Facebook is amazing on many levels. You can connect with old friends you never knew how to locate, look up an ex-girlfriend you might want to reconciliate with, find people to date from your friends’ lists of friends (not so much) and connect socially even when you’re home sick or having a lonely weekend.

 

 

A stage of sorts, Facebook is a place where you can strut your stuff when you’re in the mood, get support from people on your accomplishments, experiment with projecting how you want to be seen, test out a joke, find out you’re actually funny etc. But, like anything else- it can also create some turmoil in your emotional life depending upon what mood you’re in and how you use it.

 

 

If you’re feeling on the very vulnerable side one day or often.. or if you know you tend to be very sensitive to comparing yourself to others (or are in one of those moods) you’re best to really think about how you might be taking in some of those pictures at those times of everyone looking their best (who posts themselves looking their worst except when they’re tagged without knowing?!..).

 

 

A few things to keep in mind:

 

 

If you don’t know your particular habitual mental patterns all that well, but find that everytime you get off facebook you feel lousy or like a loser (this is not a feeling by the way!..).. start to pay attention to what your mind does and says to itself (aka your “self talk”) when you go on facebook.

 

For example- Let’s say you’re someone who tends to feel guilty when you have a lazy Sunday because you’re a bit of a perfectionist about making life fun for your kids. On a sunday when you choose to pass up on taking your kids on an outing , be aware that going on facebook that week and seeing all the pictures of your friends going iceskating and on great family adventures- will likely leave you feeling lousy afterwards.

 

 

If you start to learn more about your particular mind’s habits (eg maybe you use other people’s happy moments against yourself when you’re in a bad place or criticize yourself for not being married when you see others who look happily ever after on facebook), you can catch your patterns before you go online and be on the lookout for these tendencies and/or choose not to go on as often to minimize feeling badly.

 

 

Sometimes during a day in the life of being a human being, your friend’s exciting day may coincide with your moody day. When this happens- see if you can pause to notice more about your patterns/ see how you are processing what and who you’re reading about. Are you making yourself feel “less than”, when you see someone else posting about their burgeoning social life?

 

 

Most of your reactions to facebook (and much of life) are less about what’s posted and more about your state of mind and how you use what you read or whether you can just let it be what it is. What you do in other areas of your life- you’ll likely do with facebook if you’re unaware of ways you’re hard on yourself.

 


 

 

Mindful Facebooking (has it become a verb yet?!)

 

 

1) If you have a tendency to be overly concerned about how others see you or about being seen as a good person and making sure you are liked, facebook can be difficult for you sometimes. Comments from others can often be unclear. “How did he mean that? Is he angry? Why is my friend making fun of me on facebook?”

 

Social media sites often challenge us to find our resilience when communications are unclear (or communicate with our partners/ friends better to find out what the intention was) or work on letting things go sometimes when no harm was intended. This can be an opportunity to do some brief CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy on yourself and see “was there another possibility for why he said that? Am I only filtering it in one way..?” ( For more info about CBT read my article: see my article http://bit.ly/uVQDG1).

 

 

2) Constantly checking facebook where it’s interfering with your day or being intimate with people can be a sign you’re struggling. Yes, we all do it to some degree… we wanna know what’s going on (“out there”!), we have access more than we used to…we have it on our iphones., we’d surgically implant our iphones to our ears if it was an option…. However, checking up every few minutes on a guy you just broke up with to see if he’s posted any pictures of a new woman in his life is probably not a great way to spend your emotional time.. is harmful to you…. Don’t do it I tell ya! But if you can’t seem to help yourself as it seems many people can’t… here are some tips for you if you’re stuck in a facebook binge!

 

 

What to do? (#1 question I get from clients in therapy! #1 question most therapists avoid answering!)

