Lately, I have been wondering about the phenomenon of Facebook. As a matter of fact, I love Facebook, just like I love blogging and other ways of online fellowship. But at the same time, it's a mixed blessing - and it comes with a lot of negative baggage. Last night I decided that I needed to do a Facebook fast so that I could do some thinking about Facebook and determine how I want to use it in the future. So, for the first time in several years (besides camping trips and vacations), I have been off of Facebook now for almost 12 hours, and am planning about a week sabbatical. I'll let you know how it goes!
Here are the things I love about Facebook:
It lets me be in touch with people I otherwise wouldn't know or see:
I have just recently begun to know DH's Texan cousins via Facebook, and it's been great. Otherwise, these are people I would not know. Other examples - blogging friends and HG friends (hi, you guys!) and far-away family members.
It's great for networking
Facebook has been a great way for me to get to know the birth community here in Phoenix and across the nation. It has been an invaluable resource.
It's great for research, learning, and encouragement
If I have an interest, there are two hundred Facebook groups that share that interest! I am currently involved in many Facebook groups that share information on childbirth, Christian parenting and womanhood, home education, and other topics. They are a great way to share current news, join conversations, and be encouraged. I have been so incredibly inspired by the Christian mothering groups of which I am a part, and I learn so much from the birth groups. It's been awesome.
It's great for sharing personal news
As a quick way to share family news, pictures, etc., and to keep up with people and what's going on in their lives, it's top-notch. In fact, it's rather hard to keep up with people if one does not use Facebook, as most info-sharing nowadays is done via Facebook.
It's a great way to further involvement in communities:
For communities that are already healthy and active, like the birth community here in the east valley or like my church, it's a great way to bolster already-healthy relationships.
Here are the things that I do not love about Facebook:
It is highly addictive
I find that I feel the mental "need" to check Facebook quite often, whether or not I ought to or need to. And even when I am not on Facebook, I find that I am constantly writing imaginary status updates according to whatever is happening. I don't like the feeling of being in bondage to it. (The same can be true of blogging, but it's even worse with Facebook.)
It steals my off-computer time
Let's face it - it's easy to spend way too much time on Facebook that ought to be spent doing chores or spending time with my family. I am often guilty. And, as mentioned above, it can steal my mind even when I am involved with my family.
It steals my on-computer time
When I am on the computer, I have many things that I need to be doing - placing orders, documenting homeschool activities, looking up recipes, making lists and charts that we need for our school and our family, researching parenting and homemaking issues, reading blogs, answering email, etc. etc. etc. I also love to blog. But I will often get on the computer to do legitimate work and find later that I've forgotten the thing I wanted to do and ended up goofing on Facebook. Not good.
It embroils me in debates
Lately, I have made a semi-firm commitment to stay out of debates. While I love calm, civil, intellectual debates, 99% of Facebook arguments (and online arguments at large) do not fall into that category. They become emotionally charged wars in which people become inflammatory and intentionally hurtful. I can become depressed and upset when I get involved in these - and even when I don't, I sometimes become involved emotionally just from reading them.
This happens off of Facebook too, of course. This past weekend I read an article on a Christian women's blog that I otherwise really enjoy, which bothered me horribly. The moral of the article in question was, "Women who attempt to have input into their births are selfish control freaks who don't care about their babies." It really upset me. I wrote a brief response, and considered writing a longer blog article (I may yet do so), but the main point was that it stole my peace for several days. I was depressed, angry, and upset - over something that someone halfway across the country wrote and which was out of my control. I think that the issue is important, of course, but it isn't worth sacrificing my emotional peace (for several days) over it. This example was with blogging, of course, not Facebook, but it is the same thing on Facebook (usually magnified many times due to volume), and it affects me regardless of whether or not I actually get involved in the debates.
It can be depressing
Sometimes I'll get on Facebook for a quick check, and get off completely depressed by posts of people who choose to ridicule things that I stand for. My faith in God, my politics, my social conservatism, my family size, my parenting, my diet choices, whatever. I shouldn't take it personally, but when things like that come up in my news feed - "Christians are stupid!" or "People who have more than one child should be shot!" or "Conservatives are all idiots!" etc. etc. etc., it feels like a personal attack, which can be quite depressing.
It has content that I shouldn't see
I don't frequent sites that are vulgar, sexual, or profane.... but Facebook puts it right up in front of me based on what people choose to post.
It makes me vulnerable to negative persons
For the first time in my Facebook career, I am considering unfriending someone (no one who reads this blog or who would be known to readers of this blog), and that really bothers me. I don't like the idea of doing that to someone - I've never been unfriended, that I know of, and I don't want to do it to anyone else - but this person's constant stream of unkind remarks (on my religion, politics, family size, etc.), and her habit of sharing my links and then ridiculing them have me wondering if I should be exposing my life and my heart to this person. This is a definite hazard of Facebook.
Anyone have advice on that one?
It can steal my peace and joy
For all of the above reasons.
It fuels semi-friendships
I somehow am Facebook friends with a lot of people whom I don't know in real life or through any other venues like blogging or common interests (how did this happen?), yet I interact with them on a fairly regular basis - but we would never get together in real life or help each other during hard life-events. It seems of questionable wisdom to invest time in friendships that aren't leading anywhere.
It encourages me to neglect true personal contact
Sometimes Facebook will feel like I'm in really good touch with my friends... but in truth, it's all (or mostly) surface. I need to be in one-on-one communication and contact. As a busy stay-at-home mom, I don't often have time for gatherings and meetings, so Facebook is a nice way to fill in the gaps or to bolster already existing friendships - but it does not let me develop the deeper friendships that I need, and it lulls me into neglecting the true friendships that I cherish with the people in my life.
I want to use Facebook... but I don't want it to use me. I love to use it as a way to share news and to keep up, but I don't want to be in bondage to it, and I don't want to let it rob me of the deeper friendships I need to be developing with my real-life friends.
I plan to spend the rest of this week thinking about how to make that happen.
Anyone have any advice or input?