Let me start by asking you one simple question. How much time do you spend on Facebook each day?
Please take a moment to think about it. Write down the amount of time you spend each day on Facebook and then multiply that amount by the days of the week that you're using this social medium. So now, what is the total amount of time you're on Facebook each week?
To be honest, the actual amount of time doesn't really matter to me. I just wanted you to think about how much time you're spending on Facebook and whether you believe it's an appropriate amount of time and a good use of your time.
It seems that everywhere I go these days people are on Facebook. And it doesn’t matter which country, what time of day, or whether people are at work or at home. I had a very strange experience of what I sometimes call the Facebook epidemic when I was in Africa for work a couple of years ago. While traveling between two African nations, and at border control, I was able to see all the customs staff (there were only about six of them) at their workstations through a glass window. The first thing I noticed was that all the computers were showing Facebook pages. They weren’t checking passports or doing customs administration, they were all, every single one of them, on Facebook.
Believe me, I'm not totally against Facebook, I use it a lot for my business and I sometimes use it to connect to my friends overseas. However, I do wonder if some of us are using Facebook as an escape from our lives, our work, and even from having to think at all.
I'm listen to an Eckhart Tolle talk while writing this post, and he has just started talking about social media. He suggests that it very quickly takes up our attention, and in a world we have so much information to absorb, it can cause us to begin drowning in even more 'mental stuff'. To quote Mr Tolle, "One thought after another, one text message after another, one facebook post after another, one memory or anxious thought after another, one complaint....there is no end to this stuff and you are missing out on the present moment." He suggests that an obsession with social media can create useless and compulsive thinking that can then become our habitual state of mind. This type of thinking over many years can create anxious, desperately needing the next thing kind of thinking, where there is never enough. It then becomes very difficult to break this habitual pattern of thinking.
And look, this may not be you. But it's very easy to get sucked into the world of Facebook and not even realise how you got there in the first place. Yes, I'm speaking from experience. I remember going to Facebook to look up a particular post and then after being on their for at least ten minutes thinking, hell, why am I here again? And having to really concentrate to get back to the purpose of my visit.
Look, I'm not saying don't use Facebook, but what I am saying is take a little bit of time to think why you're using it and whether how you're using it is making your life better or worse.
Some things to consider:
Have you noticed that everyone's posts are almost always positive. Some people are so positive that I sometimes wonder what drugs they’re taking. No one ever shares when they're having a bad day. It's always all good news. It's important to remember that this is not real life. No one's life is perfect.
How much time are you spending on Facebook each week? What other things could you be doing with that time? Why don’t you try relaxing and doing nothing for a change? Maybe take some time out and start learning how to meditate - just a thought.
A lot of people connect on Facebook through a like of their friends’ post or a brief comment. While this is certainly some kind of connection, it's not real connection. How much genuine connection are you having with other people? How often are you meeting people face to face? How long has it been since you sent a decent length email or skyped with a friend overseas or a family member? Why don't you arrange to catch up with a friend for a coffee now?
Facebook has become another means for people to compare themselves to their ‘neighbours’. With social media, the meaning of the phrase ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ has risen to new heights. We are now able to compare ourselves to others on a daily basis in relation to travel, eating out, babies, work success, etc. I'm not sure this is a good thing.
And while my views are one thing, if you're looking for a bit more scientific information, this article from the economist tells how Facebook can make you miserable. The article summarises a study published by the Public Library of Science that has shown that the more someone uses Facebook the less satisfied he or she is with life.
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m not expecting you to stop using Facebook. There are some genuine positives to this social media tool. But just think about whether you might be a little addicted to it.
The ultimate question to ask yourself is this - are you in control of Facebook or is Facebook in control of you?