Peopled-Out, by Facebook

Photo on 1-30-17 at 2.52 PM #2

As a mom, there is a limited amount of time I have for people outside of our four walls, but Facebook is sneaky. It makes me FEEL like I can commit fully to people both inside, and outside, of our walls. The problem is, after devouring hours of social media each week, I feel “peopled out”… and I am! I know too many details about too many people’s lives and yet I haven’t actually communed with those people. I’m updated about facts, but not connected in spirit and in truth.

And I can’t live that way anymore.

I don’t want to be so peopled-out by Facebook that I don’t have time for the real flesh and blood people God has graciously allowed to be a part of my daily life.

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In addition to the obvious people (my husband and kids), neighbors on Tuesday evening, church members on Sunday morning, and the local librarian mid-week all deserve my smiles and eye contact. In literally any other decade in human history, this would have been obvious.

Now I have to work to remind myself of it. Or else I’m so wearied by the non-stop nature of social media that I have no genuine smile, no patience, no “oomph”… nothing left to give to the flesh-and-blood person in front of my face at the library counter. Or worse, I have no energy left to share with my discouraged sister in Christ who’s trying to catch my eye on Sunday morning.

Facebook has made it *feel* as if we can be in daily relationship with hundreds, even thousands, of people. And yet, I can’t. Not really. We weren’t made for this.

And my heart/mind/soul is weary of it.

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God made me a person with specific limitations. I have a finite amount of brain space, empathy, ability to remember details about people’s lives, people I can interface with, and time to give to these things. I really can’t be everything to everyone. I can’t be everything to anyone. Only God can do that.

In truth, I am very weak.

I am a finite person with limits. I am incapable of even carrying my own problems on my own… much less all the events, details, tragedies, triumphs, and trivialities I find each time I open Facebook. I can’t even be all things for my husband and children, but at least I *know for a fact* that God has given me a responsibility to and for each of them. That is not the case for every person I happen to connect/reconnect with on social media.

So for now, until and unless I figure out a different arrangement, my current solution is: I’ve unfollowed ///everyone/// on Facebook. Literally every. One. There are no people I follow, but I am still a part of a few groups (either for my local commitments– church/city, or for learning).

This means, yes, I miss out on some stuff, or I find it out after everyone else. Or everyone assumes I know stuff that I don’t know. And I have to go on purposefully and scroll through particular people’s feeds when I want to catch up (had a baby, what’s going on lately, etc).

But I’m starting to feel the difference: my mind is getting freer.

And I’m back to being able to focus in on the daily stuff again. I just can’t manage to be everything to everyone I ever knew, AND be the wife and mom each day I am called to be.

But bit by bit, I’m taking back the time and mental space given to me by God, and choosing to invest it in the people and tasks God has most clearly put on my plate.

 

IN THE COMMENTS– what about you?

  • Have you ever felt “peopled out” by Facebook?
  • How did/do you deal with it?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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18 Responses

  1. Evie says:

    I did the same thing even though (for some reason!) I felt like it was “rude” to unfollow everyone. I echo all your observations. I just couldn’t take in EVERYTHING. I also would scroll and scroll and scroll and get so caught up in other people’s news and lives, OR I would find myself getting angry/sad/frustrated seeing certain posts or statuses or shares… I also had to fight the temptation to constantly “correct” bad theology I saw, or jump into the fray of all the online debates in the comments. I was so weighed down by all the information and everyone’s thoughts on every topic. I have 2 kids and I just don’t have the mental capacity, like you said, to live my life online. I’ve also discovered it probably isn’t profitable to read through comments on news articles or controversial articles. Seeing the wonky responses or angry remarks makes me a bit crazy. I didn’t want to completely get rid of facebook because I use messenger to chat with my mom (she doesn’t text), and my family likes to see pictures of my kids. I also like to check in on extended family or share/read articles occasionally from pages I follow. I eventually re-followed a handful of close friends or mentors that don’t post too often and that’s been okay for me. At first I told my husband “but what if I miss out on some big news or something I need to know about from a friend!!?” He said “you’ll eventually find out, hours or days at the latest, or you can ask them in person when you see them. They might even be refreshed by the fact that you don’t already know and genuinely asked them how they’re doing.” If someone comes to mind I can search their name and see their feed. But it has definitely helped my wellbeing to just “not know”. I realize we can never go back to the days when all we knew about was mostly local news, our neighbors and friends, and a long distance call to a family member. It makes me a little sad. I think we just weren’t meant to know EVERY NEWS STORY, every heinous child crime, every shooting, and every single opinion of every celebrity and each person in the Unites States and beyond. I do long for simpler days but since FB etc isn’t going away, I guess the best I can do is focus more on my own responsibilities and not feel like I have to take on the burden of hundreds of my virtual friends. I also need to limit my “checking” to a few times a day instead of craving a mental break constantly by looking if there is something (anything!) online to distract me from the work of raising kids and keeping a home.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Several of your thoughts:

