Tanya Leach-Haye, Contributor
I always marvel that the things that bring out the best in people can, paradoxically, bring out the worst in them too. Take Facebook, for example. It's a marvelous invention. Sure, by over-surfing on Facebook, many of us waste the precious time we complain we don't have enough of; but it is an area of technology that I simply love.
Yup. I said it. I love Facebook. I know. Love. My name is Tanya Haye, and I love Facebook. But, let me tell you why. Facebook gave me a chance to reconnect with so many people that I had simply lost touch with. Had it not been for Facebook, I would have never known that high-school classmates, Angela - who migrated in Grade 7, or Mandy - who repeated Grade 10 - were living in Canada, or that Marilyn had had three children, while Precious was a missionary in Africa.
Many of us feel like that, too. Facebook gave us a chance to reconnect, and we appreciate reconnecting with those people from the past. Well, some people.
Yet, despite these positives, Facebook brings out the ugly in people. Yeah, the ugly. And that may be because Facebook has given us a chance to peep into each other's lives, and it confirms to us that we, unfortunately, may be living 'lives of quiet desperation' to which David Thoreau referred. Of course, we overlook the truth, which is that we all put on Facebook the part of our lives we want to reveal. We do not disclose the sad, sorry parts of our lives. I mean, think about it. Why would we?
So, we 'creep' each other's pages and wall, and feel this desperation because of the comparisons we now make. So now we know that Denise, who we used to call 'dunce jingbat' in high school, is now a PhD candidate while we're still just thinking about going to college. And Bessie Bunter, who we laughed at during PE classes, now has a gorgeous husband and four adorable kids AND lost 150lb AND is now a size 2 AND is now a life and fitness coach and ... ugh! ... insists on posting those motivational messages daily about how to lose weight, yet you are struggling with 'the baby weight'. Yeah, right. Baby weight? That baby is 16 years old and despite what you say, those 'last few pounds from the baby' happen to be 60lb, hardly a few. And then, to add to your pain, you (against your better judgement) sent a friend request to Sophia (who always pronounced her name: Soh-feee-a, like Sophia Loren, she once said. Aaaaarrgghhh!), the lil' rich, snooty girl that you never ever really liked, but you were curious, or perhaps hopeful, that life had not been kind to her. But, guess what? Life WAS kind to her. Kinder to her than to you, it seems.
How the years go by ...
And that "simpleton" Esmeraldaeugenia, who you had always laughed at because of her 'oh so stupid and weird' name and her uber awkward comments, is unbelievably sophisticated, worldly, and confident. YOU sent HER a friend request because, seriously, she wouldn't have sought you out because SHE is truly busy. Sure, she accepted your friend request (along with the 200 others she accepted the same month), but she sure is busy. What with the 58,386 followers who clamour to comment on her page and who keep reminding her about how 'awesome' she is?! (And that REALLY bugs you, doesn't it?)
Here's the thing: Whether we realise it or not, Facebook does impact our view of ourselves. For some, Facebook raises their self-esteem as they favourably compare their lives to their 'friends'. But for most, it seems, Facebook negatively impacts their sense of well-being.
So, what's the solution? It's simple really. Stop going on Miz Thang's Facebook page. That's it. It's really THAT simple. Don't go on her page. Stop reading her numerous status updates. Just stop. And if that's too hard, you have other options. You can "un-friend" her or change your settings so that her posts do not come into your news feed. Who will know? Or put her on a limited profile. Once she realises what you've done, she'll delete you, anyway, to save face.
And, in addition to deleting specific people whose posts bring out the green monster in you, you can also delete most of those 'friends' on your friends list. God knows you do not have even 20 friends in real life, much less 1,357 friends? Are you kidding me? They are not your friends. Remember the day when you went to that out-of-town retreat and added all those people to your friends list? Yeah, you bonded then, but that's over. Did you even know their last names before you ran into them on Facebook? And those folks from that Zumba class. Have you heard from them since you stopped going to that gym three years ago? And the girl you added because you liked the comment she made on your friend's friend's page. Um ... you don't really like girls with multiple piercings and tattoos, do you? So, how is she on your friends list? Why, again? I repeat: They are not your friends.
And if you have that many friends on your list, there's the probability that each day one of them is bound to be having 'an awesome time', or be on an 'awesome' vacation, or to have just got some 'OMG, I can't believe this is happening to me because I am soooo highly favoured and special' news. If that irritates you, and if you feel a sense of panic or dread when your notifications show that they just added YET ANOTHER picture, and if their bragging fills you with despair, or you find yourself rolling your eyes or looking disbelievingly at their comments, you know there's a problem. And when you find yourself competing - yes, competing - stop!
How about delete?
If they post pictures with friends, and you find yourself looking to post similar pictures in an effort to say: I have friends TOO, I'm having a good time TOO or if you find yourself 'throwing word' at friends by talking about the empty lives of those sad people on Facebook or if you constantly fill your status updates with trash talk about your 'haters' or all your quotes and shared pictures are about unkind, insincere, malicious, envious, not-deserving-of-your-great-friendship kind of friends, a.k.a. people who make you feel insecure by not acknowledging your not-as-awesome life, you're in trouble. (And chances are that these 'friends' know that they are making you green with envy, but they actually are enjoying the game! They're having fun. Yes, they are actually having fun!) And if you feel flushed and/or angry and/or upset after reading their status update, you know what you can do. Just delete. That's it. Delete. Simple.
But, above all, keep in mind that Facebook only gives a limited view of people's lives. People NEVER post pictures of the dark parts of their lives. You'll never hear about the malicious, psychotic boss or the super-negative spouse or the belittling, controlling parent or the disappointing test results. So, why measure yourself against an unrealistic image? Do yourself a favour: Step away from the computer (or the mobile device which has now made Facebook a little too accessible when you are feeling bored, tired, aimless, or depressed.). Don't kill time by going on Facebook. Just don't. And get rid of the 'friends' who sent you a friend request, yet refuse to engage you in any conversation after you accepted their friend request. They, too, are not your friends, anyway. Their silence is bound to make you feel lonelier and more miserable. And why torture yourself?
Make your friends' list manageable, and relieve your stress. Facebook was meant to be pleasurable - the pleasure of keeping in touch with friends, renewing relationships, and sharing your life with people you like and who like you. So, that begs the question: Apart from the obvious ones, how do I decide which other 'friends' get cut?
Stay tuned. We'll talk about that in the next episode where we'll look at the different categories of Facebook friends.
So, until next time, begin deleting!
Disclaimer: Any similarities with persons real or imagined are merely coincidental. None of the names mentioned are names of people or 'friends' I know.