Monday, June 17, 2013

Facebook Shame

I have spent a considerable amount of time lately 
re-evaluating my life.  I have been engaged in a lot of activities that were "must do" kinds of things, but not at all soul fulfilling.  I also realized that I have been falling prey to some not-so-nice thoughts, the sort of thing I ought to have long ago left behind.  I very much think it is due, in large part, to misplaced priorities and an encounter this weekend sort of woke me up to just how far I have strayed from what keeps me grounded and stable.  I also realized that the online world I enter every day isn't helping one little bit.

I think I am developing a case of Facebook Envy Syndrome.  It is not at all limited to Facebook, but it is a catch all that works well.  

Our culture screams at us over and over again that we need more, that we don't have enough, and what we do have is never good enough. We also find ourselves subjected to a lack of civility in our media and online encounters that is disheartening, and deeply disturbing.  It isn't getting better, it only gets worse the more we distance ourselves from one another in real life, and exist more and more in that netherworld of online encounters.  Being aware of how easy it is to get sucked in to marketing and media pressures, I realized years ago how much happier I seemed to be when I didn't hit the shopping malls regularly just to window shop.  I also realized how much less I seemed to "need" when I didn't watch commercial TV that told me over and over again that I just HAD to have some item.  So, I proceeded to cut out network TV with all its advertising, and enter shopping malls only on an "as needed basis", and it gradually made a huge difference in my perspective.  Then, along came Facebook, and its insidious effect slowly took hold.

You see, Facebook allows us to see only the best and brightest moments of someone's life.  We seldom share the day to day struggles, and it gives us a distorted view which we often use to contrast our own lives with.  I am not a jealous sort of person, and I truly don't envy anyone what they do or don't have.  I also have always considered my life pretty darned perfect in all the ways that are important.  But a gentle growing nasty little sense of discomfort has entered my life, and I am ashamed by how easily I fell for it.

A large part of my feelings of inadequacy comes from being part of the Well Trained Mind forum, a gigantic homeschool online support group where I have found some great guidance and suggestions...but where the majority of homeschoolers are academically way ahead of where we are, or where we ever will be.  These are the folks who are homeschooling to compete to get into the best colleges, who live and die by their kids' SAT scores, and where accomplishment after accomplishment is heralded.  

It is disheartening during the best of times, it is demoralizing during the worst.

There are the women accomplishing SO much with their kids, and on Facebook there are the women accomplishing SO much with their lives...degrees and business ownership, travels and success stories. There are photos of beautifully coifed women gathered with cute drinks with umbrellas raised for the camera.  There are huge backyard swimming pools and homes from House Beautiful.  There are the sweet, tender wives and moms who never fail to say the right thing, who post recipes and home design ideas, craft projects and homemade dresses for their fresh faced daughters whose hair is tied perfectly with matching ribbons.

It is a life I can't imagine, can't live up to, and don't really want. I know that.  So why is it getting to me?

Maybe because my heart is not in the right place, and needs to be readjusted.  My life doesn't look anything like that.  In fact, it doesn't look like anyone else's I know.  That can be quite awesome, actually, but it can also be a little lonely, and leave you lacking confidence.

I can't begin to explain how often lately I feel like a failure.  How I look around me and think I ought to be something other than who I am. How I wish I was a different, more polished sort of wife and mom for Dominick and the kids.  I am not that kind of person, and don't know where to begin to become one. I sometimes ask myself if I am just too lazy to do the work necessary to be "that" wife and mom.  Maybe that's the truth, I don't know.

This weekend we visited a friend in the hospital over in Denver, and it was a reminder of how to be real with one another.  It didn't matter that I was in a TShirt and Walmart jeans, and he was in a yellow hospital gown.  As I helped him snap up his sleeves and we spent time talking quietly about love, we were just two people there for each other.  It was a moment so antithetical to anything Facebook is all about.  It was raw and real, it was vulnerable and rich.

I need my life to get back to that place.  I used to live there, but lately...not so much. It hasn't all been about Facebook, there are other stressors in life that have distanced me from Spirit and Hope.  I need to stop comparing and start appreciating.  I need to stop feeling so disconnected and start reaching out.  I need to quit looking at everyone's best and realize that behind all that is just as much doubt, insecurity, fear, and concern as there is in my own life, just over different things. I need to remove myself from the anger and venom that gets spewed from opinionated and unkind rants, and offer up love and complete acceptance as often as possible without agenda and without need to confront anyone or force them to agree with me. The world needs a lot more of that.

When I start feeling this way, God always sends reminders, and it both lifts me and shames me a little at the same time.

Today Angela told me that she hopes one day she can be as strong and caring as I am.  She shared with me that she would have been afraid and uncomfortable to be with our friend alone with his fear and sorrow, and she wanted to grow up to be a person who would be able to stay beside someone and hold their hand while they cried and offer encouragement.  She said, "You are the best person I know, Mom. I don't know anyone who tries so hard to be there for people, even when it is hard because you are so busy with all of us.  You have a lot of guts, and a lot of kindness."
And I realized I am OK.

