Learning how to use Facebook

I started re-thinking my facebook usage after reading this post in Relevant a few months ago. Why it’s time to Stop Facebook Lurking.  That article made me blush, laugh, and think.

I’m not quite a digital native at 29, but almost.  Sometimes it’s a toss-up which of my friends will text, and which won’t.  I remember that first cell-phone (at 20), it was a flip phone, and didn’t have a camera.  When I first entered college people still brought telephones to their dorm room and plugged in a LAN cable.

I knew from the moment I heard about it that facebook would be a time-suck. Which is why I held out exactly five months after what felt like everyone else at my college had joined.  Until November 2005. Then I dove straight in.

Creating groups like “I can only draw stick figures.”  Joining groups like “Myspace is for trashy hoes.”  In general I was embarrassing myself in ways that only 20-year-olds can do.  And it’s preserved for posteriority, which, in my case, now has a name, face, and charming three-year-old sense of humor.

Over the last nine years I’ve used facebook in a lot of ways. To invite others to events. To stalk others. To find babysitters. To find out both local and world news. To congratulate myself with how well I’m doing in life.  To feel as though my life is going nowhere.

But, lately I have decided to stop lurking on facebook. The Relevant article makes many points I agree with – that community is a two way street, that facebook takes up real time you can’t get back, and that facebook many create unattainable ideals of faux friendship.

However, I disagree with a few of the possible (but unstated) conclusions – that facebook is a) Generally a negative or neutral use of time. b) You should use it less.  The author leaves the conversation without suggesting positive ways of using facebook, of which, I believe there are many.

How to use Facebook to build Community:

1. Stop talking about facebook as a waste of my time.  After I did the quick calculation that I spend about 60 – 90 minutes on the site every day (albeit, multitasking) it’s still time spent. If I am intentionally choosing to do something for 90 minutes a day- I make certain to be mindful. No more scrolling through dozens of posts.  The recent tweaks to the layout helped me to be more intentional about this.

2. Share memes, blog posts and quizzes with specific friends that will enjoy it, rather than the entire facebook universe as much as possible or as often as you would like.

3. Use facebook for a specific purpose (like those listed above).  Double points to if it’s to make real life plans possible.

4. Try to engage multiple people in conversation through messages or tagged posts on topics that spark conversation and invite (polite) discussion.  Maybe this one only works for me, but I certainly enjoy using facebook in this way.

5. Remind yourself that the friends who pop up in your newsfeed are not necessarily your closest friends now, but that doesn’t mean in the past they weren’t meaningful people in your life who still deserve attention and care. Use facebook for what it’s good for reconnecting with past friends, as well as present.

6. But… Re-organize the people you want to hear from the most into lists and groups.  Although I personally don’t care to “de-friend” people, I also don’t care to see run-of-the-mill memes from people I haven’t seen in person in over two or longer years.  I have no qualms about hiding old friends from my regular newsfeed.  But I do love to see their babies!…

In general my latest facebook philosophy has been what most of my life is about – living according to my deepest convictions and beliefs – including ways to improve communication, authenticity, and deepen community.

What about you? Is facebook something you are intentional about? Don’t care about?  What other social media do you use to stay in touch?

PS: I’ve blogged about social media and the internet before, like when we didn’t have it for 79 days two years ago! (I’m still shuddering in horror), and how a theologian from the 1950s taught me something new about the internet. AND you could always follow All Growing Up on facebook too.

Why I’ll be continuing to use Social Media

You might have already guessed this about me, but I love social media.  Although last week I advocated for reading old books, this week I’m advocating for using new technology, and I think that’s totally consistent.  In fact, wrestling with internet usage is a big part of this blog, as you can read here, here, and here.
A few weeks ago I read this article which argues for the fact that you can no longer say the internet isn’t “real life.”  And I’ve seen an increasing number of posts and news articles about people disconnecting (like this freshly pressed post from october 31st).  It’s also not uncommon to run into news stories about extreme cases of people dying from too much internet, or simply becoming addicted to internet usage.

So, where’s the balance in all of this? (remember: balance is one of my core beliefs.)

If there’s one thing social media does well, it’s connection.  And the biggest factor for my continued social media usage is the exposure to new ideas, education, differing opinions, and clever crafts.  It’s information, entertainment, and travel at my fingertips for an extremely low monetary price. It’s the ability to check out online classes at Harvard Extension school, listen to TED talks, read new social theories, and yes, obsessively stalk my old camp friends on facebook.

