Upon initial thought, you may think a therapist talking about problems associated with FaceBook in the treatment room strange. Think Again! It is not an unusual part of the treatment to process the various issues that come up as a result of this form of social media. Given that I have the privilege of seeing many adolescents, it may be expected that these issues only surface as a result of treating this population. Again, think again. Many adults utilize FaceBook, however, sadly, often with little finesse or application of reasonable limits that a person may meaningfully set in their day to day direct interactions. In an effort to encourage adults to utilize social media in an appropriate way, I will share a few pieces of insight and suggestions for managing your use of social media in an effort to reduce problems that can often arise. First and foremost, FaceBook can be a meaningful relational tool, a way to connect with the people that are significant in your life. Research tell us that we cannot connect with more that 125 people through FaceBook at any given time. If you have 550 friends on FaceBook, it may be time to evaluate who you honestly want to share aspects of your life with. And don’t stop there, consider carefully who you choose to be friends with in the future and return to evaluating your friends list from time to time. If you connected with some long lost high school buddy and you realize that you really will never see or speak to this person outside of this social outlet, do you honestly want them to share in pictures from the first day of school that you recently posted of your children?
Here is something else that research is starting to tell us; how you “act” on FaceBook is often how you act in your real life. If you constantly troll the site, seeking out other people’s misery or regularly post about the terrible awful in your life, people most often experience you the same in direct relationship. If you find yourself posting passive aggressive comments really directed at other people or broadcast every single egregious behavior your child participates in, your day to day friendships likely resemble these same problems. Finally, if you find yourself saying, ‘I am sick of the drama on Facebook’, it would not be surprising if your own life fed on this same need for emotional chaos. This also means that if your child is bullying on FaceBook, social media is simply another outlet for that behavior, not that it would/does not happen elsewhere.
It is true that technology has sped past our capacity to genuinely evaluate the emotional implications of social media, but it is not an excuse to not take the time to set some reasonable boundaries around your use of it. Do you want to be known as the girl that ‘broadcasts every detail of their life’ or the one who ‘stirs up trouble’ by posting pictures of a family party that excluded other family intentionally? Or worse, the person that cannot stop ‘harping on their political views’ to the point that it feels emotionally invasive?
If you find yourself not able to delete FaceBook friends, that is yet another indication that you may fear possibly hurting someone else’s feelings, compromising your own values in your use of social media, but more likely a direct indication that fear of hurting other people’s feelings is fully present in your real life. My encouragement; Be Brave, Have Courage. Deciding the parameters under which you want to utilize social media that is honestly meaningful for you is not an indication that you feel you are better than someone else. Instead, it is an opportunity to set limits in your life. People who have clear limits and boundaries in their relationships with others are the happiest people. Social media is a relational tool, use it well and you will experience meaningful benefits.