I got pregnant in 2009 when I was 20-years-old. I was the first person in my friend group to get married and get pregnant which made me feel a little isolated, but as soon as I shared the big news on Facebook, I became a part of a club that I never knew existed. Other acquaintances and friends of friends who were in the same stage of life would pop up across my newsfeed and I suddenly wasn’t alone in my transition to motherhood. I found community and support in those early days and it seemed like helpful advice or encouragement from other moms was just a status update away. As a stay at home mom, Facebook became pretty much my only adult interaction outside of my husband. It was a lonely couple of years for me, but I was happy to have friends, even if they were only through a phone screen.
Thankfully, I found community in real life as I got more mothering experience and grew more confident in myself. (You can read more about that journey here if you want.) Still, social media became more and more ingrained in our culture and I had a pretty loyal following of people who seemed really interested in each adorable baby photo, bump update, or self-deprecating status I would share. I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel good to have that validation. Of course I want to hear that I’m a good mom. It’s natural to desire approval from other people, especially in areas we are insecure about. If you can share a selfie and have 10 people tell you how pretty you are, you’re probably going to want to post a lot of selfies, right? That’s how I felt about sharing in my motherhood journey.
I was trying my very hardest to be an excellent mother and wife, but I felt deeply insecure about my ability and felt tremendous guilt about my perceived inadequacies.
I picked up my phone at every idle moment to see what others had to say about what I was sharing of my life. I felt convicted about how often I would check my phone for a long time, but every time I would try and set a limit for myself or unplug, it would only last a day or two tops. What started as a tool for community became a crutch for my own broken self-perception. I realized this was unhealthy way before I had the courage to do anything about it.
The past few years have been very different on Facebook.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that my generation is getting older and more opinionated or if it’s the tense culture we live in. I do know that the Facebook algorithm has changed many times and it has become incredibly skilled in targeting posts so that they get the maximum interactions because it benefits their profits. I wholeheartedly believe that is done with very little consideration for the well-being of the real humans that use it. Over the last two to three years it feels like I am shoved into conversations I can’t ignore online. I feel the need to stand up for other people and call out injustice I see online. I feel a responsibility to try and help people understand those people who are misunderstood. I love this about myself, but the algorithm was manipulating that to the point it was draining me. I had taught it what things I was passionate or knowledgeable about, and it would use that against me to keep me engaged. I realize that sounds a little loony, but it is honestly how I feel.
Last summer during the Black Lives Matter protests and the height of pandemic panic, so many people I loved and respected in real life were sharing their own passionate opinions and beliefs in unloving and loud ways. Gone were the days where I could scroll and laugh at cat pictures or congratulate friends on their latest milestones. Virtually everything that was being curated for me was emotionally heavy or controversial no matter how many people I hid or unfollowed. Online life was making me exponentially more anxious and angry than I had ever been before in my life. In January, I finally decided I had to make a change because the anger I was feeling towards real humans was not in alignment with the person I wanted to be.
I deactivated my account, and it actually was a relief.
I was a little sad to think that people would probably forget about me, but I have become a secure person and I no longer need the validation of people outside my inner circle. I was also worried about missing out on something “important” like a pregnancy announcement or someone’s big life event. It was a little embarrassing to realize that if someone really cared if I knew about them, they could easily text or call me personally to fill me in. And on the flip side, if I really wanted to know I could call or text to check in on these people. It actually has been nice to not know everything that is going on because there is more room for real conversation when I see people in person. Not every issue is an issue I need to personally take on. It feels like a 10,000 pound weight has been lifted off my chest.
I am thankful for Facebook and the community it gave me when I needed it. I am thankful for the connections I made for my businesses over the years. I am thankful for the opportunity to encourage others and be encouraged by others. There was a season when this was something I needed, but that season is over now. It’s not you, Facebook, it’s me.