The psychological and emotional price is, of course somewhat higher, even my schoolwork is affected a little bit, but I’m going to talk about some solutions to that more on Friday.

Psychologically, I’ve noticed with increased internet usage my thinking becomes hectic, fragmented, and completely unable to self-regulate.  Everything seems to lead to one more thing. I didn’t really notice this until we went without the internet from February to March this year.  That’s when I realized it’s important to consolidate my internet time.  Limits are very very important when it comes to the internet-fascinated, like me.

Emotionally, many bloggers (women especially) have noted the general feeling of pressure to keep up with social expectations perpetuated on pinterest of the perfect house.  Or of constantly presenting your best face on facebook.

Another project on pinterest I might get around to this year… or next.

My personal tendency is to become obsessed with duplicating an exact replica of my life on the internet.  If I “like” something in real life, I NEED to “like” it on the internet.  Obviously, this is not really necessary.  And, as most people do, I do can fall into the trap of thinking that other people really do have it together and have a million friends if I only believe what I see on their facebook wall.

I love that many people are able to give up the internet (or at least the parts that are the most addicting to them).  It’s a little worrisome to me when everyone falls lock step into a particular belief without questions whether this particular technology is good for them.  (Cars, cell phones, TV’s, etc). One part of my continuing to use the internet will be the continuance of it being a “good” thing.  Something morally beneficial, useful, and of course, fun.

Are you a Social Media Zombie?

The Scandalous Stagnation – Thoughts on Chick-Fil-A

If there’s been one constant in my life, it’s been progress.  Some would say “change” but I would firmly say progress.   I make New Years Resolutions, write in my journal, and enjoy blogging much for the ability to see where I’ve come from and where I’m going.  It’s just one of the reasons that I’ve turned to the field of organizational psychology – I want to believe that there is such a thing as progress and a chance to cultivate and steward people and resources for the benefit of humanity and the world –  and it’s possible to do this not just on an individual level, but a systematic level.

But, oh friends, I watched with growing sadness this whole Chick-Fil-A thing –  the “he said, she said” inaccuracy, the memes, the clarifications, the anger, the articles, the blog posts.  I thought: “The internet is a vile thing that should never have been created.  It’s nothing but field of people blindly throwing stones at anyone who walks by them and has the wrong number on their back.”  I’m glad that the Olympics seemed to jog people out of their vitriol, since even the campaign couldn’t seem to manage it. I came very close to losing my ability to see progress at all.

why are you downcast, oh my soul?

Amidst all the hubbub I faced a growing realization that I’m old.  I’m grown up. Somehow, somewhere I lost my youthful belief that life is getting better all the time.  I mean the grand scale life, not the personal day to day.  (Some people are going to have rotten lives.  I know.)

I used to console myself with thoughts of technology’s benefit, women’s equality, and the standards of living.  Now my mind quickly to counterbalances these things with worries about increasing polarization (of politics, religion, wealth), dwindling spirituality, deepening ecological crisis, and the loneliness of lost community.

I really did somehow still believe, was it only last year, or was it the year before?, that if we could all just sit down and talk about this, put ourselves into each others shoes and minds, we’d end up not agreeing, but at least respecting one another.   Some little part of me thought perhaps the internet was this meeting of people in one place.

I don’t think that anymore.

I don’t think in any way that we should give up searching out other people’s perspectives and opinions, but I’m sure the internet is not the place to do it.  Not properly.  The internet is still just a tool, and it’s not able to stand in for a craftsman wielding the tool properly.  It’s nothing for person to person discussion.

I was walking through this with my husband while we were on vacation, discussing my opinions that the world is stagnating.  For every success in some area such as less overall racism, there’s another new area which seems to pop up as a problem, like the wealth divide.  I told him, I think I’m about to give up hope.

He told me gently about a theology professor of his who reminded the students that despair is a sin.  We recalled that passage in pretty familiar Biblical chapter 1 Corinthians 13 “Now these three remain, faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”  Hope might not be the greatest, but it’s one of the three that remain to us.

I also have been re-reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok, which is about, among many things, differences of opinion (albeit on a personal scale), and the wise words of one character’s father have been in my head.

