Last week I was speaking with my children about how to expand my reach in order to impact more people as speaker and coach, and they encouraged me to increase my Facebook presence. Being that I am not a great fan of social media, especially Facebook, I did express some resistance, but I finally agreed to participate.
So I brought up my Facebook page and gave my son permission to take charge. His first idea was to change my profile picture on my personal account. He updated it with a very recent photo of my husband and me and added the comment, “Celebrating 25 beautiful years,” as we just recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. He also encouraged me to link my latest blog to my New Life – Chapter One Facebook business page to increase activity there as well.What happened next was, at first, most intriguing. All of a sudden, it felt like my husband and I were the center of attention. People I hadn’t heard from in a long time were responding to our new photo. They were “liking” it and commenting on it, and it felt really nice. But very soon that feeling began to morph into a craving for more connection—for more attention, and I found myself checking Facebook every few hours, as I inadvertently started buying into the Facebook “story.”
By the end of the day, I was upset with myself and concerned about how I was thinking, feeling, and behaving—this was not my typical behavior. At first, I felt the Facebook “high” and liked it, that is, until shortly thereafter, I felt the Facebook “low.”
This led me to some serious introspection around Facebook. I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled, “How Facebook Warps Our Worlds,” which inspired me to finally speak to this very important topic.
The following question precisely sums up my feelings of disillusionment around the subject: If something does not get posted on Facebook, does that mean that it did not happen? My feeling is that, nowadays, there’s an underlying expectation that every event must be photographed, posted, and shared—it’s the new normal.
What I see are many people who are too busy “posting” moments that somewhere along the way they have stopped experiencing them. They are so busy artificially manipulating life, that the natural unfolding of life has become secondary.
I love taking pictures, and I, too, use my smartphone to capture life’s special moments on a regular basis. I take pictures in order to preserve and cherish the memories and to, one day, be able to relive the precious moments.
So call me old-fashioned or even crazy, but I have no desire to post my journey on Facebook. Although I am choosing to expand my reach and presence through social media, I am not looking to validate my journey or to find deep connection there. It feels far too inauthentic and can become emotionally challenging, as my own reaction is a testament to. Furthermore, I am curious as well as concerned about the long-term effects of social media.
Most of you already know my thoughts about our internal struggle: I believe that we suffer because of our self-created stories around the circumstances of our lives. And Facebook, very clearly has a “story” that people of all ages have fallen victim to.
On Facebook, everyone looks perfect and seems to be living the perfect life. It is a place where everyone is happy, social, celebrating, and loving life. Everyone fits in, everyone belongs—everyone is thriving and flourishing. It is clearly a glamorized and, therefore, very distorted representation of reality.
No one gets a picture or even a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes. Like the number of photos that were taken and deleted in order to post that supposedly perfect image. Like the drama, the angry words, or the argument that may have taken place just moments before or after that perfect photo was taken.
And, when you are on the receiving end of those Facebook images, lacking any real context, your mind immediately starts spinning in your negative stories, about yourself as well as about others. Your storyteller mind begins filling in the gaps—automatically deleting, distorting, and generalizing the information passing through your filters. All that you are left with is an even further altered and condensed version of reality.
Facebook deceivingly beckons you to escalate your unhealthy storytelling regularly—so that, unfortunately, you end up spinning your lousy stories faster, wider, and deeper. And by “spinning,” I am referring to when you get entangled and stuck in a downward cycle of suffering that can begin with a single, harmful thought.
As you view the on-line images, your not good enough “story” very quickly gains both energy and momentum. For example, if you see a picture of a group of your friends celebrating together, you may find yourself thinking, “Why was I not invited? I must have been excluded because I’m unlikable or unpopular.” And this can lead you to feel rejected, disconnected, and alone, which can translate into unhealthy and untrue thoughts about yourself such as, “I don’t fit in or belong—perhaps I never will.” Can you see the story escalating—spinning in your mind? Can you see how easily you can draw false conclusions about yourself?
And while you’re spinning these disempowering thoughts about yourself, you’re also very likely to be drawing incorrect conclusions about other people’s lives, leading you to even more toxic self-talk.
For example, you may think to yourself, “Why do they always look so good? How can they be so happy all of the time? How can I possibly measure up? How many vacations do they get to take in a year? Why does she have a boyfriend and I don’t? Why am I the only one stuck with all the imperfections?” and so on. All of a sudden you find yourself measuring, comparing, and judging—and falling short—only to reinforce your negative feelings of jealousy, shame, and/or unworthiness.
How many of us have self-esteem and self-confidence issues that are magnified when our posts receive few “likes” and comments, while others have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and friends?
Put all together, this is what I call the Facebook fallacy, for it misleads us and drives us into faulty reasoning. Facebook is a precarious medium that enables us to too easily extract false evidence to support our already faulty stories.
I trust that all of us can relate to this issue on some level, as it’s a natural part of the human condition to seek approval and validation. It’s fair to assume, then, that many people “post” things in order to be seen and heard—to be acknowledged, endorsed, recognized, and/or legitimized.
I see this is as a universal problem, and sometimes, with dire consequences. Because feelings of less than and not good enough are toxic feelings that fuel unhealthy stories, which can then drive inappropriate actions that, too often, can result in terrible outcomes. And it is the Facebook “story” that enhances and unfortunately magnifies these toxic feelings.
Facebook photos are not a snapshot of a reality—they are an attempt to create a perfect depiction of a reality that does not exist. And the quantity of connections and “likes” in no way reflects the quality or depth of our relationships or our level of happiness.
Please take my advice and delve deeper into this Facebook “story.” Acknowledge the Facebook fallacy—don’t let it mess with your mind. It’s a slippery slope, which I can attest to! I had to remind myself, once again, that the temporary “high” is not real, and it’s usually followed by the ultimate “low”—so do be careful.
To be fair, I would like to point out that this fallacy is not reserved for Facebook alone—it extends to other social media and to many of our technological devices. We are addicted to technology and fall victim to the same kind of distorted thinking there that only perpetuates our unhealthy stories.
I challenge you to think about all of the implications and perhaps find ways to become more mindful and even choose to disconnect from time to time. For example, try waking up tomorrow morning and not immediately grabbing your phone to check all of your notifications on Facebook.
In summary, I do believe that Facebook, if used properly, can be a valuable resource, a worthy platform, and, at times, even a tremendous blessing. If not used properly, however, I believe that it can be very problematic and even harmful to our society, especially to the most vulnerable and impressionable amongst us.