There's been a confluence of events for me recently on Facebook. I've felt the negativity that can come from comparing my life to others. There was that video many people shared exposing a fake social media presence. I've sadly seen instances of people using Facebook to tear down one another in my newsfeed. Then there was that surreptitious Facebook study that manipulated newsfeeds to measure the effect of negative posts (is anyone really shocked that negativity breeds negativity or that Facebook manipulates your newsfeed?).
Worst of all is the negativity that can come from everyday life - non Facebook life, real life - which reared it's ugly head for me too. It made me view my own happy-go-lucky posts through a new filter and question their utility in the grand scheme.
Does Facebook make us so narcissistic that we will say or post anything for attention? Are we merely advertisement vessels, pawns in money-making scheme? Are we reaching out into a social media abyss, grasping for validation and one more blue packet of aspartame love that we call a "like"?
There's nothing wrong with questioning the utility of Facebook, exploring the negative consequences of our growing dependence, distancing yourself from it when it feels overwhelming, or even quitting altogether if you decide it's not for you.
But contrary to the reaction most might have to the distresses and dramas I just outlined, I feel more emboldened than ever to use this platform.
Instead of fretting about what others post, what negativity it may breed, or kind of power Facebook has taken in our world, it's time for us to reclaim our social media.
The power we think it wields - the power to create depression, to upend relationships, to make us feel jealous or lonely or unloved - that power only exists if we allow it. These problems are a reaction to what others do on Facebook, but our reaction to everything in life is entirely up to us.
I'll use FOMO (fear of missing out, for those without Google) as an example, since it's one I personally encounter.
During the last few weeks I, and some people I love dearly, have endured a terrible, life-altering event. My mind was consumed with the two battling emotions of grief and contemplation. But even as I dealt with a real life tragedy, the siren of Facebook beckoned. I thought of a million things to post, some bleak, some meditative, but very few found their way to my timeline. In those that did, I tried my best to show both the negative and the positive sides of the situation, or really, of life.
As I performed this balancing act, attempting to express my true feelings without overburdening my friends with sadness, I quietly observed the posts of others. This is where the FOMO kicked in... smiling selfies, adorable puppies, cute kids, promotions, achievements, concerts, memes, clever comments, observant quotations, parties, birthday parties, pool parties, parking lot parties, fun, funner, funnest.
My initial reaction was FOMO, jealousy, and even some anger. How dare they have such a good time when there's so much sadness in the world! Or really, how dare they when there's so much sadness in me.
It took a lot of convincing, but eventually I remembered that this was a reaction of my own creation. When posting about happiness it is no true friend's intention to make everyone else sad. Their happiness is just that, my reaction is up to me.
I can choose to feel jealous or I can simply feel happy for my friends while they enjoy a good life.
I can choose to assume their posts are secretly all about me or I can remember Facebook is merely a format sharing a small piece of your life with the world.
I can choose to let worry and regret of what I'm missing out on control me or I can be present where I am and allow everyone else to do the same.
The problems we now blame on Facebook always existed. People were boastful or jealous; some people were happy and some were sad; some people tore each other down and others lifted each other up. Facebook didn't create this, it just provided us with a new platform to express these feelings. Digital age or otherwise, how you react to the sometimes horrible and sometimes amazing world we live in will always be your choice.
Facebook gives us the option to hide/unfriend those who tear each other down or the option to engage in retribution. It gives us the power to spread light or darkness. We are ultimately in charge, it has no power on it's own. What we choose to share and how we choose to react to what others share is entirely in our own hands.
Reclaim your social media. It's yours and it always has been.