Saturday, December 14, 2013

Facebook - Bullies Everywhere

So a Facebook "friend" of mine (who shall remain anonymous - unless you happen to be friends with this person as well, and then you'll know immediately who I am referring to) posted a status update recently that really got me thinking. The basic gist of it was; does anyone else find Facebook depressing? This question and the conversation that took place between us afterwards, really got me pondering about the old FB, what is was, what it is and the varying effects it has on different people.

Back towards the end of 2007, my husband and I were in the process of separating. We had two young children, ages 1 and 2. It was a rough time for all involved. Even though I was the instigator, the one who said those four dreaded words - I want a divorce - it didn't mean it was an easy time for me. When I got married I thought it was forever. I was in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with that person. Needless to say, it didn't end up that way (and that's a whole different post, for another time). Anyway, one of my oldest friends asked if I was on Facebook. I had never even heard of Facebook. I had only just barely discovered the world of MySpace for goodness sake. She told me that everyone we went to school with was on there and that I should sign up too.

So I did. Suddenly, I was reconnected with friends that I went to boarding school with as a child in London and Scotland, as well as friends from high school, and a couple of childhood friends from when I lived in Spain from age 8 - 11. It was amazing! I could see what everyone looked like, where they were living, how many children they had, what they were doing with their lives. It was like an online reunion. So I started sharing pictures of my children, taking the fun little quizzes that everyone did back then - What type of Barbie are you? What type of drink are you? What's your stripper was silly, but it was fun! It brought me some little bit of joy in a time of my life that was otherwise bleak, to say the least.

Fast forward 6 or so years...Facebook (FB) is still used for keeping in touch with friends and families, sharing pictures of our kids, pets, dogs etc, but it has exploded into much more than that. People use FB as a forum to get messages to others ranging from groups dedicated to ending violence against women and children and Americans against GMO's to groups about hating dolphins and claiming that physics doesn't exist, it's all gnomes! (Seriously.)

Now, I, personally, think that FB can be, and is, a great tool...if used appropriately. I've known married couples who have deleted their respective accounts due to questions of infidelity and jealousy. I've known friendships to end over differing political opinions. I've witnessed mothers being berating each other because they chose to breast-feed, not breast-feed, co-sleep, not co-sleep, etc, etc. I think half the problem is a little something I like to call computer balls. People are suddenly very brave when a keyboard and computer separates them from the person they are "talking to" and they are able to say things they wouldn't ordinarily say in person.

The husband who wouldn't have the balls to approach the good looking woman in the grocery store is able to send messages and pictures privately via FB. (Yes, I realize this can be done through regular emails as well, however, it is not as easy to search for strangers via email as it is on FB.) The woman who wouldn't normally be so vocal towards a mother who doesn't breastfeed is suddenly bashing her for not giving her child the "best start to life". Friends who may engage in some witty banter amongst each other regarding their political beliefs are now making cruel and unnecessary remarks, slamming each other and showing no respect for each other's opinions.

When I was doing a little research for this, I typed in negative effects on Google and negative effects of facebook was the second item on that little drop-down list. One article I found was written by a lady called Stephanie Allen, titled The Psychological Effects of Facebook. She basically hit the nail on the head of what I was thinking. FB as morphed into this fantasy world where people only post the best pictures of themselves and their families (I am just as guilty of this as everyone else), brag about how amazing their dog, child, husband, job, life is, etc...etc... According to the article, "facebook envy" is a living, breathing issue that people really have and they claim "Facebook to leave a negative impact on their lives".

When and why did we allow this to happen? Why can't we just go back to those early days of Facebook where people were (mostly) kind, and enjoyed looking at each other's photos and reading the silly little status updates that we all used to share? When and why did FB become the modern day schoolyard for adolescents and adults, where bullies lurk around every corner and everyone is showing off their shiny new toys and clothes?

FB should not be invoking envy, depression, or any other negative emotion within any of us. Unless you are a member of one of those groups trying to bring attention to something serious, like child abuse or animal cruelty, take a deep breath, step away from the computer, and shake it off. It should be known and accepted that most people don't post the shitty parts of their lives online - unless they are fishing for attention or sympathy. Most of us are posting the pictures of ourselves that we have scrutinized and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to be sure there are no obvious blemishes, wrinkles, dimples, lumps or bumps that will be immediately noticed.

Let's all take a xanax and just chill. Seriously. With as much "real" stress as there is in the world these days - wars, the economy, disease, world hunger etc - I think we all need to put things in perspective. Facebook is Facebook. People will use it not only to advertise their business, blog or cause, but also to brag about their wonderfully perfect lives. Take it for what it is - or at "facebook" value. No one's life is as perfect as they portray it to be.

Does this mean I'm going to stop posting the cute pictures of my baby and children smiling, and laughing and looking like little angels and start posting pictures of them having meltdowns and throwing attitudes? Hell no. Does it mean I'm going to get "real" and post the good, the bad and the ugly photos of myself? Fuck that. But it does mean that I am going to assume that everyone knows I am only posting the good and that no one is going to sit there envying my life. Trust me, people, my life isn't always a world full of rainbows and unicorns who poop glitter.

I do, however, love my life and the people I choose to share it with and I am going to highlight that with what I post.

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