How I Made Facebook Stop Hurting My Heart

In the Beginning, Facebook was for friends. It was a safe place for putting it all out there without having to drive to your friend’s house at three in the morning. Parties lasted for weeks after they were over through the pictures that were posted and the comments that were made. Dating was sweeter, friendship was deeper, and skipping class was an organized crime. Facebook was GOOD.

Then one day, suddenly, Facebook exploded. With no warning, all of your stuff was suddenly visible to your mother, your boss, and your girlfriend’s dad. Those pictures of you at the local diner with straws hanging out your nose were no longer hilarious — they were mortifying. The sweet, romantic pictures of you and your girlfriend snuggling in the backseat of your best friend’s dad’s convertible on the way to the beach — well, let’s just say one dad raging about his precious baby is bad enough; you were *positive* your friend got permission to take the car out!

It took no time at all for Facebook to become very, very BAD.

The good news is, it *can* be good again. And I’m going (to attempt) to show you how.

This blog entry had a bazillionty different titles before I started. Why I Hate Facebook; How Facebook Hurts; The Evils Of Facebook; Why Facebook Is Bad For Your Heart (The Metaphorical One, Not The Physical One). I actually really liked that last one but it was too long and, quite frankly, it was beside the point. Because we all hate Facebook, we all know how Facebook hurts, EVERYONE agrees that Facebook is evil, and if you sat and thought about it for long enough, you could come to your very own conclusions as to why Facebook is bad for your heart. The point REALLY is: How To Make It Stop. And since my methods might not work for everyone, I picked the title How *I* Made It Stop. (That’s a paraphrase really. If you’ve gotten this far, you already know what the title is.)

I’m not going to bother giving the whole backstory of when I realized Facebook was making me miserable or how long I vacillated between posting too much on Facebook and disappearing from it for days. It’s likely so close to your own story, telling my version of it would just take up unnecessary amounts of time. We’ve both done enough unnecessary time-wasting on Facebook so let’s try to avoid that here.

What follows are the steps that I personally took to make Facebook work for me without having to delete my account and sever all connections to the online world (which I actually tried once. And it sort of worked, except for the part that I no longer knew ANYTHING that was happening in my friends’ lives. This is a separate problem with Facebook that I’ll maybe address at a later time).

Step 1: Open your newsfeed. Start reading.

Step 2: Unsubscribe* from every person whose posts make your stomach feel wonky. (Or your heart).

Step 3: Next, go to your subscriptions list (click your own name to go to your own profile and then click on the link ‘Subscriptions’ right under your profile picture).

Step 4: Unsubscribe** from every person on the list who makes your stomach or your heart feel wonky.

Step 5: Go to https://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists. Click on the button in the upper right-hand corner that says ‘+ Create List’.

Step 6: Name your list something that communicates to you that these people are safe, they love you, and you want to share your life with them. You could try something like “People Who Love Me” or “Teddy Bear Therapy”. ;)

Step 7: This step is the most important because it’s the hardest one to do. Are you ready? Only add people to this list that don’t make your stomach or your heart feel wonky!!! It will be hard, at first, to figure out who these people are. You’ll add a bunch and then change your mind and take some off. You’ll skip some and then go back to add them. Here’s my advice: If your finger doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY start clicking on a person before your brain even registers what’s happening, they should not be on your list. In other words, if you have to think about it, you probably shouldn’t.

Step 8: Promise yourself that for one week, you won’t post ANY pictures or status updates to ANY LIST except this one list***. After one week is over, you may realize you never want to post anything to your entire friends list ever again. Or, if you’re like me, you may decide that you don’t mind sharing something “publicly” every so often but the majority of your stuff will go to The One List (to rule them all…*giggle*).

Step 9: At the end of one week, evaluate how you feel about Facebook. You *should* feel better. If there’s still wonkiness, you either need to unsubscribe from some more people or you need to take some folks off of your One List.

Now, this is by no means a one-size-fits-all program. (*snicker* Program. Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that sound so official?? *cough* Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away. The giddiness that comes from freeing yourself up can make you act a little funny.) So here are some things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this 9-step Program. (*grin*)

