Thursday, December 8, 2011

Media Commentary: Fickle Facebook

by Kati Smith

[photo credit]

Recently one of my male Facebook friends updated his status to read: “Two things I don't get about girls and social media: 1. Pinterest. 2. Why girls constantly, temporarily delete their Facebook.”

While I don’t understand boys not appreciating the magical world of Pinterest, I couldn’t help but laugh at his recognition of the fickleness of girls and their Facebook pages. I’d venture to say it was a pretty keen observation on his part—we all have regularly disappearing girlfriends, right?

So what is it about fickle females and Facebook?

I posed the question on my own Facebook page and asked some ladies who’ve erased themselves a time or two from the social media scene to weigh in on the motivation behind it. The responses were both interesting and heartbreaking, and there seemed to be two key underlying factors: The desire (and need) to be engaged in real life, and the realization of the vulnerability of putting your life on the internet.

The first—desiring and needing to engage in real life, sans computer screen—is an issue of practicality for the most part. One young girl commented that she occasionally deactivates her Facebook when she’s facing finals week or has a big project to do. Another college-aged girl commented that she sometimes just wants to actually get out and live life instead of constantly telling others what she’s doing.

With the average person spending 12.5 hours per month on Facebook*—a rather conservative estimate, in my opinion—there’s a certain realization that much else could be accomplished in that same amount of time. It begs the question: Exactly what other things in our life do we consistently devote at least 25 minutes a day to doing, every single day of the month?

The internet is both a great wealth of information and knowledge at our fingertips, and a time-wasting trap that can keep us from being our most productive self or from really investing in real life. Social media takes it to new extremes by both connecting us to other people we might have never known otherwise, yet fostering sometimes shallow relationships with acquaintances and even strangers.

There is truth to the idea that the internet is simultaneously connecting us and driving us further apart. Through Facebook I might connect with 20 “friends”—a.k.a. casual acquaintances—per week, but what would my relationships be like if I spent that same 2.9 hours in face-to-face conversations with friends over coffee? Or what if I spent those same 2.9 hours each week volunteering at my church and really investing in community?

Like almost anything, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. For many girls, it’s just easier to quit Facebook, even if only for a while, to regain some balance in life or finally write that long paper that’s due next week.

The second underlying issue—realizing the vulnerable position you put yourself in when your life is on display—is entirely more devastating.

Recently one of my friends entered into a particularly painful season of her life. Shortly after much of it began surfacing, she disappeared from the Facebook scene. She later re-emerged under a fake name so she could be friends with a select few. When I posed the question about Facebook, she sent me a message with some sobering words. Here’s a snippet:

I found that Facebook became a window for the people in my life who I thought were my friends and support system, to gawk at the car-accident my life was becoming. They would peer in, occasionally make a small comment, but they were lurking to get info that they could manipulate and construe for their rumor mill.
In her case, I can absolutely attest to the truth in her words. I’m even willing to step out and admit that I have used social media in the same way—when you hear a rumor about someone, it’s easy to find their page and get some or all of the details. Putting details of your life on a social site is inviting all of your “friends” in, and depending on your use of privacy settings, it sometimes goes beyond that.

I’m sure we’ve all had those awful Facebook moments—the times when we’ve had to let everyone read that we’re “no longer in a relationship” or see the bad photo we we’re tagged in. I’ve learned on Facebook that I wasn’t invited to a party all of my friends were going to, and even that someone said something mean about me. I’ve found out friends were pregnant or up to no good, that divorces were happening, and the list goes on and on.

My point is that when we put it on the Internet, it can go anywhere. More and more girls are realizing that sometimes it comes with hurt or embarrassment and, worst of all, it’s a gas to the gossip flame.

The best way we can approach Facebook is to remember to limit our time spent and our information shared, and always consider others first. Don’t spend too much time staring at your screen. Call a friend and meet for coffee in person, or pick up the phone and call. Limit the information you put out there—your casual acquaintances don’t need to know all of your business. And most importantly, take great care in not using and abusing social media to get the latest dirt and to spread gossip. Remember there are real girls behind every polished profile picture—be kind.

