Each year I receive thousands of emails from readers sharing stories with me or asking for advice, and over the years, one word has cropped up with increasing regularity – Facebook. Now to give some context here – while I do hear from people in their twenties and thirties, most of the tales of Facebook-related drama come from their forties to seventies. When parents and teens / twenty-somethings share their concerns about Facebook with me or the dramas that they’ve experienced, they’re often under the misguided impression that it’s all ‘youth related’ but actually, people who are much older are going through the same issues:

  • Treating what they view on Facebook as fact.
  • Spending exorbitant amounts of time on there.
  • Conducting entire relationships through Facebook messages.
  • Obsessing over how many likes they’ve had on a post.
  • Feeling offended that their friend’s list doesn’t like all of their posts, often because they make a point of liking everything so feel that everyone else should too.
  • Assuming that everyone else’s life is so much better and feeling inadequate.
  • Oversharing of personal information or just not knowing their own boundaries or those others.
  • Feeling tormented over their usage but not feeling that they’re ‘allowed’ to stop using it.
  • Collecting ‘friends’ and then feeling anxious about lack of actual friendship from these faux friendships.
  • Being terrified of defriending and anxiety over not being added.

Facebook is just a social networking website but in less than a decade it’s transformed the way that we interact with friends, family, coworkers and strangers, plus somewhere along the way, many of the people who are negatively affected by their usage of Facebook seem to have come up with new ‘rules’ for living their lives and almost treat Facebook like God or a superpower. In reality, it’s a website driven by all of this information we put on there as well as people’s insecurities and the natural tendency to want to peek into other people’s lives.

Unfortunately Facebook is also being treated as a comparison tool for humans – Am I good enough? Sexy enough? Posting photos that show that I have a fabulous life? Skinny enough? Doing better than _______? Getting more likes than ________?

Facebook has found a way to feed what can at times be our excessive desire for validation. When you have people feeling as if they’re losing their minds over the amount of likes they’ve had on a photo or whether a specific person did or didn’t like what was posted, something is very wrong.

I increasingly hear from people who have temporarily or even permanently deactivated their Facebook accounts because of the impact on not just their emotional and mental health, but also the way that they interact with their family and friends. When you’re having difficulty recognising the BS from reality, when each time you go on Facebook you feel worse because you’re judging you as inadequate in some way, it’s time for you to take a big step back.

Having decent self-esteem involves having healthy boundaries and a fairly good grip on reality.

When Facebook is a drainer or is affecting the way that you perceive your appearance, capabilities, or your personality / character, that’s a code red alert because it means that you’re comparing – measuring you against others for similarities and dissimilarities and then deeming you ‘not good enough’. You may have OK self-esteem in general but Facebook (or similar sites) hit you where it hurts because it’s used as a source of external esteem and when this happens too much, it’s because external esteem is becoming your self-esteem. Your self-image becomes distorted and that only leads to unhappiness especially because comparison actually depresses your confidence levels even further. There comes a point when you have to ask, Is my usage of Facebook worth it?

Stepping back and evaluating your usage is a great opportunity to get some perspective and to reconnect with who you are and the important things in your life. If Facebook is rubbing you up the wrong way, identifying where you’re judging you can provide a starting point for discovering where you need to be more self-compassionate as well as where you need to make some adjustments in real life to feel more content.

Do limit your time on there.
Don’t remain connected to people who you don’t have a genuine connection with and who sap your energy and esteem.
Try to remember that all is not what it seems on Facebook each time you judge you as ‘less than’. Sure some people look like they’re having a great time but you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, a lot of stuff is amped up to gain attention, and in the end, they’re just humans who probably have the same worries.

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