Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ode to Facebook

I'm not proud of it but yes, I am quite addicted to Facebook. I'd like to blame this on my addictive personality but I think idleness keeps me socially connected. Or perhaps, the social connections ensure my idleness.

For Christmas, my husband and I finally let go of our archaic phone plans and purchased iPhones (just the 4, we're quite cheap). And now, I'm addicted to the Scrambler game, howbeit the game reminds me humbly that I've overestimated my genius. In fact, based on my results, I might have some cognitive deficits. The deficits may have been brought on by hours spent on Facebook.

Facebook has some advantages, really. Yes, of course, it is overall superficial and should have an age limit---only for under 30, otherwise this site should insult your level of maturity. But aside from random posts ranging from useless (at the mall, woke up tired, eating dinner) to dramatic (I know no one cares about me...This weight just makes me want to give up...I know no one's going to respond to this...) to personal (if you're going to say something, say it to my face!!! some women should just keep their opinions to themselves!!! Grow up, and you know who you are!!!), Facebook has some important function.  It keeps us connected to friends and family (or disconnected, depending on how your responses come across), it allows us to show our creativity (a thousand ways to post a picture), and it gives way to self-promotion (I will be posting this blog on Facebook as soon as I'm done).

But Facebook, I think, might have made me a deeper thinker (except with Scramble, apparently).  The responses of people are quite interesting. You find out so much more about character, principle, and personalities much more than you would at a cocktail party, or perhaps even at a drunken bar.  It is amazing the exposure of the self that takes place in Facebook and because I am egocentric, it brings self-reflection. Am I that way? Do I rant when angry? Is this post craving for attention or pity? Are my vacation pictures shared for the joys of others, or do I just want to brag?

So many times I've read posts on Facebook and thought, "Oh my, I never knew how clever this person was!" "I don't remember them being this funny back in college!"  "Ok, that made absolutely no sense..."

And too many times I've read posts on Facebook and as many of you could probably relate, had to practice restraint.  I sooo want to respond to this post!!! I sooo want to give them a piece of my mind!!!

But I don't. And Facebook has done more than a therapist could accomplish: increase my level of tolerance and self-control. (Okay, I might've fallen victim a few times and posted away, clicked send, and the damage that resulted was irreparable but as in all things, we grow from regretful actions, hopefully...) 

But truly this is what I've learned from this social setting: our responses to our experiences reflect our character. I read an article on Facebook by a mother who lost a child in Newton, Connecticut. I couldn't keep the tears from flowing. Her response to her loss was raw and honest but it was full of love and hope and lacked the bitterness that the rest of the nation would expect.  I saw a video on Facebook of one of the fathers in that same school. He spoke, in a broken voice, about strength and redemption and love and gratitude.  I responded to a friend request from someone I didn't know, thinking he was one of the new volunteers in our church. He wasn't. He suffers from Chron's disease. His friends tagged pictures of him in Midland area helping Hurricane Sandy victims, and he posts pictures of himself in the hospital when flare ups happen. He is the most positive young person I know, so altruistic and full of courage. He never has a post of complaints, just appreciation for healthy moments. I find myself looking for his posts on days when I'm a bit down and I want my spirit lifted. I don't even know him, but I'm so glad for his friend request. His life on Facebook, I find, has helped keep my responses and my character in check.

Sometimes I want to write a dramatic post. Other times, I am tempted to write a personal one. But, thankfully, on those days, I opt for useless ones. Once in a while, I get philosophic and religious. And although I've received several grateful inboxes for those posts, I'm afraid they expose only my serious  side.

Attitudes.  Facebook is laden with them. It's not an honest measuring stick of our true nature, but it does give everyone a peek on what we are about, what we are made of, our intestinal fortitude, our level of maturity.  And although we surrender ourselves helpless to the reading of others and their interpretation, there is a pattern in our posts that reflect the truth of our nature.

I've deactivated several times for this reason. But I keep coming back.  Perhaps it's because I'm a behavior analyst. The behavior of people intrigue me.  Perhaps it's because I crave to share a bit of myself to others. I am outgoing but painfully private. Perhaps I feel the need to stay connected.  One of the rewards is keeping contact with faraway friends and family. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it's truly because I'm addicted.