Facebook Living: The Road to Recovery

I have put a difficult challenge before my writing staff for the next two weeks to write about “recovery”.  Some of the stories may be inspired from real events and testimonials.  Others may be creative works of fiction. But the intent is to take a real problem and “step” through a way of dealing with that problem rather than allowing it to deal with you.  Hopefully something we share will be inspirational to one or more of you reading.

Many years ago a new technology was born into the world called Facebook. I didn’t dive into this world right away because I was in college and had a lot of other things that held my attention but eventually, I too was swept into the Facebook Universe.  There was a video that someone put together that tickled me at the time called “Facebook Living”.  The song was done for laughs but looking back now, I can see that it was far more prophetic that I could have ever imagined.

The “artist” gave a number of scenarios describing how people were so enamored of Facebook that they were neglecting their day to day responsibilities.  Mind you, this is before there was a Facebook mobile app for your phone.  It was still more common to have a pager than a mobile phone especially if you were in college.

I watched people change, and I along with them, as social media became a very real part of our everyday lives.  My friend list grew and grew and at first I was thrilled to see and connect with all of these faces.  I began spending more and more time on Facebook trying to keep up.  The stress began to manifest in panic attacks and mood swings when I posted something I felt was profound that only drew a couple of likes.  Then came the poking and the e-chain letters and the constant back and forth of relationships that continually shifted and changed at the update of a status.

I knew I had a problem when I was watching the clock in class praying for the teacher to finish talking so I could get to the computer lab and check my status updates.

I tried to stop.  I deactivated my account in a fit of disgust one day.  I reactivated it within the first 24 hours.

I got divorced and posted a status that I was okay but that I’d be offline for awhile and didn’t want people to worry when my posts stopped for awhile.  I felt OBLIGATED to post this.  Two weeks later I logged back on a lets just say that not nearly as many people as I thought were concerned with my absence.

It was then that I decided to do my first “culling”.  Clearly the problem was that I had a bunch of people who were calling me their friend but they weren’t REALLY my friends or they would have checked on me.  I cut my FB friend list from 6,000 to 400 that day.

Again, the Earth kept spinning just fine despite my tiny social media protests.

It’s amazing how we can use a technology to warp our sense of self and place in the world.  Facebook has something like 1.57 billion mobile active users in a world of 7 billion people. That means that if the 20% of people in the world who use Facebook, I am one of those people.  I am connected to those people.  They are MY Facebook family. That’s what we think.

But in truth, the science of social media should help us to understand that it’s still a crap shoot as to whether or not something you share on Facebook will every “Go Viral”. Oh and that’s a great co-opting of a meaning too by the way.  Viral used to have a seriously negative connotation.  Now we PRAY that our social media insights will go viral so that we can be online personalities and leave our humdrum jobs to be fabulous social media mavens.

A lot of people like and play basketball, but very few every play professionally and even few land crazy big contracts like Jordan or Kobe.  The same is true of social media.

The technology in itself is not bad.  It is how we choose to use it in our lives that we are responsible for monitoring and keeping in check.

I am trained as a social scientist, so I applied my training to help me deal with the distorted reality that social media helped to facilitate in my life.  I think of it as a part of my 12 Steps and it’s never far from me as I continue to dance on the edge of this technological precipice.

  1. I admitted I was powerless over my social media addiction—that my life had become unmanageable and the my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health were being compromised by this addiction.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could help restore me to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to reaffirm my commitment to conduct all areas of my life in accordance with my faith in God as I understood Him, including how I govern myself in the Cyberworld.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and my actions in both the sacred and secular worlds that I walk in daily.
  5. Admitted to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
  6. Was entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove my shortcomings and show me how to manage my exposure to social media on a daily basis.
  8. Made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when I was wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God as I understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I tried to carry this message to others who struggle with this addiction and to practice these principles in all my affairs.

Now I find all kinds of healthy outlets on social media. However, I am much more aware when I start hitting my triggers and need to push back from the desk or leave my cell phone in another room so that I’m not tempted to obsess over checking profiles across all of these various apps.  I require of myself a reason and purpose for logging onto social media and I impose my own guidelines to keep my use in check.  I also have a few people who I trust who help me make sure I’m managing my addiction and avoid slipping back into that space where I would choose time on social media over my morning shower before work or skip lunch so that I could spend all 60 minutes scrolling through various parts of the interwebs.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.  It’s what you do after that determines the quality of our life.

~Marta C. Youngblood

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