Note: This article originally appeared on Beyond the Buzz owner Lori Twichell’s personal site, www.loritwichell.com. We felt it important to share it here since so much of what we do involves social media.
So I’m starting off this article with a bit of a warning. This is my blog and these are my thoughts. You don’t have to agree and it is not my assumption that if you disagree you hate me or you want me to die. Sounds like a really dire warning doesn’t it? But these days, it is, sadly, far more relevant than outlandish.
A few years ago, I was a writer. Only a writer. Not a social media guru or marketing pro. Just made a living writing stories for the masses. At the time, I was working on a radio drama and some members of the cast (all of whom were teens and young people) were on social media and they encouraged me to join. They assured me it would be easier to get together there and have conversations than it was to follow a mass email chain. So I did it. If I recall correctly, one of the people on the staff of the show set up my account (to my specifications of course!) and voila! I was introduced to Facebook.
At first it was a weird sort of relationship. I sort of forgot it existed and really, I didn’t have a ton of friends on there yet. So I’d go in and check about once a week. That was the extent of it.
And then a couple of my friends moved away. That’s not unusual for me. My husband is former military after all. But I realized if my friends were on Facebook, I could keep in touch. I could see their kids grow up. I could be a part of their lives. And my relationship with Facebook went to the next level. We’ll say it went from randomly bumping into each other at a social gathering and waving awkwardly across the room to “Hey, want to have coffee sometime?”
From there, I found friends from high school and college and even some from elementary school. Facebook was suddenly looking not so bad! My church started getting online and that really shifted everything. Birthday parties were being planned on Facebook and Bible studies were set up via events. Suddenly my relationship with Facebook became a “Let’s do movie night together!” sort of thing.
And then I started working on Facebook and that is when things really shifted. I was (still am!) being paid to be there after all. And my favorite movies and TV shows are there and all of my friends are there too. How cool to be paid to work at a place where ALL your friends hang out and the latest happenings are going on! We were together every day all the time.
But then things moved another level in my relationship with Facebook. I was connected ALL the time. I got a phone and a tablet – both of which allowed me to be connected constantly. In the mornings, in bed at night…Facebook was always there. And I started documenting my life in order to share it with Facebook. In a huge line at a sneak preview of a movie? Oh, take a picture and show Facebook! Look at this amazing lunch -I must show Facebook! I wasn’t reaching out to my friends. I was starting to think of Facebook as another entity. And I was looking for approval. I wanted Facebook to know how cool my life was. How cool I was.
To be fair, this shift didn’t happen in a void. Facebook has also spent the last several years reaching out to me and reminding me how important I am to it. (I know how weird that sounds, but bear with me here.) I’d get emails nudging me toward sharing things. I would get notifications on my phone asking if I was okay or if I enjoyed lunch. They sound creepy, but haven’t any of you seen the “You haven’t posted in a while – we miss you” sorts of ‘nudges’ that they send? I remember being at a restaurant and getting a pop up from Facebook on my phone asking if I’d enjoyed lunch. If I did, I should share it with people and review the restaurant! Seriously?? That was when I turned off all notifications on my phone and I turned off location services. That creeped me out. A lot.
Somewhere along the line though, Facebook went from some tool that I could use to keep in touch with my friends to something that was inextricably linked to my life. I didn’t realize how much until the past few weeks.
Not long ago, a very young friend of ours had some troubles with the law. He made some stupid mistakes and got into trouble. He was a teenager. And the news covered the story. And this young man that I know and my family loves deeply was dragged through the mud by Social Justice Warriors (SJW – I know you’ve seen them). People who had never met him and knew nothing about him outside of social media were openly calling for him to be lynched. Beaten. There were calls for violence against him and horrifying things were said. I was literally sick to my stomach and had to tell his mother to stay offline. He was young, stupid, and he made a horrible mistake. But the things people were calling for? Out of hand. And I couldn’t wrap my mind around the vitriol and violence against this young man.
Since then, that vitriol and violence seems to be spilling over everywhere in comment sections of news stories. I had to stop reading. I focused only on my friends and what they have going on in their lives. I didn’t look at the Target bathroom stories or the gorilla mom. I knew what I would find and I didn’t want to wallow in that mud or fight that battle.
But then shootings in Orlando happened. I have so many friends there (and several of them gay friends that have been to Pulse) and my heart was just sick. I spent hours on Sunday clicking through every news story I could find until I got messages from all of my friends letting me know that they were okay. Then I breathed easy. Thank God my friends were okay. I used Facebook to tell them how much I love them and how deeply I care about every part of their lives.
But then the facade I’d built around my ‘friendship’ with Facebook began to chip and break away. It wasn’t just the comments anymore. It was status updates. From MY friends. People calling for justice. Angry. Screaming (on Facebook) via memes and ALL CAPS about their thoughts. And it became too much. It wasn’t just the comments. It was my whole news feed. Everyone was divided. Some friends screaming with Bible verses others screaming their hatred of Christians. It became a brawl and I didn’t want to be in the middle of it.