  • Unsubscribing from people can be just as hard as picking folks for your One List. Keep in mind that you can visit their profile anytime to see what they’ve been up to. If they have ever posted anything at all that made you feel wonky, you NEED TO UNSUBSCRIBE in order to experience the full benefit of Facebook For Friends Only. (Yes, I just came up with that name. I think it’s perfect. FFFO for short.) The advantage to forcing yourself to visit their profile in order to see what they’ve been up to is that you’re never subjected to their posts when your stomach is already feeling wonky. You have 100% control over your exposure to them. This is healthy!
  • Sometimes, I have to temporarily unsubscribe from someone. Maybe they’re posting too much about politics or they’re just being plain negative. Do what you need to do (privately, without making people feel lousy) in order to make your Facebook as edifying as possible. Don’t feel bad if you’re one of my best friends and you have to unsubscribe from ME for a little while! Just don’t tell me that you had to. ;)
  • Facebook SHOULD be for friends only, but it has turned into a giant networking scheme. You can actually use this to your advantage by segregating your posts so that professional connections see things that friend connections don’t see and vice versa. You can post pictures of straws up your nose and have it be hilarious again. You can post pictures of yourself in the awful sweater Aunt Martha sent you for Christmas that only SHE can see (and she doesn’t have to know she’s the only one who can see it)! There’s actually a lot of power hidden in Facebook’s unfriendly labyrinth-like interface; you just have to know where to look. I’m happy to help anyone who asks.
  • There are a million and one reasons why Facebook might be making you feel overwhelmed or depressed. This 9-step program does NOT cover all of them. It might be as simple as: You need to spend less time on Facebook and more time in real-life connections. Schedule some coffee dates. Set a timer when you get on Facebook. Make Friday “Facebook All Day” day and ignore it the rest of the week. Somehow, set boundaries for yourself so you’re not baring the neck of your life to Facebook’s vampire-like effects.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, Facebook is not for everyone. It’s OKAY to just leave it behind. Much like alcohol, it affects everyone differently. Some people get addicted, some people get sick, some people have a grand old time. If you’re not having a grand old time, try to figure out the reasons why and then address those reasons. (i.e. Moderation, filtration, etceteration)

Please feel free to share your own Facebook experiences in the comments. There are a lot of people out there who need to know they’re not the only ones. I realized several weeks ago that I was not the only one experiencing The Wonky Phenomenon when a friend posted to Facebook in a rare honest and heart-wrenching moment that Facebook makes her feel lonely. I really can’t put into words just how refreshing her confession was. And it was STUNNING how many people piped up and shared that they felt the exact same way!

It’s possible that you haven’t experienced any wonkiness ever, because of Facebook. If that’s the case, that’s WONDERFUL — and you are in the minority. So I would just ask you to please be careful how you post to Facebook. It’s true that you have a right to post whatever you want; since Facebook’s implementation of the nifty Unsubscribe feature, you have even more freedom to post whatever you want because hey, people can unsubscribe if they don’t like it, right? Right. Nevertheless, try to be nice. If you find yourself posting something and secretly hoping it makes someone jealous, you shouldn’t post it. If you’re upset with someone on your friends list, that status update box is NOT where it should get worked out. And the fact that you hardly ever look good in pictures does not give you the right to post the one good picture of you that also happens to make your best friend look fat.

Facebook is for friends. BE a friend. Don’t be mean. Don’t be spiteful. Don’t use it to spread your favorite flavor of propaganda. Use it to build friendships. Use it to make meaningful, healthy connections. You’ll find that life gets a lot more fulfilling when it’s not all about you and your latest Facebook post. ;)

Disclaimer: This post was not written about a certain person. It was not written TO a certain person. I can honestly say that the only people who came to mind when writing this post were the two people I mentioned. So if you’re afraid that I’m “secretly” condemning the way you use Facebook, I’m not. If you think I’m trying to find a catty way to let you know that I unsubscribed from you on Facebook, I’m not (and I probably didn’t). This post was inspired by people who have been hurt by Facebook (including myself) and it’s largely written FOR the people who have been hurt by Facebook. So if you’re feeling lousy about yourself, STOP. You’re the only one who knows your heart when you use Facebook so if you’re feeling condemned, you’re either hearing your own heart or you’re being paranoid. There’s an easy solution to both problems. ;)

* You unsubscribe from people in your newsfeed by hovering on their name and waiting for the pop-up menu to load. Then hover over the Subscribed button and scroll all the way down to “Unsubscribe”.
** You unsubscribe from people in your Subscriptions by hovering over the “Subscribed” button and scrolling all the way to the bottom for “Unsubscribe”.
*** There’s a drop-down area next to the POST button that lets you choose who can see the update. This is where you’d select your one list.

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10 thoughts on “How I Made Facebook Stop Hurting My Heart

  1. This is my method exactly. After my group of (what I thought was) close friends started hanging without inviting me and posting pics/place updates/statuses about how much fun they’re having without me, I got super depressed and deleted everyone. I dropped from hundreds of friends to 50– mostly irritating family members who would never let me hear the end of erasing them.

    Gradually, I devised this same method and generally, Facebook is a happy place. Well, maybe more than that, I just don’t care as much. My real friends and real life are way more satisfying than anything that happen within the confines of a social networking site. I’m good with that. :)

    • It’s amazing what a difference it makes!! I used to avoid Facebook like the plague until I stopped feeling lousy and then go on a two- or three-day posting/reading spree until I felt lousy again. Rinse and repeat. I think Facebook is even a good example of the REAL LIFE editing we have to do sometimes, to surround ourselves with edifying people in order to be equipped to help the needy people in our lives…

  2. Fae, I just wanted to say that you write so beautifully, I hardly ever post on my normal wall outside the gaming group, so I don’t feel the way Facebook can make your heart hurt, but the way you phrased this really spoke to me. Beautifully put!