I read a Skype message Joshie left me this weekend when we missed one another, and he told me how much he loved me...more than I could love him!

And I realized I am OK.

I spent the day cleaning our office and finally emerged 3 hours later.  I looked out in the backyard this afternoon as all the boys were working hard moving a huge dirt pile while behind me Olesya is helping Dominick prepare dinner and not a complaint was heard from a single child, and I know I am blessed in a different kind of way...a way that is far more meaningful to me than all the other things combined.

And I realized I am OK.

I have known for years how dangerous it can be to keep my eyes on that which has little value, despite how our world might categorize it.  Sometimes, no matter how much we know something to be true, we slip here and there and fall back into old patterns.

The good thing is that awareness can lead to change, and now that I have caught myself I can switch gears.  After much thought, I have decided not to leave Facebook, but not to read newsfeeds often. Instead of contributing to the nastier side of online life, I will make a commitment to do my best to post uplifting comments, and I will go out of my way to use Facebook as a tool for complimenting and encouraging.  I will try to lift up the ordinary, and more often celebrate the mundane with gratitude.

I am also taking the next couple of weeks just for me.  I am going to be as removed from outer life as possible other than with Dominick and the kids, and I am going to refocus myself and dig around to find "me" again.  It's been a long while since I've seen "me".  I need to simply be for a spell.

Intentional living is hard.  Staying in that intentional place is even harder.


Anonymous said...

I had a funny case of facebook shame last week. 4 yrs ago my trusty station wagon died right after I'd adopted my youngest daughter, and I ended up buying the cheapest toyota corolla money could buy, because it was affordable and reliable. But -- it wasn't a station wagon and I really missed having all that extra space to haul stuff around. So I've saved and scrimped and finally bought the car I've been dying for - a slightly used Subaru Outback. Yay me! AWD so I feel safe, and tons of room to haul bags of mulch and other good stuff. We ran into an acquaintance a week later, driving her Honda SUV which was getting a little beat up with age. She couldn't believe we had a new car, and a nice car at that. Two days later she was posting her fabulous new Jeep on Facebook and suddenly the Outback that I had dreamed of and saved for wasn't my dream car any more. It's just ridiculous to feel that way, but it made me feel like such a loser and so competitive. I still have the Corolla (yay, my car is paid for! How many people can say that?) and I drove it for a few days last week, and realized that it really is a good little car - so economical, and with a really perky engine and the best A/C I've ever encountered in a car. And now I love my Subaru again too. It's just weird how something can completely throw you.

Elizabeth J

Dawn said...

I'm with you. Struggling to find the balance. I'm having opposite extremes of the same issue. Seeing all the "perfect" posts and feeling "less than". And seeing posts that drag me in to a web of negativity. I am seriously considering leaving FB.

Anonymous said...

I am delighted you have come back to yourself--to the you we all love. One of the things I love is your humanity. Ever tried to hug Teflon, hang on to hair spray--or to compete with perfection. I once met a spiritual author, perfect spouse, Teflon looks and had difficulty hearing what was said about writing, about spirituality, etc. I was too busy comparing myself and failing. Later that author wrote a book about her dark night of the soul and has written many books since that have meant so much to me. She no longer has Teflon armor. I still cannot relate to those I find "perfect". I guess that is something I can work on if I want something to do in my spare time, but I would rather spend it with friends who are self-aware, loving, honest--friends like you.

Loving you,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing such a real honest post. It's encouraging.

Giulia said...

You said it : comparing yourself is the problem.

We'll always see someone with better this, better that... etc...

This post speaks. I live the same with... social skills.
I always feel that I failed with social skills somewhere.

But comparing is not reserved to Facebook, or medias.
Even in real life, people compare and judge. A lot.
My stepmother did that : for her, if you struggle with social skills, you are necessarily a less-than-nothing.
She was very rude, saying that everything was due to my "bad mother" and that "another mother would not had been so bad at education".
Now that she adopted a child, who struggles with learning disabilities, reality slams on her face.
Now, she wonders why I do refuse to see her.
Now, my father wants me to forget the past and do like if nothing happened because "she didn't have any bad intentions".
I drew a line in the sand : it's too late to reunite. She failed at grasping all the chances she had.
My younger sister is on the same page : we disowned our stepmother for all her behavior of comparing and treating us like toys we exhibit and throw as soon as they are not as shiny the way they used to.
Now, stepmother has to face the consequences of her rude and judgmental behavior.
Her being jealous of not having children drove her judgmental and rude behavior. Now, she wonders why she has to bear all its consequences, why her friends left after her child struggles, why she does not get along with her adoptive son etc...
She'll have all the time to wonder. Neither my sister, nor I want to give her any chance because she had enough chances.
She threw away any bit of grace she was given.
Now, neither my sister, nor I give her any bit of grace to witness it thrown away by a rude and judgmental woman.

It's hard not comparing ourselves. It's sometimes a painful road.
But it's the only way to find some solution.