“My Facebook is more like Dramabook today,” she said. As she told me about her friends’ angst, I remembered a younger me, a different time, when every cause on the web seemed like something that ought to be taken up. But older me has learned that (a) nobody really cares what I think about any particular issue anyway, and (b) these arguments do nothing to further my vocation to motherhood, to raising and educating these children for the glory of God.
I’ve learned – and keep learning – that I can’t change the hearts on the other side of my computer screen, but I can influence the ones around my table.
There was a time not so very long ago when there was a vibrant community of Catholic “mommy bloggers” on the web. Most of us are quiet now, except on Facebook, and I always think that’s such a shame, for we still have so much to offer one another. And actually, most of us are quiet on Facebook, too; it’s not a good forum for communicating deep thoughts, and when we make an attempt, we are bombarded with a barrage of hateful, hurtful comments.
We’ve become so accustomed, as a society, to communicating via screens, and we forget too easily that there is an actual person on the other side of that screen, a person already wounded by this soulless world. We let careless words fly, heedless that they cut like daggers. We read too much meaning into the most innocuous of posts, tearing down instead of building up.
It’s a harsh world, and it takes some effort to keep all that drama and angst from defining your day. It takes vigilance to avoid becoming part of the problem.
Sometimes, for some people, the answer is to walk away, at least for a time, but so many of us have found community through social media where none exists locally. And for the more transient among us, it allows us to keep up with the friendships we’ve acquired in our travels and the extended family we’ve left behind. It’s a shame to give up all the good to protect against the bad if it isn’t absolutely necessary, and I find that some basic ground rules are effective for me.
- Don’t be afraid to delete comments. I consider my spaces on the web an extension of my home, and if you speak to me or my guests in a way that would be inappropriate in my living room, I just delete. I don’t explain myself or offer any warnings. The comment just disappears. I don’t mind disagreement and discussion, but I expect visitors to always honor the person they are speaking to.
- You don’t have to be friends with everyone. It’s not a contest to see who can get the most friends, likes and follows, even though it can feel like it sometimes. Unfriending or unfollowing the people who routinely make me feel uncomfortable, discouraged or angry keeps my feed angst-free. Mostly.
- Find the forum that works best for you. I love my blog, but I also post often throughout the day to Instagram. It’s a friendlier place than Facebook, and the photos and captions are collected automatically into Chatbooks, which they print and mail to me each month. The whole family adores these little books, so my posts are mostly memory-keeping. I seldom post directly to Facebook, choosing instead to share selected Instagrams that I think my mom would like. Or Marla, being the archetype of Friends Who Aren’t On Instagram.
- Be the light you’re looking for. Whatever you wish you were seeing in your feed, be that for other people. There’s a difference between needing prayers or encouragement on a bad day and constantly complaining about every little thing that happens. There’s a difference between sharing a concern or thought that invites discussion and telling your friends why they absolutely must support your point of view. I try to come from a place of love, understanding and gratitude. I don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal. I don’t want to be bitter or hard-hearted, not in real life, and not on the internet.
- Watch your time. There’s a whole beautiful world out there, full of intriguing, wonderful people. There’s one standing at my knee right now, two years old and singing the ABC song as I type. I don’t want that screen to come between me and the people I’m supposed to be loving. I don’t want that to be the thing they remember most about me. That means that I really can’t have Facebook on my iPod. It’s too tempting to spend too much time there, and it’s a shallow, shallow place. Better to keep a book handy for those forced down times (like nursing the baby) which are my trigger.
- Leave a comment. The whole point of social media is to be… social. We need to talk to each other, not just “like” and run. Share a helpful experience. Offer praise. Commiserate. Encourage. Laugh. But go ahead and speak. That’s why we’re here.
How about you? What is your favorite social media and how do you keep it from dragging you down? Do you worry about likes and follows? Do you want to give it all up? What are your favorite pizza toppings?