Facebook: Why I’m back

When we change the way we communicate, we change society.” — Clay Shirky

My husband was the first to deliver the happy news: Two of our son’s best friends from high school had announced their wedding engagements on Facebook last week — within a few short days of each other. As the family reporter, I’m usually on top of these things. But because I had deactivated my Facebook account in January, I was totally out of the loop.

And I felt like one of the Flintstones. I’d been living under a rock while everyone else was throwing a big party in cyberspace without me.

Which is partly why I tip-toed back to Facebook after cruising along happily without it (most of the time) for the past four months.

Before I go on, I need to tell you that I’m not the least bit sorry for taking a break from it. My self-imposed sabbatical from social media — Facebook, especially — helped me appreciate the positive aspects of being connected 24/7 to the Big World Out There. At the same time, I thought long and hard about the difference between online friendships and 3-D friendships and how much attention I can (reasonably) give to each.

During my time away from Facebook, I missed a lot of good news from a lot of nice people. And I rediscovered how much harder it is to communicate with out-of-town friends and colleagues. Facebook makes it so much easier to share announcements of any kind in one fell swoop — writing classes; new blog posts; wedding engagements — something I had taken for granted while using it.  Though posting my updates seemed awfully impersonal at times, that was part of Facebook’s ease and charm. When I wasn’t on Facebook, I was sending more email announcements, which were probably more annoying and more invasive than status updates.

What I didn’t miss about Facebook was its dangerously addictive aspects. Once I got through the initial withdrawal period, I rediscovered luxurious bolts of time to write and sell more essays and articles. More time to meet friends for lunch. More time to catch up on the phone. More time to get my home in order. More time for long walks outside. In other words, after pulling away from the distractions of social media, I felt more focused and balanced — even in the midst of my elderly mother’s ongoing health crises.

In other words, I figured out how and where I’d been wasting all the time I thought I didn’t own anymore.

In other words, I realized I’d been abusing Facebook.

Like any tool, Facebook is incredibly handy. But there’s a right way — a respectful way — to use it. So, this time around, I am setting tighter limits. I’ll be checking in less often, and won’t be leaving as many comments as I used to. I’ll continue to exercise most of my bragging rights — and personal info — here on my blog. I plan to enjoy Facebook for what it is — and refuse to feel guilty if I can’t keep up with it daily.

All said and done, I still believe it’s essential to strike a healthy balance between the time I spend “communicating” online and the time I spend with loved ones in the real world. And yes, I remain conflicted about Facebook — and worried our culture’s obsession with social media. A recent article on Facebook in The Atlantic‘s “Culture Issue” articulates many of my concerns. How about you? How do you use Facebook?— Cindy La Ferle


17 thoughts on “Facebook: Why I’m back

  1. Yes, Cindy, it is way too easy to become addicted to social media. You are spot on that there is a right and respectful way to use it. Our challenge is to find that balance. Great post!

  2. Cindy,

    Welcome back to Facebook. I consider myself a “newbie” (under a year). I was going to be the LAST holdout then former high school classmates were steering me towards Facebook to keep in touch. I find it highly addicting. I peek in and peruse what my ‘regulars’ have posted; praying no bad news. I may comment, then again; I may not. I fully understand why you took a sabbatical. I too considered quitting Facebook; I’d miss the camaraderie. I look forward to your articles also; always thoughtful.

  3. Cindy….I, too, have mixed feelings about facebook. I have a “page” only because an out of town sister-in-law has one. In all honestly, I only check facebook when I get an e-mail update notice. I “see” much of the posting as trivial and of very little interest to me. It may be my age; however, I prefer writing and phoning my friends and family.

    • Thanks for validating, Harriet. And I do think it’s an age thing. Like you, I would rather write or phone … but like I said, I feel like Wilma Flintstone if I don’t make an attempt to keep up with FB 🙂

  4. Cindy, I severely limit my use of and time on FB. Most of my contacts, which number less than 4 dozen, are on the setting where I only see “very important” status updates. I see most updates by clicking on the little red number just to the left of the search box. I have other friends who have quit, too, and they’ve missed important family updates that I haven’t had time to email about – like my daughter passing her Boards to be a licensed family physician! I see FB as a tool to keep in touch with people closest to me and make it work in a way that suits the time I have to give to it.

  5. The good the bad and the ugly. Facebook is like most things in life – dependent upon how it is used! Thanks for sharing your thoughtful journey!

  6. Thing that I can’t handle is being invited to be friends with people whose phone numbers I don’t have and whom I never see! Yesterday I got a request from one of my daughter’s friends from college. Yeah I know the person but so what. But then I’m being rude. I go on mainly to see my daughter’s art and what my son is up to. Definitely not a FB junkie.

  7. Nice to have you back in the social swing. Balance and moderation live at the heart of and e-social life. You’ll do just fine with your new approach to being an e-social butterfly.

  8. I hear you about the addictive aspects of social media…. I have been on and off Facebook several times and finally turned it back on but only “friended” my immediate family members so I could keep up with my out of town loved ones– mostly nieces and nephews.

    And I’ve tried to pace myself with blogging too. I have been known to spend several hours at a time reading blogs and not realizing it’s already time to start making dinner…. So now I set the timer and pay attention to some of the other activities I enjoy.

    All that said… it’s still not easy to stay NOT addicted 🙂

    xo jj

    • Joanna,
      You make some very good points here. When I talk about “social media,” I mean blogging too. I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now, and while it has been a boost to my writing career in some ways, it has also been a distraction in other ways. Back in the day before blogging, the *only* way to get published was to write something and send it out into the world. I miss the discipline and the pure rhythm of that way of working. Blogging is a quick and easy way to satisfy one’s “itch” to write and publish work. 🙂

  9. Welcome back!I do enjoy it but just as something that I can play with, can’t say I’m any more regular with it than blogging :). But it’s a bit to me like reading the am newspaper, it’s a form of community update that I find compelling but at least it doesn’t clog up the kitchen table when I don’t have time to read it!

  10. I missed you during your sabbatical, Cindy. I had a similar experience when I took a break from Facebook last year. I ultimately decided I would have to exercise some discipline and honor my mantra about food and drink: everything in moderation.
    I’m awfully glad you’re back!

    • Thank you, Debra. I always think of you as a disciplined person … can’t imagine you would struggle with much of anything, my friend 🙂

  11. Hi Cindy,
    I get it now. As I wrote on FB to you, I have not been on much myself with too much life going on. Sort of off FB by default, which was just fine. However, I caught something about a friend’s father dying and how beautiful the funeral was. I was aghast that I did not know and missed the visitation, which I surely would have attended. For some strange reason, mutual friends did not see if I was going to the visitation via other mode of communication (phone, email) so we could go together because they assumed I’d seen the notice and if I couldn’t make it must have had way too much going on.
    So I hear you!

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