Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why I'm Not Your Friend

   Today I'm revisiting a blog post I wrote about a year ago on an older blog about facebook.  Since I'm spending my 2015 Facebookless, I thought it would be fun to share an old facebook blog post :)

 There are a couple of people on my facebook that seem to struggle like I do. They come and go from time to time. I’m always wondering if they will be there when I decide to come back. Whether taking breaks or deleting and starting all over again, there aren’t many of my few hundred friends that actually decide to give facebook a rest from time to time, but there are some people out there. I often want to ask, but never really get around to doing so, because when I’m on facebook I seem so wrapped up in whats going on that I’m forgetful of those who aren’t on facebook- which is likely the reason only a handful of people follow me into blogger and email world after I jump ship. However, I never really have sat down and asked them why they love it sometimes and hate it other times.. so I thought, for those who care, I could share my point of view..

   Now in years past I really struggled with facebook. I had facebook before facebook was ‘cool’. I had facebook when you had to have a college email account to sign up for it, and since I never made any real connections in college outside of my high school friends (because I transferred three times, kind of hard to make lasting friendships when you are all over the place!) I never really got much use out of it, other than finding other classmates scattered about. Those were the myspace days that you could embed the newest Gwen Stefani and Akon song into your profile and use those glitter gifs and cute backgrounds to look so sleek and cool. Facebook was an afterthought. It started getting more popular around the time that my little girl was two, and myspace slowly faded into oblivion. The year I graduated college, I worked fulltime, and I was VERY pregnant. I graduated in July and Callie was born in October. Stephen and I were married and we had moved from my college town to his hometown, thus started my life as a stay-at-home Mom. Facebook became really important at that point in my life, because my life that normally consisted of running here there and all over the place, as well as talking to people all day everyday between work and school, became socially isolated. Stephen worked third shift, so I was at home all day, doting on my baby girl. Although those were very special times in my life that I would never trade in a million years, they were some of the most lonesome times in my life also. Facebook became my outlet, the only real place I could talk to ‘grown ups’ in a day filled with kids. 

  About four years ago when I launched my photography business, facebook was my catapulting platform. My photos that I took at my little sister’s prom blew up my newsfeeds and people ‘liked’ it all over the place. I became pretty popular in the facebook world. I had tons of friends and about 2,000 likes on my photography page. I was voted “Best Photography Studio” in the “Best of Avery” contests for the local newspaper, and I didn’t even have a photography 'studio'.   I began taking some photos for the local paper here and there, but mostly just for fun. People knew who I was and smiled for my camera when they saw me. I started some facebook groups that blew up in popularity. People were really enjoying my facebook. I felt like I was helping people, encouraging people even.

   I was in the store one day, when someone who I didn’t know came up to me and told me how cute my kids were, and that they loved seeing their pictures on facebook. This person seemed incredibly nice and I’m sure knew me from my family.. But at that moment, I almost felt violated. It felt like someone had been stalking me, when honestly, they were probably on my friends list and just reading their own news feed. It was shocking though, people I didn’t know were looking at photos of my kids? I thought for a moment that it wasn’t a big deal, a few pics of my kids here and there, was it really that big of an issue if someone looked at them? Then, I checked out my facebook pics. No it wasn’t just a few pics. My kids had grown up right there on my facebook page. There was my wedding, Callies birth, Huddys birth, and Laceys birthdays. Christmases, New Year’s... Easters? Even just get togethers.. Thousands of pictures, my whole life, right there on that screen. Yikes. Had I really shared that much? Had I really documented so much of my life on a computer? I was a little embarrassed. I went through my facebook feed. Yes, there were lots of people that I knew... but then I started to wonder... if I saw this person, would I really walk up them and start a conversation with them? Like an actual conversation, not just a “Hi! How are you?”… For the most part, the answer would be no. Then why was I sharing my families lives with them so intimately?? Why was I sharing my thoughts, the places we go and the things we do, with people who I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking too about the weather? I had accumulated more friends than I knew… and drastically over shared with all of them.

   At that point in my life I was really struggling spiritually. I didn’t know it yet but my husband was about to give his call to preach, something he had ran from for years, and God was preparing my heart for that. I deleted my facebook. I committed "social suicide". All of those photos, all of those memories and all of my photography page photos, after a 14 day waiting period, ceased to exist. It was awkward at first, but after the initial, “what do I do with all of my time?” wore off, it felt really good! It was incredibly and oddly liberating. I had no idea that facebook had such a pull on my life. I found kinship in the world of blogging, and I LOVED it. Blogging was sharing, just as facebook, only on a smaller platform, and it meant a lot more. It wasn’t simply photographs, they came with stories. The platform of people I met grew outside of just people who knew my parents in this small town and people who I went to high school with, it grew to women who were like me, who were home school Moms, stay at home Mommies, ministry families that were growing. I found a deeper connection with them than I ever could have someone who I barely knew and sometimes ran into at the grocery store. I LOVED the blog world; it was far more satisfying than facebook could have ever been. The people who followed me to blog world weren’t a few hundred people who barely knew me, but the people who actually cared; those who wanted to follow my life. On a ‘busy’ week, my blog had 20 page visits. I was still ‘sharing’, only far more privately.

