Imagine you are just about to check your Facebook feed. Notice how you feel before you start. Now think about how you feel after you spend a good chunk of time you can never get back scrolling through the news feed, checking in on a few people's profile, and coming up with super witty or impressive things to write as your status. Now how do you feel? If you notice that your time on Facebook is leaving you feeling worse than how you felt before you logged on, you may be engaging in some unhealthy Facebook behaviors and it's time for an intervention.
My guess is you are probably already aware of some ways you are possibly using Facebook as an unnecessary torture device, but just in case you are not clear, let me outline a few of ways in which Facebooking may be a mental health hazard.
The most common way I see people torturing themselves via Facebook is after a break-up. Typical behaviors in this situation include continuing to visit the page of ex's, obsess and pontificate over their posts, monitor who their new friends are, agonize over their changed "relationship status" and so on. You do this more often than you admit and feel like a bit of a stalker. As much as you know you shouldn't be looking at their profile, it's kind of like a car accident, you just can't fight the urge to look. You may also be manipulating your own profile with the intention of trying to make your ex jealous or curious.
Before Facebook we had to rely on hearing things through other people or actually running into our ex to be exposed to their life post "us." But thanks to Facebook you have the ability to peek through the virtual window of your ex 24/7. If you are a voyeur in the life of your ex, you are most likely drawing a lot of conclusions that may not be true. What is true is that you are creating suffering that is not necessary. Break-ups are hard enough; why pour more salt in the wound by engaging in Facebook stalking? You have a choice not to look. Before you click on his or her page, STOP for a moment and visualize how you are going to feel five minutes after you do it. My guess is that it is not going to be a good feeling. Remind yourself that continuing to be energetically tied to your ex by spying on them is not an empowering choice. And if it still feels like an uncontrollable urge, block their posts or better yet, defriend them. After any break-up both people need space. Continuing to be any kind of friends, even friends on Facebook, makes the process of moving on feel harder and take longer.
Another unhealthy pattern I observe is engaging in Facebook competition and comparison. Typical behaviors include viewing other people's pictures and posts and either trying to top them or going into massive amounts of self-judgment. You read other's posts and wish your life could be as cool as theirs. You witness how many friends/fans they have and feel like a loser because you don't have as many. You see pictures of people doing amazing things, being with amazing people, or just looking amazing and feel depressed that you do not have as much amazing-ness. The examples of this behavior are endless but the feeling is the same: feeling either less than or trying to be better than. Both of those are ego-based and move us away from the truth of who we are.
So how do you stop the comparison and competition? First, if there are people who you have an unhealthy dose of Facebook envy for, try some alchemy. Transform the jealousy into entertainment and inspiration. Allow yourself to be amused and inspired rather than competitive and envious. Furthermore, keep this very important truth in mind: Facebook is just a small sliver of someone's life AND it is a sliver in which the content that is revealed is totally controlled. Most people put their best stuff on Facebook and share surface level things like alma maters and favorite movies. In the "info" section most people aren't sharing about their deepest fears, incessant insecurities or heartaches. I don't read many status updates that say things like, "I am so bloated and feel ugly today", or "I can't make my car payment", or "I am scared I may get fired soon."
I heard an amazing speaker, Steven Furtick, say this about the pattern of comparison: When we are comparing, most often we are looking at someone's "highlight reel" when we are knee deep in our own "behind the scenes" footage. This is a brilliant metaphor to keep in mind when you find yourself in Facebook envy so that you can remember that you are only looking at someone's "highlight reel." Get back to the scenes of your own life and look for the highlights that you may be missing if you are too consumed with other people. And if that still doesn't work, once again it is time to exercise some will power and either block posts or do some de-friending.
Now you may think blocking or removing friends is weak. It's not. Sometimes, as we are building our own muscles of self-confidence, empowerment and acceptance, we have to remove temptations and obstacles until our muscle gets stronger. We do not always have a choice over what we remove from our sphere of influence; however, with Facebook we do! So why not take advantage of that choice?
My encouragement to you is to take an assessment of your Facebook behavior and be honest with how healthy it is. Are the choices you are making supporting the overall intention and vision of your life? Can your online behavior be another way to support your transformation and growth, rather than using it as a means to create constriction? Will you take a stand today to disengage from unhealthy Facebooking?
Instead of allowing your ego to choose where you click and what you write on your status updates, give your authentic Self the keyboard and mouse. Rather than going to the pages of people who used to say, "I love you" to you, visit the pages of the people who still say it to you. Use Facebook for connection rather than for comparison and competition. And most importantly, get out from behind your computer or phone and actually go and be and be with the wonderful faces that surround you.
Follow Christine Hassler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Christinhassler