“Honest differences of opinion should never be permitted to destroy a friendship.” 

So, I have decided I will not despair, I will hope, and I will listen.

Crowd out the Bad with the Good

This is part of my ongoing series: Secrets of Adulthood, where I discuss some of the life lessons I’ve learned.  This was inspired by Gretchin Rubin’s Book ‘The Happiness Project.’

There is a parable that goes something like this:

 A certain man rented a room in his house to a tenant.

When the tenant arrived he immediately set out to use up, destroy, and break all that the man cherished within his house.  The man, seeing this, evicted his guest, cleaned and fixed his house and drafted up a tenant agreement form.  After several days of advertising for a new tenant he allowed a new man to enter his house who was morally solvent, mannerly, and neat. 

A week later, the man’s previous tenant returned more dirty, rude, and disorderly than before requesting that the man reinstate him as a tenant.  However, upon showing his former tenant the already occupied room, the boor was forced to once again leave the house this time never to return. 

The man lived with his new tenant comfortably and convivially ever after.

While I was without the internet, I had some time to re-prioritize my life.

I knew I wanted to exercise more consistently, preferably in the morning around 8:30 or 9:00am. 

I knew I wanted to leave my house every single day between 1 – 3:30pm every day to go to the park, library, shop, or visit friends. 

I knew I wanted to have dinner eaten, dishes done, and Ethan to bed by 7:30 every night.

Now, there are a lot of other things I like to do (read, blog) and they are important to me as well, but they fit around these basic desires and wishes as well as my son’s sleep schedule.

However, the Internet used to obscure my ability to see the day as a continuous whole.  Instead I would be emailing, “just one person” looking up “just one thing” on pinterest, or checking facebook “for a minute.” Those were inconsequential moments of my day, but they acted like mini-seizures.  Each time I stopped to check those things, they derailed my concentration and fragmented my focus.  I was magnifying details that (truly) do need to be done, but losing sight of the greater Good.   Plus, it was easy to ignore a self-imposed and largely self-regulated schedule when I couldn’t manage to see the whole thing in context. I wasn’t actually sure what was important to me anymore, aside from getting my “to do” lists done.

After I took out the Internet it became clear to me how I naturally seemed to want to structure my day, and then to reinforce these habits to achieve more long term goals.   A lot of time-management gurus seem to think you can simply impose a rigid schedule on yourself with no thought to your basic nature and habits. (If you want to exercise you have to do it in the morning!) However, I have had limited success with that type of thinking.

Is the Internet bad?  No.  Neither are other things like eating, texting, cleaning, or whatever else it is that has the ability to fragment thoughts.  But, now I’ve learned a secret of adulthood.

If I want to put  peripherals in their place, I need to crowd them out  with things I recognize as the Greater Good. 

Now that I have identified the things I want to do, and which give me the most satisfaction at the end of the day, I can add in the icing to top it off and give me some cheap thrills.

Ps.  If you recognize that parable, that’s because it’s modified somewhat from a Biblical parable, found in Matthew 12:45

We Didn’t Have Internet at my House for 79 Days

And I’m a better Freecell player for it.

So, a few quick caveats.  This was not a conscious choice of mine, or a vow, so I won’t pretend that I didn’t use the Internet during the last 11 weeks.   Why didn’t we have the internet… well, it’s a bit of a long story.  Instead, I used the Internet at the library or the coffee shop and for less than 2-3 hours every week.  It was refreshing to be without Internet (in a really frustrating kind of way) and it did cause me to critically examine some of the things I thought I knew about the internet.

To be honest, I think about the way I use the Internet a lot as you can see from these posts here and here.  So this is another attempt to sort out some of the knowledge that I’ve gained about this beast that has now crept into our house and lives even more so than television.

