Facebook: all about me and killing my friendships

Why would someone post a picture of themselves in a bikini on Facebook?  Do they know that half the people who are their friends on Facebook may, perhaps, be married men who are trying to be faithful to their wives, even in their thought life?  It doesn’t matter to you.  It’s your Facebook so you post what you want calling it your freedom.  You post about how great your husband is and that he watches your kids for a weekend so you can have a girl’s weekend away (maybe in the name of publicly affirming him or maybe because you didn’t think about it at all), also well-aware that some of your Facebook friends are single moms, moms with deployed husbands or women whose husbands wouldn’t be caught dead changing a diaper.  (If you want to publicly affirm him, you could consider doing it in person, verbally, in front of a bunch of his guy friends).  But your Facebook page is about you, so that doesn’t matter.  You post about your weight-loss successes, pictures included, oblivious to your Facebook friends who are struggling with eating disorders because you don’t know they’re struggling with eating disorders (but statistically speaking, you definitely have friends who are).  But that’s okay, your facebook page is about you.  You post about what an amazing time you had with your girlfriends and the girlfriends who weren’t at the party wonder why they weren’t invited.  But that’s okay.  Your Facebook is about you and how great you’re doing.  And you want your friends to know, those who live in your town and the Facebook friend who was your partner in French class in 10th grade and that Facebook friend who you met at a party a few months ago who you wouldn’t recognize if you saw them on the street or that Facebook friend who friended you because your settings are public and they saw your “like” for a restaurant you don’t remember the name of but you liked something on the menu. . .

Or maybe you don’t want your friends to know.  Everything is great.  See how happy I am on Facebook?  But no one really knows you.  No one really knows you because they’re reading your Facebook statuses instead of inviting you over to sit and talk face-to-face about real life.  Marriage troubles.  Eating disorders.  Relationships.  Anger. Shame. Loneliness.  Isolation.  But not just struggles, joys too.  Maybe you are thrilled about a parenting breakthrough.  You can call a friend who knows you and understands your parenting struggles and can share in your joy.  Does your French partner from 10th grade truly share your joy?  Indeed, should your French partner from 10th grade who happens to be of the opposite sex and who you had a crush on at the time – come on, French class?! – be your Facebook friend, oh married one?  What are we doing to ourselves?  What are we doing to each other?  We’re robbing our true friends the honor of friendship.

Yesterday afternoon for two hours I had my cake and ate it too.  My three-year-old was at her first day of school.  My one-year-old was down for a nap.  Wasting no time reading updates on my Facebook wall, I started a fire, made one of this season’s last eggnog lattes, and curled up to read.  It was amazing.  I was tempted to post my great fortune on Facebook, when my thoughts immediately turned to the topic of this blog.  And then my thoughts turned to my friend J.  She would truly share in my joy if I told her what a blessing it was to have those restful, peaceful hours to myself.  All 649 of my Facebook friends don’t need to know that.  J would be honored that I shared this simple pleasure with her just as she is honored when we share our trials.

So often our default is to share joys or trials as a status update and we devalue our true friends by not talking and sharing directly with them.  How often have you been startled by a troubling status update of a close friend, maybe even a friend you recently spoke with, only to wish they had told you in person what they were struggling with?  I just saw you!  Why didn’t you tell me?  You just posted it on Facebook instead?  Now you know they have the same trust and confidence in you as their 10th grade French partner who we’ve already established shouldn’t even be their Facebook friend.  We’re killing off our real relationships!  How do we stop this madness that we’ve defaulted to?

I’m not advocating we all close our Facebook accounts.  Facebook is good for so many things.  Sharing links (like this blog!).  Finding old crushes.  (Wait, Facebook is not for that.)  Sharing photos of a family vacation.  But Facebook is still madness.  Before you post your next status update, think about your friends, Facebook friends and otherwise – not yourself.  Why am I posting?  Do I need attention?  Affirmation?  Is there a friend I can call or meet with who would appreciate the real-person interaction and who values our friendship?  Who can I honor by sharing this in-person or – GASP – in a mass email to people I actually know and can choose who receives the message?  I have a dear friend who struggled for years with infertility.  When they got pregnant they were very deliberate in not sharing updates about the pregnancy on Facebook because they know how many people in general struggle with infertility – often silently.  They emailed all their friends they knew would want to know about the pregnancy and kept us updated with ultrasound photos and baby growth via email.  Would you gush about your pregnancy to a friend who is struggling with infertility?  Most likely not.  So why gush on Facebook where it’s likely some of your friends might be struggling with the same thing?     Of course, when my friend gave birth to the baby they announced his birth on Facebook, but they were cognizant about not rubbing their pregnancy in the face of people who were struggling to conceive.  They were so thoughtful and considerate, even as they were overjoyed with the blessing in their life and had every right to make that joy known.

Facebook has your name on but, like everything in life, it shouldn’t be about you.  What?!?   But I post comments and check every thirty seconds to see who has liked them or responded so I can be affirmed. I struggled with this same issue when starting my blog.  Why blog?  Initially it was so I could record our family memories of travel and share that with interested friends and family.  And that’s who usually reads it – all ten interested people – people who love me and know me.  And that should be all that matters.  I continually fight the drive to check for comments from people I’ve never met and see how may views I’ve had every day.  That’s still something I’m working through in the blog and on Facebook.  Hopefully you are to.  In the meantime, be considerate.  Be encouraging.  And don’t post pictures of you in your bikini because my husband and I have a joint Facebook account and neither of us want to see it.

