All right, I’ll confess: I’m not a fan of Facebook. Yes, I appreciate my husband’s drawing my attention to various updates of mutual friends (some of them more my friends than his) or family members. Sort of. Mostly…
But overall, the way it’s set up, the sheer number of people you end up “interacting” with (I use the word with reservation), the superficiality of it all… not for me.
Especially not for me is all the “liking” and collections of comments on posts and… oh, my. No. I could see that my flesh would have a field day there. It could be immensely stimulating, sure, but not in a good way, and it also holds the prospect of being very distracting and even debilitating.
The other day a friend was telling me how one night when she was very tired, she checked her Facebook account to find a conversation between two “friends” that, in her fatigue and in the (unnoticed) ambiguity of the conversants’ words, she took to mean something that wasn’t meant at all. It wasn’t until the next day that she found out the truth, and in the meantime, her Facebook experience had not been pleasant.
I doubt that is an uncommon occurence. I know I could easily fall into such a misunderstanding and waste hours fretting or feeling condemned or condemning myself. I know my weaknesses and I know my flesh is not improving, even after all these years. I know this not only from actual, experiential evidence, but because the Bible (2 Co 4:16) tells me that my “outer man is decaying day by day.” (“Decay” – diaphtheiro – means to putrefy, rot, grow more corrupt). Hence the need to renew our inner man…
Turns out I’m not alone in my Facebook weakness. A recent German study has determined that at least one third of Facebook users end up with negative feelings after browsing. The primary cause of their negativity is envy: they become jealous of their fellow Facebookers’ perceived happiness and accomplishments, and discontent with their own, which seem much less than other people’s.
An msnbc article on this study, “Is Facebook envy making you miserable?” reported that the number one cause of discontent among Facebook users was viewing the wonderful pictures of other people’s vacations.
“Oh, if only I could go to the Caribbean, I would be soooo happy. If only I could have a perfect family Christmas like that, then I would be content.
Really? I’m of the opinion that if you’re not happy or content where you are right now, you’re probably not going to be happy in the Caribbean or content in the (nonexistent) perfect family, because the problem isn’t where you are, it’s what you think.
But I digress. After vacations, other causes of envy are the accomplishments of others, and the social life of others.
All this in addition to the ever-present opportunity to compare how many Birthday greetings, comments and “likes” their postings get versus how many their “friends” get. And if the numbers are not good enough, they are sad. 🙁
That’s one of the reasons I’m not on Facebook. I know I would be tempted to do the same. Besides, the Bible tells us not to compare amongst ourselves, that to do so is to be foolish. (2 Co 10:12) And Facebook’s structure inevitably invites just that.
In fact, while all this comparing drives some of us to 😥 , others are moved to concoct their own glorious reports in retaliation and one-upmanship.
Yes, the German study found that this whole problem of envy and comparing drives some users to overstate the fabulousness of their vacations, happiness, social lives and accomplishments! Furthermore, the areas of overstatement seem to be gender based. Men, says the study, tend to oversell their accomplishments, whereas women , their appearance and social lives.
None of which surprises me in the least. We are, after all, a fallen race, living in a fallen world, and if there’s one thing our sin natures delight in, crave, lust after, it’s being lauded and approved. (Well, some of us have sin natures like that. Others would rather have power, or pleasure, and who cares what others’ think? They’re probably not among the one third that suffer from Facebook envy, though.)
The downside of all this is that people who are left feeling resentful and lonely from their Facebook experience soon stop using it, or at least use it less. One of the researchers wondered if Facebook was reaching a saturation point in some markets because of this and would soon begin to decline in popularity…
If you want to read the actual article on the study, it’s here.