  1. I wasn’t actually spending as much time on the Internet as I thought I was, or at least, it wasn’t the usable time I imagined.  If you asked me 12 weeks ago how much time I spent on the internet each day, I probably would have said 3 hours or more each day.  I would have ruefully admitted that if I could give up the internet I would gain a lot of time to read, or make my own pastry dough, or learn to juggle.  Actually, this wasn’t true.  I may have gained some time on the surface, but a lot of it was “unusable” time.  The fifteen minutes between activities, the ten minutes while waiting for water to boil.  The six minutes after I finished exercising, but before I took a shower.  What I actually do during that time without the Internet is: make mental lists and pick up Ethan’s toys. Or I stare into space. It just so happens with a wireless connection I stare vacantly at webpages in space.
  1. Blogging is no fun without the Internet.  No feedback. No community.
  1. The Internet is a tool, but it is not the tool for every problem.  I rediscovered the yellowpages and straight up rumination as possible options.  Also, that some problems don’t actually need to be solved and some questions don’t need answers.  Really.
  1. Magazines are not the same as websites, and to be honest, I think I enjoy them more in many cases.  It’s possible to entrench yourself in your own viewpoints on the Internet.  You don’t have to read anything that contradicts what you like, and you can specialize in anything you want.  If environmental news is all I want to read, I can do that on the Internet.  But, if I read Time Magazine each week (which I did). I’m going to have to read something else, and sometimes it’s not going to be what I like, or what I agree with.  At the very least, I’m going to have to see it.  The other thing about magazine reading –  it has a beginning and an end, there are no “suggested stories you might like” waiting to suck you in at the end of each article.
  1. It is possible to waste more time on the Internet, but it is also possible to “waste time” productively. What I’m saying is, playing freecell didn’t help me understand solar panels any better or figure out what’s new in food policy.  It also didn’t connect me to my faraway friends.  (Of course I could have, and did, call them.)
  1. Lastly… I learned one other thing, but it’s a Secret.  No, Really!  I spent so much time thinking about it, I realized it’s going to be one of my Secrets of Adulthood.  So, I’ll let you know all about it in another post.

Will I go internet free again anytime soon?  I hope not!

But I did learn that it’s possible to sublimate that voice in your heard that beckons you to answer “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?”  and channel it to more productive things: like singing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” with your 10 month old son.  So much more rewarding!

What Paul Tillich told me about the Internet

The search for meaning and permanence in a modern life.

Remember when I talked about communities and the Internet and self-discipline? And I wavered with whether to commit to Pinterest?  I joined.  Luckily my nightmares didn’t come to fruition – I don’t spend hours crazily pinning only to emerge in a daze, inexplicable tired.

The best thing about joining that website is the visual stimuli.  The worst is that it does nothing to curtail my hours on the internet.  When I had a job, I thought an hour a day of the internet was plenty.  Now that I am home most hours a day, my time logged has slipped up to 3 or more hours a day.

I have to ask myself, Why do I love the internet? It’s a complex question for some, myself included, and psychologists and sociologists are often studying this compulsion.

One of the answers I found in my self reflection includes the comforting feeling that when I am on the internet, I feel as though I am in touch with a stream of knowledge.  Even though I may not be actively pursuing that knowledge because I am flipping through facebook photo albums, it is at my fingertips.  By proxy, I must be dazzlingly smart.

Another answer is that I feel a sense of community when I engage in what feels like a contribution to others.  I’m not intellectually convinced that this is entirely a false thing.  Nor am I convinced it’s healthy, however.

A third reason is that I am engaged in a search for meaning, and being in a place which seems to offer both community and creation and knowledge certainly holds addicting appeal.

This is very close to what Paul Tillch wrote in the second chapter of The Courage to Be (which my reading group discussed last Thursday). 

The anxiety of meaninglessness is anxiety about the loss of an ultimate concern, of a meaning which gives meaning to all meanings.  This anxiety is aroused by the loss of a spiritual center, of an answer, however symbolic and indirect, to the question of the meaning of existence. The anxiety of emptiness is aroused by the threat of nonbeing to the special contents of the spiritual life… Everything is tried and nothing satisfies…. The anxiety of emptiness drives us into the abyss of meaninglessness.

How does this relate?  Well, Tillich has built on his first chapter, where he declared that self-affirmation is the highest and ultimate good of man.  (This is not self-affirmation in the sense of selfishness (p.22) but in the sense of divine self-affirmation, a participation of the soul in both knowledge and love.)

I’m engaged in a search for meaning, and self-affirmation.  I’m often anxious that I may not be creating something.  I’m also more anxious that the things I’m creating are limited and transitory.  As a result of all these things, it’s very easy to turn to the internet as a way to stretch the limits of creativity, to feel that what I create online may have meaning and permanence for “real.”  Or that the ability to enter into a dialogue with millions means that I am creating.  Somehow, that all of these “bits and bytes” may last forever, and so will I.