 

 

 

  • Set a limit by taking a time out to Go INSIDE yourself instead of going ONLINE. It’s torturing yourself to keep checking up on someone you dated. Set aside a few minutes to reflect with compassion on some of these questions: What am I telling myself about this situation? What if he/ she DOES have a new person? What would I then conclude from that? What story would I then tell myself about that situation? What do I imagine that would mean about ME? Your checking repetitively usually will not end well. If you see a new woman/ man’s picture posted- what are you going to do with that information? Use it against yourself? Criticize that person? Make yourself feel unloved.. devalued…?
  • Ask: Am I looking to see if I’ve been replaced? (you can’t be replaced! no one is replaceable). How is this serving to distract me from my own life? What might I feel if I didn’t check?… Why am I hanging onto this person when it was me that ended this relationship- what’s that about for me?”

 

  • Explore your patterns and maybe ask yourself (politely!)- “What’s with my impulse control gone out the window since social media came around?” (this could also be the title of a high school class).. I’m sure it’s been said 1000 times —if you have to check facebook while you’re out spending some time with a friend… that’s a little addictive and it’s impacting your attention span in ways you don’t even know. Your brain is learning to interrupt itself all the time. (All that meditation work for this?!) What would Eckhart Tolle say about this?! What’s so much better over THERE? What’s so hard about being present in the moment you’re in?!

 

  • Try and take facebook with a grain of (sea) salt (which is better for you anyway!). If you’re particularly susceptible to buying the ideas some people oversell you on (or overpost) about themselves online or in person ( eg they go on about how important they are.. etc…)? see if you can notice this habit of yours. Not everyone is living the adventurous life 24 hours a day! (even if facebook says so!) . Remember when your mother said “ when people feel good about themselves, they don’t need to go on and on about how wonderful they are…” (Thanks mom. She had a lot of psychological smarts!) Don’t believe EVERYthing you read on facebook! Everything is not always as it seems…(remember Shakespeare “fair is foul and foul is fair”).

 

  • We’re human and we all make mistakes. Sometimes people use facebook to post their feelings that are easier to do indirectly and online- than expressing them directly to the people in their lives. Or they feel it will have more of an impact if stated on line or they don’t really think before they post… (it’s very tempting to have an audience). Some people air their family business or they out someone on something or say something mean about a friend on facebook (its not all that different from how people socialize). If you find yourself tempted to do this- AVERT! Try to discuss your feelings with the person you’re upset with instead… work it out…feel yourself and pause before you hit reply ( a la Anthony Weiner). No one imagines when they do it what the repercussions of a world wide audience might be…

  • Above all remember this: Facebook feeds our fantasy.. our universal wish to be perfect. Our fantasy that OTHER people “out there” have it together and we don’t… Who isn’t susceptible to thinking (or hoping of fearing) others have totally figured it out and perfected IT !! Be mindful of this fantasy that lives in the back of your mind so you’re less likely to get sucked into how perfect everyone else’s life SEEMS.

 

 

One of my former clients- (who consented to this post) struggled a lot with wanting to feel accepted by all the people in her life and became anxious when she felt people might not like her. This was a theme she came to therapy to resolve and facebook just exacerbated it, because it was yet another place where she would be having semi-social interactions with others which would trigger these fears.

 

 

She was constantly keeping track of “the bad stuff” she thought these friends were intentionally posting about her to make her feel lousy about herself and to exclude her. Her checking became an addiction.

 

 

Were the people in her life posting things on facebook to spite her? Possibly, at times. Was she overanalyzing and losing sleep over their posts? Definitely! So the issue was that her constant checking was taking away valuable time from her other life priorities and she was resenting it but unable to stop.

 

 

We did a lot of work in therapy tracing the roots of these facebook checkings, helping her face her worst fears of not being liked by these friends, using cognitive behavioral therapy to help her consider alternative possiblities for why they were posting what they posted and helping her learn to tolerate and sit with the feelings of not being liked. Then, we finally agreed on a behavioral intervention- that she should dump facebook.

 

 

She did it with a lot of struggle. It was hard initially, because the fear was “what bad things are they saying that I’m gonna miss?“ AS IF she had any control over this… as if tracking made any difference as to what they were saying. The underlying issue was tolerating the feeling of not being liked by everyone.

 

 

When she dropped facebook – she felt surprisingly free. Initially, she became anxious because suddenly she didn’t know what to do with all of her newfound free time. But over time she began to learn more about her interests as a result and eventually began to feel much more in control of her impulses. It’s been 60 days since her last facebook check!