I have had some good conversations and reads this week related to social media overdose. Are You Suffering from FOMO? was a thought provoking blog post (CoETaIL) teaching us about the symptoms of Fear of Missing Out. Gwen Martin sent it to me and a few of us teachers chatted a bit about our recent decisions or just inclinations to back away from, particularly, Facebook.
I have been creating some distance, as of late, because I was experiencing an “ick” response. While I really love how FB has kept me in touch with far-away friends and family and given me current conversation topics to have with these people when I’m home this summer, it also taps in to an ingrained response pattern for me. Being a middlish child from a large family, I was the one often trying to make sure everyone at home was feeling validated and OK. If there was a supper-table row between my older siblings or with my my parents, I would sneak off to their bedrooms, later, and leave affirming notes in their underwear drawers. I am a pleaser. Can you extrapolate how that works on Facebook? I become a universal “liker”. I feel the eyes of the poster on me as I skim over posts. I “like” one, I may as well give the next one a “like”, it’s easy enough to do and soon I’m stuck in my own web, afraid that if I don’t “like” a post, the author will feel that I “don’t like” it or that no one else will “like” it. That is what is gross and frankly, unhealthy for me. How do I feel if others don’t like my posts? Well, obviously about 150 of them don’t “like” them as I only get a few “likes” or comments on my infrequent posts. I don’t feel badly thinking about all of those noncommitters, but I do notice if I get absolutely no responses.
Another thing that has become icky is I feel like my active circle on FB has become so small. One person posts something and the same five people seem to rush to “like” it. If I come along a little later, I feel disinclined to just chime in with the others and yet feel conspicuous if I don’t. I have adopted a rule of thumb about that, lately. If I feel the post already has a quorum of “likers” or if my husband has already liked the post, I feel the poster has received suitable affirmation and I let it pass.
My youngest son, who is in college, has threatened for a couple of years to leave Facebook altogether and when he and his brother travelled with us in Europe over their winter break, he left his computer at home and didn’t check in one time. I thought this was very mature of him. I don’t want him to leave, however, because I like being able to contact him and see some signpostage of his activities through his Timeline.
Another friend at work was very active on Facebook and I had sort of noticed I hadn’t seen her there lately. After reading Are You Suffering from FOMO? she admitted she had quit FB about a month ago. She was getting pretty emotionally involved in political issues, staying up too late at night. She felt she needed to calm down a little and fill her time more constructively. Rod Dreher calls this going Facebook Sober and I think, like all forms of withdrawal, it can feel a little conspicuous at first, but it’s not long until you fill that space with other things.
My current Facebook pattern is to check it no more than once per day and even better if I let a day or two go by. I get notifications through my gmail so If I get an urgent message from someone, I’m not going to miss that. When I do check FB, I do a fairly quick skim and I assume a position of not “liking”. People don’t really know if I didn’t “like” their post or if I just didn’t check Facebook that day. I want to wait until something strikes me to “like” it.
Finally, I used to post an update on Facebook when I posted a new blog entry on my cooking blog: Bergamot Orange. I’m not doing that anymore. It felt like shameless self-promotion and I didn’t like it. I also don’t keep track of how many Followers I have on my blog. I write to please myself and my perceived audience. I am happy when people write me a comment sometimes that I can reply to.
Will Facebook be in my summer? I don’t see it. I am going to be with the people I check in about. There are also my school friends from Tunis, but my school relationships have never suffered in the past from a 6-week break and in fact, they are sometimes strengthened by it. My time is going to pretty full taking in my real life.