Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, the list goes on…these are quickly becoming people’s preferred mode of communication and connection to others. As a Facebook user and as someone who has recently moved across the country, I love that I am able to keep up with the details of my loved ones’ lives through pictures, easy messaging, and even the posts that let me in on the “in-between” of someone’s day. However, when misused, I fear that it can lead to personal pain and dysfunctional relational interaction. I catch myself falling into these “traps” on a regular basis, so from one girl to another…watch out for these!
Do you ever find yourself feeling lonely or insecure? I do. Often I find myself and others posting “statuses” that attempt to express themselves in hopes that someone will be there on the other side. While every relationship includes the possibility of disappointment, a statement in hopes of a response (companionship, understanding, validation) on the Internet runs the risk of our needs being sucked into a vacuum. If you post something in hopes of reaching out to others and receive no response, you might wind up feeling more lonely or insecure than you did in the first place. While social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter connect others, used improperly, they can quickly become disconnecting.
Instead, try talking yourself through it, journal, or “phone a friend” first. Chances are you can think of reasons that you are loved and not alone without asking social media sites to consol your fears. Just like grabbing for fast food when we are hungry, reaching for Facebook when we feel dissatisfied can leave us feeling empty and longing for more. It has the illusion of being a relationship that satisfies, but ultimately will not. Approaching social media from a full, secure place, will allow you to enjoy this form of connection and not misuse it.
The Cryptic Code:
Be direct. What are you really trying to say? Posts like “oh my gosh…” or “this is the worst day ever” or a post that lists off 10 errands you just ran in a record amount of time, say nothing, yet communicate everything. These empty statements communicate that we need attention and validation. The danger is that your worth has now been placed in the hands of the number of replies you receive, who replies, and what they say. This is a scary place. Before you post, check yourself and inquire about your own motivation behind the words. It is likely that what you really want to say is masked by ambiguous statements and won’t be addressed in a proper way. However, you will benefit more from actually being direct, and will come across as a healthy person others will be motivated to engage with and enjoy. You also won’t waste your energy looking for worth in empty places; cryptic statements that seek attention could get you the opposite of what you are looking for.
The Comparison Game:
Resist the temptation to compare yourself. Have you ever had one of those days where you were feeling great…until you got on the computer and started looking at what others were accomplishing, or the exciting events in others’ lives? I have. It feels just awful. Suddenly, I am not good enough, my life isn’t exciting enough, I don’t have enough money, or I’m not as successful, witty, smart, or wise as the next person. Comparison always breeds discontentment. My dad always says that, “the root of all evil is comparison” and I’ve decided that he is right. The comparison game will inevitably take you off your track and leave you coveting someone else’s life instead of living your own. The antidote? Trust that you will be most effective and successful when you are living your own life. The minute I begin comparing myself to others, I lose what it means to be successful as Nicole and I become ineffective in my own goals and dreams. This will also allow us to appreciate the differences in each other and celebrate the collection of gifts and talents represented in the people we love. Thank goodness we don’t have to do it all! Also, keep in mind that social media profiles are almost reality, but not reality. For the most part, we see the “perfect” part of people’s lives that are so alluring and impressive; we then become addicted to what someone is and fixated on what we are not, breeding those feelings of discontentment and inadequacy.
These traps ultimately keep us from the love, friendships, and the self-worth that we long for. Misusing social media can leave us far from what we were looking for, so let’s not get caught in vacuums, cryptic coding, or the comparison game!