Oh wait – did I not mention I am a Christian? Oh. I am. I don’t see the need to scream that from the mountaintops and shout it in every update. I don’t, by any stretch hide it. Anyone who knows me understands that it is not some sideline for me. It’s part of my DNA. I do talk about it. I pray on Facebook. I post scriptures. It’s not everything I post but it’s by no means hidden either. With regard to my faith, it has always been my belief that if I am there, living my life and loving people (even through the sin, folks…seriously that’s part of it) then they will see Christ in me. I’m friends with a lot of prominent leaders in gay politics and organizations. They know I’m a Christian. I know they’re gay. We still love each other. We agree to disagree.
But this week, I saw a lot of friends talking about their hatred of Christians and how we’re all haters and how WE are the reason there are all of these problems. It wasn’t just one or two. It was a lot. (Ironically, my friends who are leaders in those gay organizations were not on that bandwagon. I did find that interesting.) I have a lot of questions, thoughts and opinions on that aspect of things. Everyone screaming “stop the hate” and “hate kills” but it’s okay to turn that hatred on me? And many of those friends say “I mean ALL Christians Lori. Not you specifically.” But I AM a Christian. That IS me. It’s not okay to throw a label on “all gays” or “all races” or all….anything. But it’s okay to say those things about all Christians? I’m a little stunned at that. And it hurts. A lot. These are people I feel I’ve loved deeply and faithfully and well and they are now screaming that Christians need to be dragged through the streets. It hurts me personally. You can message “I didn’t mean you Lori” but….how does that work? Again, I’m working on sorting through my feelings of all of that. It’s a bunny trail. Sorry. Back to the actual topic.
That isn’t Facebook’s fault, really. I know that. But being so connected on every level to every story EVERYWHERE and being able to get involved in ALL of it – I think that’s becoming a dangerous place for society. Years ago, we only had news on at 6:00 and 11:00. Breaking news came into the day and it was only the major headlines so we all knew what’s happening in the world. There wasn’t a 24 hour a day 7 day a week void that needs to be filled constantly so that the smallest thing happening in another state or another city became breaking news. “Woman yelled at for breastfeeding.” “Man charged for taking water from hot springs in Yellowstone.” “Pet left in car in heat.” Those didn’t used to be things that would illicit death threats. And yet now they are. Every day. The smallest thing trends on Facebook and EVERYONE has a right to comment. This can be a great and powerful thing. Some things can’t be hidden now. What if the Nazi regime had happened during the time of social media and the internet? Would it have gone on so long? I’d like to say no. But I have a friend fighting sex trafficking and rescuing girls and boys EVERY DAY and she’s constantly trying to get the message over the ‘noise’ of what so and so wore out on a date the other night or who tweeted something stupid. So maybe it still would have. It’s hard to say.
Beyond all of that, I realized how much I had invited Facebook into my life. How much time I spent there. How much I shared there. And I’m uncomfortable with it at this point. I gave Facebook a full and free pass to me, my kids, my schooling, my meals, our vacations… Facebook isn’t someone in my life. It’s a TOOL to keep in touch with the someones in my life. And I want that. But I really need to step back and see how much access I want Facebook to have to my world. Every update I give, they have on record and keep it. Every picture. Every quote. Every meme. Facebook has my life in their servers. And I think I forgot that for a while. I began to really see Facebook as someone I needed to keep updated about every little thing. But when I stop to think that some random stranger at FB HQ could pull up everything I have ever said and paint their own picture about me, it scared me a bit.
More than that, what am I teaching my kids about what’s okay to share and what isn’t? In working on the film Caged No More, I talked daily with parents who had no idea what their kids were sharing on Facebook. Class schedules, addresses, meet ups at locations….when it’s on Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram) I don’t care how locked down you are, it’s NATIONAL. INTERNATIONAL. Hackers from anywhere can get that. And you might think that’s over-blowing things. Look at it this way, if my daughter posts something, she can have it totally locked down but her friends can lift it. Oh what? She has it privacy locked? Only her friends can see it? But if a friend really wants to, they can copy/paste it. Put her name on it. And then she is out there whether she wants to be or not. That’s happened to both her and I. I don’t know if people stop and think about that part of things enough.
I’m not leaving Facebook. We aren’t completely breaking up. I still work there. Whether I like it or not, I own several businesses and have a public persona to maintain on the site in order to keep working in my industry. I still visit there regularly to see what my friends and loved ones are up to. And I’ll update it with the things that I feel like my friends need to know. Facebook is not going be another person in my house and I’m hopefully going to keep it where it belongs. As a tool. I just don’t want to live there anymore.
Lori Twichell is the owner of Beyond the Buzz Marketing, Radiant Lit, and Fiction Addict. She is a screenwriter, speaker, and business consultant.