I'm not ready to cut ties with social media, but I think I can make my time there better-spent
Did you make a New Year’s resolution to give up Facebook? Or are you thinking about giving it up for Lent? I entertained it as an option, but in the end, I’m not going to cut my ties with social media. Although it’s sometimes an occasion to gossip and often a waste of time, it’s invaluable for a introverted stay-at-home-mom like me. What I’ve decided instead is to work on ways to make my Facebook experience more positive and healthy. Here are the resolutions I’m considering:
- Hide the hurtful stuff while being on guard against making an echo chamber. There’s a line between being open to people who disagree with you and simply exposing yourself to hurt. If you find yourself getting riled up every time a certain person shows up on your feed, you can change your settings to hide their posts. You’ll still be friends, you’ll see anything they write directly to you, and they won’t know that you’ve hidden them. I went through my friends list a few months ago and hid a lot of people, and I haven’t regretted it. I can always go back to following some of them in the future, if I feel more ready or able to handle their posts.
- Along the same lines, surround yourself with good influences. “Liking” too many pages and personalities can cause you to get bogged down and waste your time scrolling through updates, but a few carefully chosen ones can be uplifting. There are many good Catholic pages on Facebook (such as Aleteia!) that provide opportunities for little moments of prayer and meditation. It’s also a good place to connect with people who share your interests. I’m a member of a quilting group that focuses entirely on “show and tell.” It’s a great refuge from politics and all the troubles of the world, and a good way to encourage others and be encouraged.
- Don’t be a slave to your news feed. There’s no need to scroll and scroll till you’ve read every single item. Not only is that a waste of time, but it exposes a person to lots of ads and things we really don’t need to know, like what celebrity posts my friends commented on. My resolution for Lent is to visit my friends’ profiles only, instead of mindlessly scrolling through everything on my feed. That way I’ll be using Facebook to keep up with people I love, rather than to zone out. There are several apps to help in this regard, if your will power is too weak.
- Use Facebook for intercession. Recently I went through a few days of heavy depression, and I finally spilled my guts on Facebook and asked for prayers. The flood of responses made me feel loved and cared for, and my friends’ prayers lifted me up within hours. It works the other way, too: your news feed offers plenty of reminders to pray for friends and family as well as strangers, clergy, and political leaders. When you see a prayer request, stop and bring it to God right then and there; a quick “God bless so-and-so” is better than a rosary that you put off until you forget about it.
- Use Facebook for acts of mercy. Facebook has the potential to be a community, and for someone who’s introverted, depressed, or isolated, it can be a real lifeline. Take advantage of it! As my mother used to tell me, if you want your friends to write you letters, write them first. Take a minute to send your friend a picture or a song they will appreciate, or send a quick message to check up on someone who’s having a hard time. You never know when these little acts of friendship will come at the perfect time for someone in need–and more often than not, your friends will respond in kind.
- Wait before you post. This is the hardest one. My resolution is to wait an hour before I click “post” on any comments I write, to make sure I’m not acting on emotion and sending something I’ll regret later.
I think it’s possible to rein in Facebook’s temptations without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Anyway, I’m going to give it a try.