Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Facebook or not to Facebook...

I've been thinking about Facebook a lot lately, and most likely it is because I deactivated my account and I'm having withdrawals.  I am both depressed and embarrassed to admit this, but, sadly, it's true.  I miss Facebook.  Still, no matter how much the voyeur in me cries out to reactive my account, or how weird it feels to not immediately upload every third picture of my son after I take it, I probably will not be reactivating my account.

I had been thinking about deleting my page for a while, and this is actually the third time I've walked away from Facebook after starting my page about two or three years ago.  I never thought I'd be into Facebook or Myspace. In fact, when I first heard about the social networking sites, I thought that it was really stupid and something that might have been fun when I was in high school.  Obviously, I knew nothing of these site's seductive powers.  It wasn't until a friend of mine from work introduced me to Myspace in 2006 that I knew what it was.   I dropped Myspace like a bad habit when I got the first virus on my laptop.  I had never really been on Facebook, but when I realized that everyone else and even some of their pets were doing it, I, of course, had to see what all the fuss was about.

At first, I really liked Facebook especially compared to Myspace.  My husband and I even started playing Farmville.  We don't have any video game systems, he was off of work on workman's comp for two very serious injuries.  I wasn't working, but going to school online and a stay at home mom, and so anyway, Facebook just sort of came into our lives and fit...for a while.

Over the past two years that we've had Facebook, I've started noticing things that I really don't like, but kept putting it off.  The biggest is the total disregard I've had for my privacy and that of my family.  I mean, I won't even say my son's name at the playground if there are a lot of strangers around because I'm afraid someone will use it to entice him away, but yet I'm willing to post pictures of him online for the entire world to see?  I can't even begin to count the number of times I'd go through my friends list and find at least 5 people I don't know and had never known.  I'm sure I was friends with one of their friends, but what does that mean to me?  My husband works in the business of securing other's homes and businesses, and here we are (mostly me) tagging ourselves everywhere.  One day, a few weeks ago, he showed me how the new timeline feature has maps that show EVERY place that we'd ever tagged ourselves since the tagging feature was introduced.  EVERYWHERE!  We've moved a great distance, and there it was, in plain sight, little  marker dots in every part of the country we've been.  My GPS has done the same thing, but my GPS isn't shared here for you all to see.   Then, there was the picture uploading.  I don't want strangers to hear my son's name, but I was uploading just about every third picture of him as soon as it was taken. 

Some of the other less desirable things I've noticed about Facebook, that I'm sure you know too, is how drama is magnified.   My cousin and I were talking about this last week, that she used to love getting online and reading everyone's positive thoughts, funny quotes, etc.,  but mostly people use Facebook as a forum to vent.  We've been venting online since the first message boards came along, but there is a difference in a message board or blog that might be private and blasting the people in your life on a forum that is utilized by everyone.  I saw a show on CNBC called The Facebook Obsession where a teacher lost her job because of something she'd posted on Facebook.  And then there is the online bullying stories we've all heard of, the list goes on and on.  What is it about Facebook that makes us act like narcassitic, attention seeking, whiners who would probably be very upset if we found out someone was listening to our phone calls but yet post every detail of our lives on this site?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  It's in my nature to wonder why we do the things we do.  I am, after all, a psychology major.  Then, today, while catching up on my Social Psychology homework, I got my answer while studying construals.  A construal is the way that people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the social world.  (Aronson, Wison, Akert Social Psychology, 2010)  The examples were given to discuss this from the standpoint of our need to feel good about ourselves and the need for accuracy.  For example, if I say something bad about someone to my friend and my friend tells me she knows that person,  I might try to back-track to make myself feel better.  (Guilty!)  That is an example of our need to feel good about ourselves.  If I am over-charged for a restaurant bill and the manager doesn't realize the price is misquoted on the menu and then reprimands the server instead of apologizing directly, this is an example of the need for accuracy, and how it can affect me in a social situation.  As I was trying to decide which examples from my own life I would use for the class discussion about these construals, I had at least 10 thoughts of when Facebook has been directly involved in some sort of conflict either in my life or another's.  While I always try to stay drama free online, there have been numerous instances where other people on my friends list do not seem to care about what they say or how it might affect someone else.  I don't think everyone does this on purpose, sometimes people post without thinking.  Really, though, how vauge can a post like "Some people need to keep their mouths shut..." be if your best friend has just told you that her mother-in-law just can't seem to keep her opinions to herself?  I'm guilty of this too, but yet I say I like to remain drama free online.  I'm simply saying it's an easy trap to fall into.

