I have been thinking about my relationship with Facebook. Is it healthy? Is it co-dependent? Is it obsessive? How does it relate to my sense of contribution? Sometimes I feel that I may have done my daily citizenship by posting lots of feel good articles, quotations and words of wisdom on Facebook. Signing some petitions. Surely that is not enough. Surely that is too easy. Would I be more inclined to be out in the world, actually doing it, if it wasn’t so easy to click a button? Would I be more compelled to take physical, rather than virtual action, if Facebook was not so handy. Or does one lead to the other…
There is no doubt I have made many important and treasured connections on Facebook. I have found spiritual soul mates, not least being my future husband, who I reconnected with after many years. I found spiritual union here with many diverse people and groups. I have bared my soul and received sustenance, guidance and immeasurable support here. At the click of a button, I can pour my heart out and share my pain in one of my private groups and there is always someone online to empathize, to guide, to help and inspire, I am also that person to others.
I joined Facebook in 2007. It was the entry into another universe. I wonder what I used to do without it. At the time I was living alone as a single mum. I was often lonely and craving adult company in the evenings and Facebook provided an outlet for all kinds of social and intellectual interaction. One of my first observations was, how alike we all are. I was very involved in the acting scene in Belfast at that point, a friendly, if uneasy scene. I was never sure if I was in it, on the fringes of it, if I was at the right parties, if I was being loved one minute and stabbed in the back the next. As I became friends with a lot of fellow actors and actresses who I only knew socially, I was given snap shots of their family lives, of their dinner, of upset and disappointments as well as triumphs and success. I found it to be a great leveler and I felt compassion for people I had only vaguely known before, maybe even disliked.
When I look back at my posts from those years, 2007, 8, 9, as you can now with the new timeline feature, there is a very significant and distinctive difference in my attitudes and my projections into the world. Who I was being. Who I was back then, is different from who I am now. Facebook gives us a unique insight into our past. Back then there was plenty of drama in my life and I liked to share it on Facebook. My status updates were expulsions of frustration and emotions,they were very ego based. I look at them now and cringe, but I gotta love the person I was then and the timeline feature, with all the photos that accompany my journey, its embarrassingly and beautifully descriptive.
My attitude to Facebook/twitter and the internet in general, changed when I watched a video on the evolution of humanity towards an Empathic Civilization. This video is the subject of another blog. The video pointed out that the emergence of the internet has made the world smaller and the information highway is serving us, as we can reach out and offer support, we can hear of natural disasters and government over throws, injustices and threats to humanity, almost instantly. It used the example of the earthquake in Haiti and how within seconds a tweet generated a huge swell of support and aid that would have been inconceivable before. An example closer to home for me is the peace movement generated on Facebook, which is a response to serious sectarian unrest here in Belfast. Twice now, over 1000 people have gathered at the city hall in a stand for peace, and this has come through Facebook.
Facebook and social media play a crucial role in today’s world. It amazes me when friends say they do not wish to be on it, as they feel it has too much ‘drama’, too much ‘ego.’ My response – you are not using it to reflect your higher good. Like anything else in life, Facebook is merely a tool. I use it to spread love and inspiration and increasingly I am compelled to use it to discuss and react to social injustice. My news feed is full of light and inspiration. Facebook is a mirror and what you give is what you get.
However, and returning to my opening point – after the initial romance, how is my relationship with Facebook doing now? With the internet in general? With instant messaging, text messages, Skype, the whole thing.
One of my guides and teachers, Mastin Kipp, recently wrote a blog: http://thedailylove.com/why-im-taking-a-social-media-break/ which very clearly articulated some of my feelings – the constant pull of the internet, the never ending emails to read, the sometimes invasive IM that can pop up on your phone and computer at all times of the day and night. And the feeling of needing to respond instantly. Especially with the new Facebook marker which tells us the instant someone has read our message! Talk about pressure to respond, and a feeling of utter rejection if you see your message has indeed been ‘seen at 13.27pm’ and 2 weeks later, the recipient still hasn’t bothered to answer! This can become stressful and emotionally and mentally exhausting, if we don’t exercise self discipline and set clear boundaries for ourselves and others. My fiance and I talk on Facebook all day sometimes. The fact that we are living thousands of miles apart at the moment seems to justify this, and we love to keep up with each others lives on an almost moment by moment basis. We are both in positions where the internet and Facebook is available to us almost 24/7, when I am not at my lap top, I have it on my phone. I have found myself texting while trying to walk in the ice, while at the movies, while at a restaurant. Unable to stop the compulsive need to respond and to interact with my long distance love. Sometimes we have found ourselves knee deep in extremely difficult and important conversations in this manner, at times that may be inconvenient to both of us. The management of a relationship via cyber space is the subject matter for another blog, but the instant and continuous availability of communication, is not always a good thing.
Also, for the teenagers Facebook can be a house of pain, of stalking, bullying and self-esteem and confidence raisers or downers. I am always shocked and appalled to see the majority of teenage girls feel the need to pose like pre pubescent porn stars in their profile pictures and most of their interaction seems to be based on asking why other people like them. This kind of posturing and ego boosting seems to be out of alignment with the message of self love and resilience we want to give to our kids. Lots of these burgeoning men and women are taking their laptops and phones to bed with them and remaining in social and not always healthy interaction until the wee hours of the morning, and if something goes wrong, they have to face the fall out in school the next day. How can they get the rest they need?
Facebook can be used for supreme good, and for not so good purposes. It reflects humanity in all its shades and colors. You can mold it to reflect your very highest interests and to be of service to the word and universe. But you need to draw your own boundaries. I am thinking of having a tech free day twice a week. And I am definitely becoming increasingly and purposefully mindful of remaining PRESENT to the place I am and the company I am in, regardless of who is trying to contact me on Facebook. I can choose when to interact, when to chat, when to write, when to respond. It may take me seconds or it may take me a few days, but I will respond. Remain present folks, take time out from the whirl of social and business networking. Choose your relationships wisely, both on and offline. Breathe. Love.
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Dr. Ellen Anne Burns is an actress, writer, mother, teacher, and student, not necessarily in that order. She was brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is a Doctor of Applied Theatre. She believes in a holistic spiritual practice, involving meditation, self love and discovery, learning and practicing forgiveness, gratitude and love every day. Ellen wishes to support and guide others on their own journey of self and love. She is a mentor on Gabrielle Bernstein’s-HerFuture.com and is thrilled to be one of the founding members of The Daily Sisterhood Blog. If you wish to contact Ellen please message her here, and she will respond as soon as she can.