For the last 8 years, while my wife and I navigated the trials of our life, I found myself turning to social media for connection. Being almost housebound during this time, I frequently found (and continue to find) myself battling loneliness. If you know my family, you’d never think that to be the case. After all, there are six of us living here, an average day is not without its interactions. As a person who really doesn’t like crowds, I didn’t figure what I was longing for was connection to the outside world, but as I look back I realize that is exactly what it is.
When you work outside the home, you typically go to a place with other people where you share a common goal and work together to reach it. That goal is likely an underlying part of the day that most people aren’t really even aware of. People go to work, do their job, and go home, not giving the overall picture, or the effect it has on their psyche a second thought.
As a result of this daily ritual we call a job, people are socializing and building relationships without much effort at all. In fact, more often than not, people are completely oblivious to this benefit and choose instead to focus on the negative aspects of working. But hidden in the negativity is a bit of sanity.
What makes the difference is not the fact that there are people around but rather the fact that the people around are engaged in the same goal or cause that you are. They have an interest in what you’re doing, and how it’s going for you. A genuine interest, not just a passively expressed, “how you been?” For me public exposure doesn’t necessarily dissolve the loneliness. Connection happens in the interaction for a cause, or purpose. Thus, going to a store, or restaurant doesn’t fix the issue anymore than being in a public school setting did for me when I was a kid. In either case, there is just no sense of belonging.
When I drove truck, I talked to an extensive number of people every day who did the same thing I did. We battled the same rules, hated the same problems, and often shared the same successes. Almost all of us had family we missed, a house back home that needed something, and a dispatcher that didn’t understand what it was like to be gone for weeks at a time. We could relate with those issues, but underneath that was the fact that we shared the same goal. Move America’s freight. It’s not something most of us thought of as a “great cause” though it is, but that was the underlying objective that joined us together.
When life took a huge turn for my family, I was forced to come off the road. As a result, I struggled with feeling like a failure. As a company owner I operated in the black. I knew I had to be home under the circumstances, and while many guys who try to make it as an owner operator fail financially, I hadn’t. But I couldn’t shake that feeling.
Eventually I started school and earned a BA in accounting. I did the courses online so that I would be home to help manage our special needs son. Before I knew it, my old “friends” were calling less and less, until I no longer talked to any of them. There was no longer that common cause.
I looked for connection other places, like church, but I found nothing there. In fact I came to realize that for most people religion is just something extra they tack onto the end of their week. A topic for another post no doubt.
So social media was where I gravitated to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was looking for that connection. Now, almost nine years after turning my truck in, I’m in my fourth year of business in the computer industry. I work from home in order to try to scratch out a living while accommodating the other needs of my family, and yet keep finding myself turning to Facebook to look for something it simply doesn’t have to offer. A real connection to other people.
Through the political season, and even after, as people continue to cry about politics more than anything else it started to really stick out. Every time I logged into Facebook, to scroll through my feed, I logged out more melancholy than I was when I signed in. Eventually I realized that this is usually the case. Facebook offers that mirage of connection, but fails to follow through. Concerned about how it was affecting me, I dumped the exact title of this post into Google. Below are some of the statements I read that resonated with me.
More than one billion people log into Facebook every day…
Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction.
… Only about 9 percent of Facebook’s users’ activities involve communicating with others.
Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. … The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook.
The next statement hit me hard. Though not so much of a problem currently, it was in the past.
Feeling sad after you log out isn’t the only way Facebook takes a toll on your mental health. A study that will be published in the June 2016 issue of Current Opinion in Psychology found that envying your friends on Facebook leads to depression.
Scrolling through happy status updates, exciting vacation photos, and beautiful family moments led participants to compare their lives with those of their Facebook friends.
As we struggled through each day, this happened often. I’d feel as though people who claimed they cared about us seemingly forgot we existed. As if they might visit once in a while to throw us a bone, but we were merely an afterthought in their otherwise glorious life.
I recognize this isn’t how people think, but it doesn’t change the fact that for myself, and apparently many others, these feelings are or were a reality. For me it’s not so much an “I wish I had their life” mindset as much as it was, and sometimes still is, an idea of, “I wish they understood our life”
Another statement that caught my attention was from an article at Time:
…while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends.
I didn’t like this one. It made me realize I’d become everything we worry about kids becoming. People who value their self-worth based on how many likes/comments they got on Facebook.
I have realized that my knowledge of technology coupled with Facebook is a detriment to not only my self-esteem, but my sense of loneliness. Since I know enough about how the system works, it’s easy to piece together who views things yet says nothing, who doesn’t follow my feed at all, and those who show an actual interest. While that knowledge may cause resentment in some, for me I find it just drives that sense of isolation deeper.
So why don’t I just leave Facebook? Stop using it? In part because some of my customers use it. In part because my family is on it. And more recently I discovered in part it might be because:
Researchers say it stems from a psychological term called affective forecasting. Studies confirm that people predict Facebook is going to make them feel better.
There it is. It’s almost like the psychological effects of a drug.
So the logical conclusion is to just stop using it. Except with business that isn’t the greatest overall decision. The article I’ve cited here offers some tips on how not to let Facebook affect a person so negatively. I’ve already been using some of them. I plan to continue. But ultimately that doesn’t change the fact that Facebook is depressing.
NOTICE: Opinions are not facts to anyone other than the opinion holder. As a result opinions you find here are subject to the same winds of change as the evolution theory, age of the earth, and political promises.
Some other reads on this issue I found interesting (including cited pages):