Are we really so narcissistic that our daily lives  now revolve around our Facebook status?  I've even been around people who can't seem to function if they don't check Facebook.  I say this and I was turning into one of them!  It wasn't so bad when I start up my computer or laptop and get online, go to Explorer and type in www.facebook.com.  I really only devote certain times of the day to computer use, so I wasn't getting on the site but once or twice a day, and I only uploaded pictures once or twice a week becasue I had to physically take my card out of the camera, or upload my pictures from my phone to the computer.  Then, Facebook became available on my cell phone.  Still, I wasn't accessing the site too much because it was a little cumbersome to get online and type the site in Explorer.  I didn't even know how to upload photos, and when I tried to from my phone, it never worked.  My real problem came when my new smart phone had a Facebook app!  Holy crow, I could get on Facebook anytime I wanted.  I could upload pictures with a few clicks.  Even my photo software on my phone has a direct link to Facebook.  500 pictures later, I've got so many pictures of my life on Facebook, if they were printed out and in an album, you could see step by step what we were doing on just about every day.  My life is beautiful, don't get me wrong, and my family is amazing, my son is gorgeous, but really, what was I thinking?

Then, our lives got turned on their head in 2011, with the worst year either my husband or myself had ever had where everything went wrong, I was sick for the entire year, and my husband was having some bad luck at work.  Just when you would think having Facebook around would be helpful, it really wasn't!  I would post a little something here and there about being sick, and when the responses didn't come or seemed patronizing (because you can infer a lot from someone's "tone of typing" you know), I would find myself feeling worse.  When the funny, witty, sarcastic, etc. posts wouldn't generate the response I'd hoped for, I would also feel bad.  Then, I started to notice that every social event or family function was announced only on Facebook.  I noticed that I was beginning to hate text messaging, and really starting to despise all sorts of social media and modern commuincation.  I started ignorning invites online and responding to most of my text messages by calling the texter back.   It was becoming my mission to actually TALK to people on the phone.  But I still couldn't help but tag myself and husband everywhere we went, with a corresponding picture to let everyone know just how much fun we'd had while we were out... 

In December after  we decided to move,  the impact that the social networking site was having on our lives was never more evident.  We'd announced several times we were moving, and that my husband would be staying behind while me and our son came ahead to get things situated.  Two days before we left our former hometown for good, I posted something rather to the point about my disappointment in people... no one had come to see us or spent much time with us before leaving.  What better way to blast your feelings to all of the people in your life than on Facebook...  While I wasn't rude, I realized it wasn't appropriate becasue I wasn't comfortable with the excuses I got in return.  Even though these people were not doing right by us, I still felt bad and took the post off of Facebook. 

You may be wondering if I have a point, which I do.  The point is that while we are in control of how much we chose to post on Facebook or any other social networking site, at some point if we are not really careful, we can end up being out of control.  My last straw came over the weekend when I realized that I just could not take it anymore! I want to be invited to birthday parties the old fashioned way, at least with a phone call, not by an invitation on Facebook.  I want to have something to talk about when I talk to or see people instead of saying "yeah, I saw that online."  I don't think it's fair to my son that I have posted so much about his life so far online, without his permission.  I don't want to read a friend or family member's status and know about exactly who or what they are talking and feel embarrassed.  Most of all, I don't like the fact that a lot of my first thoughts were "Oh, that'd make a great status!"

I'm not knocking Facebook or any other social networking site, at least not completely.  I love the internet and communication online, as well as technology in general.  Too much of anything can turn into a bad thing, though, if we are not careful, and we've already seen so many instances of how these social networking sites can be detremental if we aren't careful.  Life is so much more than a status update.  I'm been really happy with my choice so far to walk away from my page. I'm planning on using all the minutes I'd otherwise be looking in on everyone else's life and simply posting about mine to actually being in it again, minute by minute, memory by memory.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moving on...

I read a blog post the other day that really got me thinking. It was basically about what people making decisions in their lives need to hear and how selfish we all can be when the people in our lives make decisions that we don't agree with.  (At least, that is my interpretation of this particular post.) 