   I’ll never forget out first mini-vacation after I jumped the facebook ship. My husband came home from work and had surprised us; he had booked us a room in Gatlinburg. I packed a few things and we got in the car, and I remember thinking, nobody knows where I’m going!!! LOL. Yeah, I was ‘that’ facebooker, the one who updated the world each time I went out to eat with my husband or cleaned my house to the nines. I remember how freeing it was knowing that we were simply alone. I wasn’t bragging, I wasn’t boasting.. I was just enjoying my family time! It reminded me of years past.. of my honeymoon where I spent forever sitting on the bed uploading my wedding pictures to facebook, and of my trip to Disney world with my kids where each night I frustrated my Mom because I wanted to upload pics more than I wanted to get the kids to bed early so they would enjoy their night. No. This vacation wasn’t for the world, this was for us. Only us. Each time I went back to facebook I got more selective. Creating a new account, I was particular about the people who I added. My rule of thumb was, if I would actually make conversation with this person in the grocery store, they should be my facebook friend. I tried hard not to share everything, just a few moments here and there and not necessarily right when they happen. My albums were far fewer, and my fans and friends were fewer as well. Then, came the Smartphone.

  The ONLY thing I have a deeper love/hate relationship with than facebook is a Smartphone. (disclaimer:  I kicked my smartphone to the curve at the end of last year, and haven't looked back! It's been very liberating!  I occasionally check instagram on it when connected to wifi at home, but I no longer have the world to carry along with me in the palm of my hand!)  I. LOVE. My Iphone. LOVE it. I’m crazy about instagram, and don’t struggle with using it because it doesn’t take up a great deal of time. I LOVE pictures, and love keeping up with my friends. Instagram makes that easy... its so easy to scroll through pictures from my friends without being subjected to the advertisements, those hundreds upon thousands of pictures with quotes and ecards (not that I don’t like them, I just like them in FAR smaller doses…) without having to know what every single persons train of thought is… its better, far better in my book. That’s a personal preference…  I LOVE the gps system, because I’m severely non-directional. I enjoy twitter and my 18 people I follow on there. I enjoy blogging from my phone occasionally when there’s not much to say. Since my camcorder broke it has served as a way to capture moments. It’s also always there to snap a quick pic. I also love having a group chartroom with my sisters where we are able to send pictures. I LOVE my Smartphone. The thing I don’t love is being so connected. I hate the fact that it calls for my attention so much. I hate the fact that sometimes I won’t put it down when I’m at home. I hate the fact that the whole world is right there at my fingertips. I hate looking at photos on my phone because they don’t even come close to being as amazing as they are in larger format. I hate the fact that a lot of people look at my photos on their phone, those that I’ve poured my time and talent into, and they completely miss the details. I love my phone, and I hate it, all at the same time. However, the thing that is the absolute worst about smart phones, is the Smartphone/facebook combination.

  There’s nothing I hate more than talking to someone starting at a screen. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing families gathered in their living room looking at screens, or even worse at tables in restaurants. I love the good parts of my Smartphone, but I hate the fact that people just can’t get past it. They can’t put it down. When I’m on facebook, I find myself falling into that pit. I find myself saying “just a minute…” even more. There’s a pull to checking your phone, it’s like, the world is calling and you had better respond. It’s hard to explain. Even people who never update anything on their facebook, I have seen hopelessly checking it every few minutes. I don’t judge anyone for it, because I know how easy it is to do! 

My best days are the ones where my phone stays on the table. My best nights are the ones where I can’t find it. My best memories are the ones where I left the phone in the car. Not having facebook somehow makes this easier to do. My Daddy taught me to be a very polite person. If you worked for him you may disagree, lol but most of those who know him know he is the most polite person in the world. He taught me that, and I have to carry that over into social networking as well. It is impossible for me not to respond to that message; I can’t leave that conversation that people are blowing up. I can’t ignore that comment on the picture. I’m just far too polite. I don’t want people to think that they are unnoticed. Therefore, the whole, “Just don’t check it!” doesn’t work out so well for me.

