Have you deleted your Facebook account yet? Last week, with the twin debacles of Covington Catholic and the New York State abortion law, the worst of social media was on display and I was just done with it. Between the rush to judgment, then everyone fighting about the rush to judgement, then seeing people I truly like support late term abortion, it felt like the world had gone insane every time I checked my newsfeed. (Yes, I know, I’m sharing this on Facebook. So sue me for being conflicted.)
I could practically feel wrath oozing from my screen.
Social media allows us to practice internet super-highway road rage, insulated by a screen like a middle-finger-flipper in a Volvo. People quickly share things that reinforce their own views, often without a care to the effect, driving a wedge and creating Us vs. Them tribalism. I’ve even seen such vitriol on Catholic Twitter, with the “trads” swinging their metaphorical veils at the Novus Ordo crowd. Of course, I expect to feel dirty when I’ve been on Twitter. That’s what Twitter is for.
Even when Facebook is a benign place, it can sometimes be too much. Even the most well-intentioned shares and sweet memes can overwhelm. It’s like being at a cocktail party with lots of people I enjoy, who are all sharing bits of information with me. AT THE SAME TIME. (But without the cocktails.) “I support everyone fighting cancer!” “Look at this adorable baby porcupine!” “Here are some pictures from my trip to Cancun!” “I had box seats at the game!” “Urgent prayer request!” All lovely in their own right, but often a collective headache.
I do really want to hear most of this. I want to see my sorority sister’s adorable dog even if I’ll never meet him. I care that your son scored the winning run in t-ball, friends, I really do. I have some private groups that offer me real support and love, with whom I’ve shared important moments.
So I’m not giving up on Facebook just yet, it simply needs to be more intentional and less stressful. Here are my tips for taming this online beast:
Limit the news and political sites. Ideally, Facebook should be a politics-free zone populated only by cat videos and vacation photos but alas, that virtual cow has left the barn. So limit the news sites you follow to a couple of very reputable ones and resist the urge to click on Russian-troll-sponsored political content. If you just can’t help getting political, try heading over to Twitter, it’s the Wild West over there and you can vent to your hearts content.
Choose your likes and follows wisely, so that you see things that inform and uplift. I follow a number of Catholic sites, so my newsfeed is heavy with devotions, articles about the faith and other bits to bring me away from the worldly and towards the Godly. You might want to follow your sports teams–but don’t get into online fights about them. (Except if you are trashing Tom Brady. That we can all agree on.) Good on you, following those health and wellness sites! But don’t believe everything you read. I promise you, Chinese-grown GMO artichokes are not going to take over America, nor is apple cider vinegar going to cure your gout. And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t share those tidbits with me.
Marie Kondo your friends list. Take a break from those who stress you out. Like I said, even the best-intentioned posts can be too much, so if your Aunt Lisa is posting too many menopause memes, use the snooze feature to tone down your newsfeed for a month. When she pops back up, you will be refreshed and ready for her hot flash jokes again. You might even choose to unfollow some of the worst over-political and nonsense sharers—even if you really like them in the real world. You can always go to their page and look around, liking and commenting, but on your terms, at your pace.
Like it or not, Facebook is going to part of life for most of us. The key, like with any technology, is to manage it, not the other way around. And please, can we remember the immortal words of the late Rodney King—“Can’t we all just get along?”