Being that my husband and myself have recently made a HUGE life change by moving 1400 miles away from our home with our young son.  It has been an eye opening process in the reactions of the people in our lives.  Some people that we moved away from were downright rude about our decision, while others who live here were obviously supportive.  Then there were others that we were close to that were either neutral or really just could care less that we were moving.  At any rate, I learned a lot about my relationships this way.  Nothing speaks louder than telling "good" friends that you are moving away and hearing how sad they would be and then not taking the time to get together before you leave.  When I purposefully, yet tactfully,  pointed this out on Facebook, I got a lot of excuses.  It hurt, it still hurts, but it has been a wonderful lesson to learn. 

When you are important in the life of someone who is important to you, you know it.  It seems sometimes that when you are not that important you know it even more.  I am one of these people that always lets people in, and I usually get burned in the process.  I am not perfect, of course, but I really do try to go out of my way.  Like Sarah Jessica Parker's character, Meredith, on The Family Stone, "I try, I try, and I try..."  and when Luke Wilson (Ben) tells Meridith that maybe she should just stop trying, he couldn't be more right!  If you have to try that hard with someone, anyone, even if it is someone that you feel like you are (or should be) close to, it really is not all that worth it. 

If you are the one always making the phone calls, or making the effort to keep a friendship or any other relationship going with little or no reciprocation, that is the time to take a step back and evaluate the friendship or relationship.  Chances are, if you are like me, whenever you finally do get the chance to catch up with these people, you are left wondering why you even bothered in the first place.  Or, you are left with hurt feelings when their promises to get together/talk again soon don't come through.  Either way, it's not good, and we owe it to ourselves to be honest, even if it hurts at first, about these people in our lives.  I've learned you can still cherish the good memories and cut your losses at the same time.  It's not easy, not easy at all, but it can be done.

I've had to learn the hard way so many times that even when someone is important to me, I may not be that important to them, and no time in my life has made that more evident than the past few months.  It hurt when I lost contact with my best friend in our 20s (we had been friends since 11).  It really hurt when my Grandfather died, because he was one of my best friends.  But, in some weird way, losing a loved one to the natural process of death seems to hurt less than losing the people in my life in whom I've invested so much time, and knowing that they are just a phone call or email away, but I don't bother anymore because I know what the end result will be... more disappointment and hurt. 

I've learned some really positive lessons from all of this, though.  I've learned that I really am a lot stronger than I knew.  In the past few months I've done some things I never thought I was able to do.  Reflecting back further, I've done some things that I never thought I'd get to do.  I've also been able to see how important the relationship my husband and I have, and I'm able to be more flexible in my view of relationships.  I'm learning to trust the other people in my life (who live here) that I never thought I would be able to trust, and I am enjoying the new relationships I'm forming with people that I have really missed for much of my life.  I am also learning to listen to the voice that steers me away from other individuals that will more than definitely prove to be toxic in my life.  I've learned that it is ultimately my decision and responsibility to not only myself, but my husband and son as well, to steer clear of or keep at arm's length the toxic people, regardless of how much we have in common or what good I can see in them on the surface.  My husband has been wonderful in this learning process, even though I've had a tendency to let people in our lives that really probably should have never been so close to us in the first place. 

I thought we had moved on when we moved so far away, but it's taken me about two months to actually get it.  I'm glad I finally did!

Friday, February 10, 2012

I always have a lot to say about everything.  Sometimes, I speak say too much and speak too loud, usually at the wrong time.  Sometimes, I don't say anything when something really needs to be said and I regret it later.  The past year of my life has been full to say the least, full of turmoil, drama, tension, stress, joy, and finally I think, peace.

It hasn't been easy, and it has come at a cost.  My husband and I just uprooted ourselves, our lives, and our son to make a fresh start 1400 miles away from home.  It's a long story, we'll get there.  Probably in bits and peices, but, we will get there.

Through all of the events of the past year, as with the rest of my almost 33 years on this Earth, I have learned a lot.  I've learned a lot about myself, my husband, and the nature of people.  I have realized how even though I've always known that things aren't always as they seem, you really can't understand that until you are standing on the other side of how they seemed. 

I hope you enjoy my blog, even if you disagree with what I have to say.  Some of my posts will be about my life in genereal and what I've learned (and still learning).  A lot of my posts will be opinionated about current events, such as the upcoming elections, the economy, family life, and so on.  I hope to stimulate a lively yet RESPECTFUL conversation, make a few friends, and maybe even gain a few faithful readers.