 There is just something so artificial about it. Although there are all these people on there, and facebook is created to ‘connect’ people, somehow when I’m on facebook, I feel so disconnected. It makes it almost socially awkward to see someone in passing and know what they had for breakfast, what they did at the beach last week, and what kind of PJs their kids wear, but never really want to make a conversation with that person. It’s sad when you meet a cousin that you haven’t seen in forever, and have nothing real to talk about because you know all about their lives as they are played out on facebook. You see that little girl that you haven’t seen in such a long time that belongs to a relative, and they don’t seem so grown up, because you’ve seen all her duck face pictures for the past four years. I thoroughly enjoy not being on facebook. I enjoy seeing someone in the mall and actually being excited about catching up with them. When an old friend calls me on the phone and I can actually hear their voice and get to be a part of their lives more intimately than ‘liking’ a picture. I don’t feel more connected on facebook, I feel more disconnected. I feel almost like a stalker, getting a glimpse into so many lives without actually being a part of it.

 It’s also artificial, because it’s not reality. When you have a friend, you really know that person. You know their struggles. You have been to their house when it’s not clean. You have seen them cry and seen their face look all ugly. You have seen them  without makeup. You see their reality. You don’t do that on facebook. There are a couple of people here and there who like to air out their dirty laundry on facebook... but for the most part, you aren’t reading someones lives, you are simply watching their highlight real. Nobody is perfect, and everyone has problems. Not only do I believe facebook gives you a false connection to people because you believe you know them, and only know the good parts of them, I believe it also can be detrimental to our lives, because it forces comparison. If you are comparing your own life, with all of its imperfection, to someone’s highlight reel, your life is going to pale in comparison. Look how much weight she lost after her baby, and you are still walking around with your Freshman 15 and you graduated 8 years ago!  Look at this persons great job, great house, perfect family... perfect marriage. Never let comparison steal your joy... and that’s especially hard to do when you have a newsfeed full of 400 people with ‘perfect’ marriages who just love their husband to the moon and back… all of the sudden you believe your marriage is lacking. Truth- I am infatuated with my husband! I love him with all of my heart and soul. Yesterday I didn’t even like him. People are real, marriages are real, and they aren’t perfect, but it’s so easy, even for me to fall into that rut of comparison, and facebook is a stage for the good.

 I enjoy sharing photos with my friends. I enjoy watching kids grow up that live on the other side of the country, but I love. I enjoy knowing when my family needs prayer and seeing people that I have prayed for just grow. However... more than that, I enjoy being connected to people right here in my living room. My marriage is a million times better when it’s just about me and Stephen, when I don’t pour out my affections for hundreds of people to read, just when I give them to him one on one. My kids are happier when they have my full attention, and if that means that I have to disconnect from three hundred people to pour out my attention on them, then I believe that is okay. My family is my first ministry, and without all the other people out there on facebook struggling for my attention, it makes it far easier to give it all to those who are around me. I miss my friends when I’m not on facebook.

 I love it when someone takes the time to email me, or just comment on my blog and let me know they miss me. I truly love each person on my newsfeed, but more than getting on facebook and seeing all of your updates, I love running into you at the store and catching up. I love getting a phone call and laughing for an hour. I enjoy knowing you, really knowing you far more than I ever could enjoy seeing what’s on your mind every now and again. I refocus. I pay attention the the people in my life that mean the most to me. A friend of mine posted a quote on instagram the other day, it said, “As I get older, I am becoming more selective of who I consider a friend. I find that I would rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.” –Steve Maraboli. Love that quote.

 Don’t worry about what 400 people think about you, if they see your pics and your kids.. Just enjoy these moments. Life wasn’t meant to be enjoyed behind a screen, it was meant to be lived, fully! Don’t strive for the affections and affirmation of your facebook friends as much as you do for your Heavenly Father. Don’t allow the world of social networking rob precious moments that you will never get back. Disconnect. If you don’t wish to delete facebook altogether, then at least hold yourself accountable, and basically, don’t let your heart get caught up in it. Realize that it is what it is, a social networking site. All the world’s a stage on facebook, and never mistake someone’s facebook persona s the real person. Get to know that person, intimately, and make real friends... not just several acquaintances.

I try, and I've tried several times over.  I give facebook my best shot, but it doesn't take long for me to retreat, back to a world that feels more real for me.  Back to a world of not knowing everything about everyone, and having to wonder.  Back to a world that feels more real, and less fake, less razzle dazzle and more messy hair.  The real world, the one that feels authentic.

 Hope this helped someone! Follow me here if you wish to follow me, since I am facebookless!  If you would like, follow my unplugging journey here!