Sunday, October 13, 2013

What do you use your Facebook for?

Facebook is an unequivocally annoying entry on the "kids these days" list. I hear it everywhere I go and the funniest part is that although the discussion is always about somebody's adolescent kid wanting an android, I feel guilty when they start talking about it. Facebook (or the Internet) is not as evil as some Indian aunties may want to believe. But it is true that the insidious effects of social networking have already made it into research papers in psychology journals.

I  would read these papers and articles and sometimes wonder, "Man! Why didn't they call me as a subject for one of these studies?". For once upon a time, I was also bitten by the Facebook envy bug. I wasn't going through a particularly sorted/organized/conventionally happy phase in my life. So when I saw others' lives just "working out" for them, I used to feel extremely ungrateful. And I choose that word with a lot of thought because the basic feeling that drives envy is, in my humble opinion, a lack of gratitude. Even in moments of crisis, if you just take a few minutes and think about what you have, and are grateful for, the situation seems less stressful. 

When being on Facebook started making me unhappy, my first reflex was to blame all the happy people on my timeline for their happiness (and it made my situation worse). Then I did what so many others do. I deactivated my account. That did not help because it was hard to stay in touch with people I had met during my travels. So I came back and decided to filter my friend list. That helped a lot. I was down to about 200 something friends from some 700+  I had before. I chose to delete people with whom I was sure I was never going to stay in touch on a personal level. People you meet TAing or RAing during your PhD, extended social circles focused on just one activity that you no longer are a part of, friends' friends, people who read your blog but who have never actually met you -- basically people, who, I was sure won't really miss me or get hurt. 

Then I took a good  look at what was it that was actually wrong with my life. My envy was a mirror of my own mind. And covering the mirror is not the solution. I tried to fix those issues to the best of my ability at that time. One of the tools I used was meditation. I shall be eternally grateful to the guided meditations made available by Audio Dharma. This website has helped me cope with some of the hardest transitions and times in my life. And I realized that being grateful is important to feeling hopeful or happy; and there is always something to be grateful for. Just that one practice of being actively grateful helped me reduce my habit of comparing my life with that of others.

When I realized how much stress I went through just passively looking at others' pictures and posts, I decided for myself that my FB profile is going to be something that would never lead to such comparison or stress among people on my list. It was hard to come up with rules (and it is still work in progress), that satisfy this condition. But nonetheless I came up with a few. 

1. I post things that are not too personal but inspire me (and hopefully would also inspire others) such as pictures, quotes, good music, art blogs and comics.
2. I post links to videos, newspaper articles that would help me step out of my own life and look at the big picture. 
3. I don't express my own  political views (unless something really outrageous happens) on my timeline. And I try not to read these kind of posts by others, or interact with people who regularly post this kind of content.

It has been more than a year now that I have applied these rules. And when I go through my timeline, I feel happy about my choice. It has actually helped me detach from both the happy and sad parts or my everyday life. Going through my timeline is also a source of strength now because it always takes me back to things that I enjoy reading, watching and listening to. It is like a giant wall full of inspiring stuff. A little bit like Pinterest, but more interactive. 

So, I think I use my Facebook to inspire myself. What do you use it for? :)



Abhijit Bhave said...

Well.. And i deactivated my fb post for similar reasons .. Covering up the mirror kind of stuff .. ! But yeah .. I never missed fb for any reason and never tried going back to it! But yeah .. I might have forgotten to fix my life .. ;)

Saee Keskar said...

I think it was published somewhere that women are particularly vulnerable to this kind of social comparison. Maybe that's why?

Saee Keskar said...

I think it was published somewhere that women are particularly vulnerable to this kind of social comparison. Maybe that's why?

dr kat said...

Such a wonderful post! And well-timed for me, as I am going through a similar phase. Facebook wouldn't let me deactivate though (some stupid error message!). It might be better if I take your post seriously and make changes in my life. And yes, I definitely should learn to be grateful.

P.S. I can't believe I missed your blog all this while!

Gaurav Deshpande said...

Saee, i truly feel you are one of the best exponent of a thinking person's mind churning ! well timed too ! (Did u ever follow Mark Waugh, during your stint in Aus) ;)

Meera Rao said...

Great line of thoughts - I try to do the same but find in these times of turmoil in the US i 'like' or share certain viewpoints !!! May be a misguided effort on my part to nudge towards some change ?

Saee Keskar said...

No I think the shut down is an exception. It is so surprising! That's the first thing I read about every morning. I have no clue what's happening in India!

It took me a while to figure out who Steve Waugh was. :-S
But I did not need Wikipedia. So I am not that bad I guess. I don't follow cricket anymore. It stresses me out. I tried getting used to the IPL format but it is not my cup of tea. :)

Bhagyashree Kulkarni - Karkamkar said...

I really liked this article, Saee..I debate with my mom or brother regarding the same issue, facebook being the bad thing, ajkal ke bacche etc.. I don't think its bad! and I really liked the rules that you have set for your timeline. interesting thought! I never thought of doing something like this, worth giving try though. (I really like posts/videos/comic strips that you post on your wall, btw!! :) )

Saee Keskar said...

@ Bhagyashree
Thanks a lot! :)

Anonymous said...

Very well worded.