*Data gathered from this article.

What are your thoughts on this? What's your approach with Facebook and other social networking sites?


  1. Kati,

    This is such a great post. So right on. You nailed it. I laughed when I first read it because as of yesterday I have disappeared off the Facebook scene:

    1) To limit my distractions as I work online from my home office.
    2) To engage in real life & spend time where it really counts.

    It breaks my heart to hear stories of girl who have been hurt by things that have been said about them online. And it's tragic so many of us (especially tween and high school girls) are wasting hours of their lives hiding behind a computer screen and not engaging in real, authentic relationships.

    This post was so needed - thank you!

    And yes, girls, let's "be kind" and remember there are real girls hiding behind every polished profile picture."


  2. I agree with both Kati and Allie! Loved the post and agree on the insight :)


  3. This is an incredibly insightful post! My friends and I have been discussing this, too. Remember before Facebook, when you only shared your photos with close friends, sitting on a couch with coffee and a scrapbook? Now anybody can click through your memories, quickly, passively, without you there to share your personal comments. It's a strange network that is subtly destroying the mysterious, delightful process of getting to know another human being.

  4. Great post!

    I especially love this: "The best way we can approach Facebook is to remember to limit our time spent and our information shared, and always consider others first."

    Such a good reminder for all of us.

  5. Great post! I too just deleted my Facebook a couple of days ago because it is entering into finals week, and I suddenly realized I was spending unbelievable amounts of time on it. What makes me even more sad is that now without it I feel like part of my life is makes me feel incredibly out of touch with reality. However I just keep telling myself that if someone needs to contact me they will do so. I had the full intention of reinstating my Facebook after Christmas, however I firmly agree with all you have said about it and it reminds me of how much evil can be done through Facebook. I just really dislike the fact that you can "stalk" people whom you don't even know and learn so much about them. I will be rethinking my decision come time, and praying that the Lord will lead me to His will in this matter. Thanks for the wonderful insight!

  6. You're amazing, Kati girl. WOW! This was a fantastic article.... "a gas to gossip flame" LOVE THAT.
    I, too, use facebook for bad not good at times. It's so easy to hear something about someone and jump on the book (you're welcome) and scan their lives.
    A funny version of that is my now mother in law searching facebook for a "Sara that does photography" when her son told her we were going on a first date! :)

    You have a beautiful gift of writing and an abundantly beautiful heart. I just love for it.

  7. This was RIGHT ON! I had to share it :)

  8. @Malaika, thanks for passing it on!

    @Bianca - don't we owe you credit for introducing us to Kati? I think so!

    Great post Kati. So insightful.

  9. Beautifully written and a great insight. God continue to use you for His Glory. :)

  10. This post was right on time for me! I recently deleted 670 friends from my facebook (I had 700). The only people who can view my pictures and see my posts now are family and very close friends. I would have deleted my page completely but I have a business page and it wouldn't allow me to delete my account and keep my business page. :(

    I made a personal decision to start spending more time focusing on things that are most important and less time checking up on what everyone else is doing on Facebook. I've wasted so many useless hours on FB and I'm really excited about not being so visible and connecting with people I care about in person, or via phone call. :)

    I'll be sharing this post for sure!

  11. Myisha--I love the idea of having a small network on your personal page, and a wider network for your business. Just might have to try that!

  12. What it boils down to is being responsible. Responsible with your time, responsible with your information, and responsible with your comments.

    As a grown, born in the 1960's kind of a gal, who is educated, vey capable, and a mother (just to name a few), I cannot imagine tweens, teens, and young college-aged girls having the skills to cope with the brutality and hate that can permeate social media. Life is hard enough without intentional sabotage by people "requesting your friendship."

    Kati, I applaud you for blogging this topic. Well written, insightful, and thought provoking.


Thanks for being kind and considerate in your comments! We are so grateful to have you be a part of our community!

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