Is this true?  Again, I’m actually not sure.  Part of me believes that knowledge (whatever type it may be) is always beneficial.  The other part knows from Ecclesiastes 12:12 that study is endless and wearying.  Another part feels that the internet will last forever and continue forever.  But again, as Isaiah (40:8) already let us know flowers wither and fade, and truly nothing but the word of the Lord is forever.

I am anxious about my mortality, and frustrated with my limits.  The internet appears to be able to extend my limits, but this may just be a trompe l’oeil.  What is the ulimate solution?  I’ve got ideas, but I’m also interested to see what Paul Tillich will reveal in his book, The Courage to Be.  So far he’s encouraged me to question my internet tendency’s and to question what’s normal in seeking so much solace from something that’s large, but limited.

For more Trompe L’oeil check out The Swelle Life.

Reading, the Internet, and Self Discipline

The internet and self-control. How this wife, writer, and reader is constantly fighting the pull of the world’s most laughable addiction.

Reading is the thing I do of which I’m most proud.   I’m proud of my interests in sociology, literature, feminism and healthy living.  My reading changes the way I think about the world, and it changes me.  Also, it’s the voluminous nature of my reading which spurs me to write.  When I don’t read, I simply have less that I want to say.  Yet despite my enjoyment of this hobby I often don’t set aside time to read.  I still do it of course, however I could be doing more of it, with more analysis of how what I read relates to my experiences, and with attention to plot, character, and style.  So, (with a thanks to my sister for reminding me of this), I made a check chart of a few simple goals for October relating to this. 

They are:  To read 90 minutes a day. To spend twice a week privately journalling about my reading material and what response it calls on based on my life. To (similar to blogger Katie Gibson of Cakes, Tea and Dreams) review my reading each month (or perhaps weekly?) on my blog. And finally, the most important, To turn off the internet at 9pm.

October Means: Checklists and Salem Haunted Happenings

I didn’t realize how important this last one would be until I started trying it last week.

I have some self-control some of the time.  I don’t watch TV in the mornings, I (mostly) stick to my budget. I only drink one to two cups of (at the moment) decaf coffee a day.

However, the internet and I have had a varied and, at times, unhealthy relationship.  I first got a computer in May 2003, the summer before I went away to college.  After a brief period of summer camp I was reunited with the computer, and introduced to the DSL at college, a far cry from my parents dialup.   Prior to making many friends and in a fit of gluttony to catch up with music never listened to and ideas never encountered I spent about 4 or 5 hours a day on the internet.  This is also when I was introduced to blogging daily.  This continued through college.

Then I went through a period of life where I was in the middle of nowheres, New Zealand with limited internet access.  Coming back to the United States and reacquainted with my computer, I once again gorged on articles, magazines, fanfiction, facebook, and instant messaging.  Alas, the computer died shortly after this reawakened heavy usage.  Not having the money to buy a new computer, and telling myself I had enjoyed my time away from the internet anyway, I staved off from purchasing a new machine for 10 months.

Then I bought a Mac. (RIP Steve Jobs.) I’m somewhat (but not completely) ashamed to say that I treat this beautiful machine as nothing much more than a glorified typewriter, internet machine, and photo album.  Yet again, I rekindled my love of blogs, facebook, and discovered what Hulu had to offer.  Still, at a point of independence in my life, and with many friends, my internet usage probably topped out at 10 to 12 hours a week. Not bad, considering I was using it for TV as well. I also declared myself free of the computer on Sundays.

However, now I have a child. This child (to my chagrin) compels me to spend a great deal of my time at home, at night, with my still sleek, though somewhat stained, Macbook lying temptingly beside me. Who was Ernest Hemingway’s third wife?  And what was National Geographic’s picture of the day?  And what has The Sartorialist posted?  AHHH!! I WANT TO KNOW!

Focus.

But the problem is, I often can’t if I know I can “just look something up real quick.”  Often, that something leads to something else, and before I know it, I’ve left undone writing I wanted to do, reading I was enjoying, or left a pile of dishes in the sink.

So, I have self-control.  But not always, and not when I need it, in my quietest points of the day, which are most conducive for reflection and reading.  However, with the checklist, I shall get back on track.

This Week's Reading