  3. SUCH a good blog. You are such a good writer **swoons** :) I agree whole heartedly…I too went from over 400 “friends” down to 60 something. Somehow the number is creeping back up, but I now have lists and blocks and unsubscribeeees. ;)

    ….so are you saying I should go ahead and post my pic of me with straws up my nose???? :D

    i DOOO have a question though. One day I wanted to ask my fb peeps on my status about any gluten free recipes (before I was into pinterest) and it was a recipe FOR my sister in law. So I “custom” blocked her from seeing what i THOUGHT was just that one status. Turns out it blocks her now from all my status updates which I didn’t want to do. ….so now if i think about it and it’s something i wouldn’t mind her seeing, I have to go and custom “allow” or whatever her to see my status…but it doesn’t stick…it’s just for that one. So now i’ve gone and accidently blocked her from seeing any of my posts and I don’t know how to undo it. :( which makes me sad because if she ever noticed (which she may not and may not even care) but if she DID, i’d feel really badly because It all started so innocently. GRR. anywho.

    la la la <3 love you.

  4. yes, very well-written post! with sound advice too.

    i’ve struggled for a long time with the question of: how should i partition my (online) life? should i segregate co-workers from family from friends from acquaintances? or should i just let myself be me in all circles and not worry about others’ perceptions of me?

    i still haven’t settled on an answer, but have recently decided to make use of facebook’s close friends and acquaintances lists (and the restricted one for extreme cases). in a similar fashion to how you described, i went through my “friends” and tried to be honest about who was a close friend, who was a casual friend, and who wasn’t really a friend at all, but merely an acquaintance. i then locked down my privacy settings so acquaintances saw next to nothing about me or my posts, friends saw a decent majority, and close friends saw more privacy-sensitive things (like location, religious/political beliefs, etc).

    i’m still tweaking it, but i feel good about how it’s shaping up.

    i really like your suggestion of unsubscribing from people who post things that make you feel “wonky”. the idea of “cleansing” your social networking experience is a good idea, especially without drawing attention to it and making people feel crappy, as you said.

    i’ve also felt the cold, lonely hand of facebook touch my heart from time-to-time. “hm, i have ’20’ friends online, but no one is talking to me.” that kind of thing.

    it really does come down to sifting out your network and focusing your energy on people that you have, or are building, healthy and meaningful relationships with. we weren’t designed to have zero meaningful relationships, and we weren’t designed to have 547.

    i don’t necessarily agree with the straws up your nose thing. it’s a matter of personal preference, but it ties into my internal debate about what to compartmentalize, and what not to. if i’m segregating my behavior in one place or with one group over another, i feel like i’m living a separate life. so what if i put straws up my nose? if my boss is too snooty and rigid to recognize that people have fun in different ways, and that it’s the context that matters (straws up my nose while out with friends, vs out with a client), then too bad for him. it makes me feel “wonky” (lol) to base my decisions on how other people perceive me. this area, though, is still up for debate. just throwing out my current two cents. :-)

    i think there are at least three levels that your blog and my comments are touching on:
    1. restricting sensitive/private/personal information (address, phone number, family-/close-friend-only content)
    2. filtering content/people who are, or who tend to be, “bad for the heart”
    3. potentially embarrassing, group/context-specific content

    #1 is important to address in a world full of crime and evil, and is just an unfortunate reality. i.e. not a good idea to have all of your personally identifiable information plastered on a billboard in time square.

    #2 is important for different reasons… i like your use of the word “edifying”.

    #3 is down to personal taste, but my current feeling on it is, i don’t want to have to pour energy into compartmentalizing my outward expressions/appearance based on how others will perceive me. if i’m doing/saying/posting something i don’t want a particular group of people to see, is it because i’m insecure? or is it because i’m doing/saying/posting something i really shouldn’t be doing/saying/posting? :-P

    gotta run. again, great post!! excellent food for thought, and for the record, i’m glad you’re back on facebook. :-)

    love,
    -SIJ

    • The straws up the nose thing is really to communicate the difference between people you feel comfortable being yourself around and people you don’t. When Facebook is used for networking, there are *going* to be people you don’t want to expose all aspects of yourself to. It’s not so much about “how you’re perceived” as it is about “who do you want to share your inner, vulnerable self with”? Straws up the nose was just my metaphor for vulnerability because I *won’t* act that way around just anyone. :D

      You have some great thoughts and I’m posting at least one of them to Facebook. So…you’re SURE you’re glad I’m back on Facebook?? ;) Love you.

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