      “I was so weighed down by all the information and everyone’s thoughts on every topic.”

      and

      “I think we just weren’t meant to know EVERY NEWS STORY, every heinous child crime, every shooting, and every single opinion…”

      Yes yes yes!!

      I feel very much like there is an angle of all of this that some people seem to be able to do, that I just can’t do in this *season.* But I really wonder if some of it is stuff I’m never meant to do, ya know?

      No one is meant to bear ALL the world’s ills, ALL the crises, ALL the pain… (or even… hear all the jokes, watch all the clever videos, etc.), but all of us can do what’s right in front of us. I want to look more at what’s right in front of me and less at what’s far off and (mostly) untouchable.

  2. Holly says:

    I have had this similar struggle. I decided awhile back it just wasn’t worth it. I rarely go on Facebook now, and even though I am
    not as informed as I once was about others lives, it’s ok. I treasure those few real life relationships (where you don’t need Facebook to know what is going on) so much more than I ever did, including my husband and children!

  3. Lauretta Wheaton says:

    I don’t know why it never occurred to me to unfollow people….!! Lol. I have been struggling with this very issue lately. Now i have what i think is a win-win option. I don’t have to unfriend everyone, just unfollow… I’m looking forward to having a clearer mind.😊 Thanks.

  4. Christina says:

    Amen! I did the same thing 2 years ago. I unfriended everyone- even my mom! It was wonderful but I did miss knowing what was going on in peoples lives. After a few months I slowly started to add people back on with one condition- I had to know them in person. My list of ‘friends’ is small but they are the important people in my life.

  5. Dawn Wright says:

    Sounds like a good idea. I just didn’t start facebook until my kids were older. I’m enjoying it now, along with my young adult and teen kids. I DO recommend that!

  6. Julie says:

    AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! I have so much I want and could say, but I’ll leave it with – AMEN sister for all that you said regarding FB … THOSE are the reason I NEVER signed up for Facebook. I have live people in my life that need and want my *full* attention. Yes, it’s true, I do miss out or am not informed on happenings, events, prayer requests, and random other things, however, if it is important for me to know, well, there are many other ways for folks to get in touch with me. A phone call…email, text. Better yet, God will plop it into my lap.
    I struggled with *wanting* to have a FB account especially when we were in the middle of some major issues with our son – keeping people informed especially family at a distance. I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t! So, instead I created a blog and those that want to know what’s happening with our son and want a tiny peek into our lives have to option to do so. I applaud you Jess, for “taking your life back, being able to focus on the daily stuff again, and choosing to invest in what God clearly puts on your plate.”

  7. Katie says:

    Perfect!!! I agree wholeheartedly, especially with the person who said it really isn’t good or necessary for us to know about everything from everywhere.

    I joined Facebook for the express purpose of being connected to a Bible study group that communicated plans that way, and to be part of a couple homeschool groups. Other than that, I’m very limited. Saves time and energy!!

  8. Candice says:

    I’ve been off of FB for years, and though I sometimes feel a little left out, I do not want the distraction and drama. I need all my mental bandwidth for my husband and children, and for close friends, neighbors, and church members. I’m not tempted to sign back up anymore because I hear so many negatives! I also find that I can become too weighed down by others’ problems. It’s probably best that there’s a lot I don’t know about people outside of my immediate circle.

