all of that in your privacy features. Our lives are complicated and not everyone needs to know every detail despite the demands of social media. Do yourself a favor and create friends lists and use them!
9. Be Silent. I’m still working this one out, but it’s becoming obvious to me that silence needs to be an ingredient in my social media engagement. I need time off from Facebook, whether that means a Sabbath day when the computer never gets turned on, or a “Great Silence” period of eight hours or so each evening/night to give it a rest. Just as important, silence needs to be an element of how I am present online: this is a corollary to #6 above, where I can choose to respond to inflammatory or triggering posts with the generosity of silence rather than the intensity of debate.
To me, this last one is key. In fact, I chose to announce yesterday that it has become clear that I need to take a big ol break. Like, from now til Pentecost break. On my personal page. As usual no one thing triggered this, but prayer and discernment led me there. Everyone gives up Facebook for lent, I give it up for Holy Week and Easter seasons plus a few days, go figure. Because there is information there that I truly cannot get elsewhere, I am going to have to make a drive-by every few days but it will be for only a few minutes to only check on the information I am seeking and then in radio silence. These next several weeks are going to be crazy for our family, I need to be there for the four other people in my home and not be quite so worried about everyone else…remember my word for 2015 “shepherd?” I plan on doing just that.
One last item this author did not address, posts by friends on our personal timelines. Mine are blocked so that none of my other friends could see them. This was put into place when a friend posted something and another friend who has nothing in common with this first friend except me responded. Before I even had a chance to see the post. To say it went badly would be putting it rather lightly. It was all-out Chernobyl with all-caps and name calling and profanity of all kinds. I was done and ready to de-friend both of them and block them for the behavior that occurred before I could delete this post (which in and of itself was not bad or offensive but to just the right person…) So, no more of that. I have three children, if I want to see that kind of behavior, I will refer to them.
I encourage everyone using social media (but particularly Facebook) to refer to this post I’ve linked to. We don’t need to hate social media or refer to it as an enemy. We simply need to set boundaries. AND STICK TO THEM!