18 thoughts on “Facebook: all about me and killing my friendships

  1. Thanks Heidi! I enjoyed reading this! And I laughed at: Finding old crushes. (Wait, Facebook is not for that.) 🙂 Anyways, guilty but agree. 🙂

  2. Well said. And I promise I won’t post pictures of me in a bikini. 🙂

    One thing that I do appreciate about FB (although it keeps changing its settings and making me have to reevaluate my settings) is that I have people in different groups. Not everyone sees every post, and I try to evaluate who would want to see certain things and who wouldn’t. It helps a little.

    For the record, I personally LOVE when you post status updates, particularly those that include pictures of your adorable little girls.

    1. Yes, you’re deliberate and thoughtful in how you share things, which is so important. It takes just a few extra steps and a little less laziness to put a little more value on people and what we share. Of course, you are that thoughtful friend I mention in the post:-) I’ll never forget that and how it made me think about Facebook.

  3. Heidi, great thoughts to chew on! However, I am a little disappointed… I was planning to post some pictures of me in a bikini on facebook but your blog ruined it for me.

    1. Totally understandable that you would be convicted through my blog. It was really directed right at you, so I’m glad you read it. Haha. (This guy is my brother. I can say that to him, for you other aghast readers who may be reading).

  4. We are all tempted to bitterness in this life. It is our responsibilty to be happy for others even though we dont all share the same blessings. The tone could be more loving,yet a guidebook tofacebook etiquetteis a great idea.It can be used for many purposesjust as any tool…or good or bad.

    1. True. We alone are responsible for our feelings concerning what other people post on facebook. We can’t blame people’s posts for our loneliness, bitterness, jealousy, etc. And we should always rejoice with those who rejoice. My primary point is that we should think about what we post before we post. Who is our intended audience? Are we using status updates as a substitute for real relationships? Should I even post this status update? What’s the point? Facebook is a great tool for many great things! I would be the first to acknowledge that. Thanks for your input in the discussion blog critic!

  5. Wow. This is so true. I used to have about 1,200 “friends” on FB. I went down to a third of that thinking I don’t want to meander in other people’s lives and that none of the info they posted concerned me or built me up. I decided to delete all exes and now I just use it to keep in touch with friends I am not able to see face to face on a daily (or yearly) basis. This post made me reflect even more and all i could think of was this: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:8

  6. I love your post. You were right! Very daring!

    I sometimes struggle with the kinds of things I should be posting. It is very easy for facebook posts to become passive-agressive or boastful or complaint ridden. I do always check my motives before posting, but I sometimes give in…because well, I want to look fun too! And I want people to know I have an awesome husband too! And this and this and that and that.

    Facebook is dangerous for those of us with insecurities!!! (everyone)

    But real life is dangerous, too. Your comments are something we should keep in mind even when we are in a group of select friends

    I do have a hard time with this changing mode of communication. We are closer to more people, but have grown a part from those few we used to choose. Positives and negatives.

    1. Facebook is a changing mode of communication and really is redefining what a relationship is – or isn’t. Positives and negatives, like you said. And I am totally happy with people when they share joys in their life and good things like how great their husband is or whatever or about their challenging things. I’m just thinking more about what I post and why I post. And making sure I share real stuff with my friends in person and not save the juicy stuff for Facebook. Haha.

  7. soo true…often people forget that what they post when they are (often) alone in front of their computer is seen by those who are supposed to see it and those who aren’t.
    Still I am glad for facebook because what atracted me to it is still true, i’m able to keep in touch and hear about and often see friends that are far, far away. but i agree that it could be done by other chanels, or by a better use of this one (private messages in facebook work as good as an email) thanks for sharing your thoughts and getting us to think a litle bit too.

    1. Thanks for commenting from Portugal, dear friend! Yes, Facebook has so many wonderful uses. I particularly like it for communicating with people I can’t easily call or visit because of time zone differences and great distances. I’m still wrestling with what’s appropriate and how I use it too. We’re all in the same boat trying to figure out we should communicate ourselves to other people!

  8. Really enjoyed the read. good stuff there, but we shouldn’t share our joys and struggles?? Should we always need to be worried about offending someone? I don’t think so! If we are living Phillipians 4 that’s where our hearts are! And also learning to be content where we are… Not about someone else! Looking forward to reading more of your stuff..

    1. Absolutely! I mentioned in one of my comments that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” My primary point was that I/we should think about what I/we are posting, our own motives. I have no control (nor do I want it!) over other people’s posts and their motives and intentions. But I need to watch how I respond to people’s posts internally, in my mind and heart, regardless of why they posted what they posted. No one will know what I’m thinking about someone’s post, but I’m still accountable for those thoughts to the One who knows my thoughts! And my motives for posting (pride, wanting attention from the wrong people, etc) are also only known to One person, the person I should be casting my cares upon before they become a facebook status update. Thanks for reading DK!

  9. Love this, Heidi. Just LOVE! I agree on soooooo many levels. Your blog is becoming one of my FAVES!! (miss you & your “whittle” ones)

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