  9. Charisa says:

    Yes! I just deactivated my FB account around the new year for this reason. I wasted time far too easily and often, and felt so weighed down by all the woes of the world and everyone I know. And you know? I feel lighter. And what I miss most is the road reports for our rural highway. How funny is that?!

    • Jess Connell says:

      “felt so weighed down”

      THIS is what I think it does to us without us realizing it. We’ve adapted to the weight, but it’s like taking a heavy backpack off. It feels funny, you kind of stumble around and have to accommodate your steps to the lack of weight, but then you realize, WOW, I didn’t realize how much this thing was affecting the way I walk.

  10. Diana says:

    I think you may have written about Facebook before, so forgive me if my comments are duplicates of something I’ve already said on a previous post!

    My biggest comment is YES, YES, YES. What you wrote is what I experienced. Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better. Facebook was just like alcohol – I craved it constantly, but whenever I got on, it was actually depressing. The extreme politics and opinions, the posts that made me lose respect for the person posting (thus harming my relationship with that person), the depressing news, the information overload. I couldn’t stop checking it, but it was dragging me down.

    I’ve been completely off of Facebook for two years now – I deactivated my account and then deleted it completely six months later. It was like an addict throwing out his drugs (hard!!!!), but so freeing. I don’t miss it, and I don’t want to go back. (Yes, I miss it, but the overwhelming sense of freedom is so much better.)

    Here are a few things I’ve noticed about being free from Facebook:

    * Yes, I miss out on good information. But it was too much anyway, and I barely used any of it because it was too much.

    * Yes, I miss out on notification of local events. But seriously? There were too many to attend anyway, and I rarely did. Nowadays I find out about local events from neighbors and my homeschool group, and that’s more than enough.

    * Yes, I miss out on news. You know, the stuff that was driving me INSANE with worry and depression. It’s wonderful.

    * Yes, I miss out on personal news. But it’s wonderful, because it causes me to actually *miss* people, and want to see them and catch up (instead of feeling like we’re in touch when we’re NOT). One friend said to me one time, “I live just a street over from so-and-so, but we never get together anymore because we see each other’s FB updates.” Not being on FB allows me enjoy catching up with people.

    * Not being on FB allows me to feel the deadness of my own relationships. FB makes dead relationships feel alive, when they’re not. When I left FB, I posted my contact info so that anyone could email me if they wanted to stay in touch. Guess how many emails I got? None! And that’s because those weren’t real relationships – they just felt real. Now I have the time and motivation to invest in real relationships instead of fake ones.

    * Being off of FB allows me oodles of extra time that aren’t being chewed up by obsessive FB checks. And my brain is free to be WITH my children instead of lost in “mentally fighting another FB debate” land. Now I’m working on drastically decreasing the rest of my internet/computer consumption time too.

    Oh, there’s so much more to say… but I won’t, because chores and breakfast-making call. :) But thank you so much for this article – I hope lots of other mamas read it and get the inspiration they may have been seeking to do something similar to what you have done.

    Have a lovely weekend!
    Diana

    • Jess Connell says:

      THIS IS BRILLIANTLY PUT:

      “FB makes dead relationships feel alive, when they’re not.”

      Yes. God has given me some FULLY-“alive” relationships that I am either too exhausted or too distracted to invest in, because of fake-alive FB relationships that are actually dead. Wonderful visual there. Thanks for chiming in with your experiences. I appreciated your entire comment; it gives me much food for thought.

    • Jess Connell says:

      This, too, is something that exactly expresses my experience:

      “the posts that made me lose respect for the person posting (thus harming my relationship with that person)”

      Prior to FB, I had no reason to know every political view, religious/convictional intricacy, or personal interaction of all of my acquaintances. Knowing these things is too much of a burden for occasional, acquaintance-type relationships. We put too much weight on a relationship that can’t bear the strain of it, and it harms the relationship.

  11. Johanna says:

    Smart. I have been feeling overwhelmed lately, so this might be something to look at. Of course, I wouldn’t have seen this post if I hadn’t been scrolling through FB… LOL.

  12. Frances says:

    Thank you for this idea–it really is an answer to prayer. I’ve been debating just deleting my FB account altogether, but I know there are family members who like seeing the occasional picture of my kids. Unfollowing is perfect.

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