In my last post, I triumphantly stated how I was going to avoid scrolling my Facebook newsfeed through the Advent season. I wanted a break from the bombardment of negativity, and I wanted to take control of what I see. My resolve didn't last very long. I've been scrolling my newsfeed and feeling pretty guilty as I often judge myself harshly. Yet, despite our perceived imperfections, Spirit sees none of it, and readily communicates with us in the most mysterious of ways.
I was washing dishes and listening to our local NPR station, when I heard a story about a Canadian parliament member who was caught playing Candy Crush Saga during a hearing on pensions. The story that aired featured an interview with a psychologist/researcher (if my memory is serving me correctly) who spoke about why people seem addicted to things like social media, online gaming, and video games. She said that it was for rewards. It was when she equated his game playing to someone checking emails during a meeting, when I began to really identify. I'm not the person who would be online during a meeting without due cause, but I am the person who would check my email or Facebook repetitively for a reward. What type of reward? An adult conversation, acknowledgement of my efforts either professionally or as a mother, finding a super interesting news-story, or receiving a note from a friend or family member I don't see often enough.
Mothering can be a very lonely place to be sometimes. When your husband works long hours and breaks are few and far between, a day can feel so long. It's only natural to seek a reprieve. What I now realize is that Facebook has become a way for me to feel connected to the world outside of my home and my homeschooling. It has become an outlet for me to make and maintain friendships that is perfectly set up to appeal to my introverted nature. I, too, realize that seeking a reward is not always a bad thing. It's a boost. An encouragement. It can keep you motivated and on course.
What isn't worth the time on Facebook is the bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, unnecessary violence, hyped and ill reported sensational stories, and extreme hate that I am exposed to in my newsfeed on any given day. So, when I stopped feeling guilty about scrolling my newsfeed when I had made a spiritual commitment not to, I wondered where the heck I could find balance in social media. I want to still have my reward and cut the bull.
Without fail, Spirit reached out to me again. On Facebook, a friend tagged me in a Facebook Tips post about customizing your newsfeed. I understood better than ever that I can be proactive about what I see by using the options of like, comment, unfriend, unfollow, hide, block, and I don't want to see this. I can adjust my newsfeed by interacting with it in the way it was designed. In doing so, I'm not worried about compromising my privacy, or hurting anyone's feelings. I'll just be acknowledging my Truth in a kind way, and using the proper options based on what I'm seeing. Honestly, there are people who I have loved most of my life that post things that I really get shocked by, but I know them and I understand to some extent where it is coming from, so I can adjust my reaction. However, if someone is an acquaintance or I haven't met them, I have no reason to continue to be present with offensive material. If I have to make the choice to process one's cosmic junk, I also want to have a meaningful relationship with that person either familial, friendly, or professional.
Sure, deeply thinking about Facebook can seem as cliche as announcing a "friends" clean-up or hiatus from social media. We live in a new era though where staying away from tools like Facebook is growing more difficult if you also want to be present within your community/village/tribe. It can really shock and throw folks of my generation who didn't regularly use computers until college, let alone the internet. I'm constantly seeing the reaction of people to the transparency and insight to the innermost thoughts of people they never dreamed they didn't know. It will take some time and adjusting to figure out our place in this new age. We must figure out our place so we can begin to under consequences of what we are embracing and help our young people navigate their use of media in a healthy and productive way.
So, I'm adjusting my expectations of myself to something more doable for me at this stage. When I'm on Facebook, I'm going to behave authentically. I'm going to rightly use the options Facebook provides and I'm going to post whatever I deem appropriate for public intake that honestly reveals my values, opinions, beliefs, concerns, and that which brings me joy.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.