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April 2019
I'm finding my way as a writer, and sometimes that means exploring where and how I'm sharing my writing. I started writing at Medium in March, and it's been pretty amazing so far. I'm still writing here, but am over there more often, so please come see me there or visit my main page.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Why I'll Never Quit Facebook

We’ve all seen those posts in our Facebook feeds. A friend is taking a break, they say ‘I’m leaving for a while, text me if you need me.’ The thought of leaving Facebook or taking a break from it has certainly crossed my mind on days when I find myself obsessively checking my feed. But for me, the alternative is giving up real connections with people I care about.

I can get my introvert on without being lonely.
Whenever I take a personality test, I fall right on the line between introvert and extrovert. Depending on the day, I may lean further one way and tip the balance, but I’m always very close to center. I love spending time with people… sometimes. Other times I need badly to be alone and recharge.

In my head, I imagine scheduling monthly girls nights and get-togethers to spend time with people I don’t see on a regular basis. Book readings, hosting game nights and potlucks at home, grabbing drinks after work. In reality, when it comes to Friday night after a week of working, the thing I usually want most of all is fleece pants and my TV.

Facebook is a way for me to keep up-to-date on the lives of people I care about, to share in their joys and sorrows, explore the things they’re finding interesting these days, and offer my support in those times when I just don’t have the emotional energy to get out of the house.

I curate my feed.
I manage my Facebook feed with intention. I have many friends who are very social justice oriented, and that’s part of the reason I love them. I also know myself, and I can’t take on the weight of the world every time I want to catch up with my friends. So, I spent years cultivating my Facebook feed. I know, I never expected to use words like “cultivate” and “curate” in relation to social media either, but I’ve found it’s a really important aspect of using it healthfully.

As highly empathic person, I connect with other people’s heartache and sorrow, sometimes a bit too easily. 2016 was a banner year for sorrow and depression in my life. Between losing my job, losing several people I cared about, and the impending election of… whatever that is, I just didn’t have the emotional capacity to see pictures of bloodied refugee children in my feed.

It is okay to give yourself permission not to look.

Not looking at something multiple times a day doesn’t mean you don’t care. I decided it was time to embrace my own boundaries, and embrace the idea that my energy can be better spent in other ways. I am not ignorant of social issues, nor do I want to be. It’s just not what I’ve chosen to use Facebook for.

I started hiding news-related and political posts from my feed, and every time I did that, Facebook learned. The more you tell it what you want to see, the more you’ll find your feed fitting your needs. I use Facebook to connect with people, and managing my feed has done wonders for my ability to use it in a way that’s not so overwhelming.

I use the unfriend button liberally.
I have 221 Facebook friends. I can scroll through my friends list and tell you who each one is, how I know them, why I care about keeping them in my friends circle. I’m really deliberate about it, I don’t use Facebook to connect with strangers, or use it for work. I have a page for my writing that I’m working on building and that’s separate from my personal page. I don’t blindly accept friend requests, and if I’m not sure who someone is when they send one, I send them a message asking if we have met.

If the answer is no, I generally decline the request.

As many of us do, I have struggled in the past with the whole idea of “unfriending” people. It sounds so… inflammatory. Offensive, even. If you pay attention to your interactions though, you’ll begin to see that there are people sitting in your friends list who you never interact with. Even worse, you may find people who cause that clenching feeling when you scroll by because everything they post is negative or inflammatory in some way.

If I cannot remember the last time I interacted with someone’s posts, or that they interacted with one of mine, that’s a good sign it’s time for our social media relationship to end. Sometimes, I use Instagram as a go-between. If I want to keep up on snippets and photos, I’ll add them on Instagram and clear them out from Facebook. Other times, I ask myself — am I realistically ever going to see or hang out with this person again? If the answer is no, I give myself permission not to feel bad about severing that tie.

99% of the time, I don’t get another friend request from them, which means they either didn’t notice I removed them, didn’t care, or were angry about it. If I do receive another request from them, I usually will add them back, at least for a while.

I unfollow and snooze people often.
We all have those people in our lives who we love, but who are difficult. I am sensitive to other people’s energy, so if someone is very anxious or frantic or dramatic, it can affect my mood when I’m around them. These feelings can also happen with Facebook feeds.

I have groups I’m in that I love being a part of, but that feel like too much sometimes. I have friends who somehow manage to post an unreasonable amount of content, and I can’t always handle it. Around New Years, I’ll snooze any of my friends who are dieting or super focused on weight-loss resolutions. Snoozing is an awesome feature, it removes the person’s posts from your feed for 30 days, and then automatically adds them back in. This is also a great way to judge whether someone’s posts are something you want to see. If you notice right away when they are re-added and immediately have the urge to snooze them again, it may be time to consider unfriending.

Family members who have different political views, but I want them to be able to see pictures of the kids? Unfollow! Friends who post 100 inspirational quotes a day, but who I still want to keep in touch with? Unfollow!

I control it, it doesn’t control me.
The thing about Social Media is that it IS so easy to get caught up in. But when people blame it for their not being present in their lives in ways that they want to be, that’s when I think it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your use.

It is our responsibility as users to decide how and how often we want to engage. For me, being able to have that human interaction from the coziness of my own couch, being able to share my writing, and being able to connect is important to me.

I pay attention to how and when I’m using Facebook, and make conscious choices about whether it’s adding positive value to my life or stressing me out. If I start to feel like I’m spending too much time on it, I’ll make goals or decisions about when and how I log in.

I maintain real connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
My Facebook feed is full of amazing people. I may not have time to spend with every single one of them on a regular basis, but they are beautiful people with whom I share strong and loving relationships.

People sometimes say that it’s not real, that the interaction you have with people through a screen is fake.

If this isn’t real, I don’t know what is.

When I was in the worst times of my life, during the end of my marriage and the beginning of my divorce and life as a single mom, Facebook and texting saved me. I was a single mother, barely able to manage parenting and work, and I didn’t have the luxury to leave my kids and get out of my house. But I was still able to find support and love and kindness online.

When I find myself in difficult situations at work or in life, I can reach out with words, which is how I process best, and get back the most amazing messages from people who really care about me.

Facebook and Instagram are also great ways for me to connect and keep in touch with the community of writers I’ve fallen in love with at Write Doe Bay who live in other cities and states, real forever friends who just aren’t physically accessible. I can keep in touch with faraway family and friends who move.

I’m an adult and I don’t want to.
The bottom line is that even though there are pitfalls, if you’re aware of them, you can manage them. I look at things in my life all the time and decide- is this adding positive value in my life? If the answer is yes, I absolutely want to keep that thing.

In the end, when I read something that says I “should” spend less time on Facebook, my answer is that I’m an adult and I don’t want to be told how to connect with people. It’s easy to blame the internet for being a time suck, or blame Facebook for being negative or full of negative content. The key to finding value in it is self-awareness and conscious decisions about how, when, and where we’re using it.

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