Over the last few weeks I have had the chance to talk with others about hurt feelings that come up from being on Facebook. Facebook creates some new and interesting challenges in psychotherapy because it is a new forum where negative personal beliefs or narratives can get played out and can create a lot of suffering. What is worse, Facebook lets you play those scripts out endlessly because of how many different ways you can dissect information and its 24×7 access. You can really create a lot of personal suffering if you let these scripts drive how you use Facebook – it can even become addictive.
“If you’ve ever felt like everyone else on Facebook seems to be having more fun than you, well, you’re not alone, according to a new study by Utah Valley University sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge, published in an academic journal called Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.” Erik Sass. Read more about this and other research on Facebook and Social Media impacts on mental health. It is fascinating how depressing using these tools can be if we don’t use them wisely. Our negative self beliefs take over the mouse and keyboard and run the show and they don’t have to with just a few simple steps.
First, what personal life stories make using Facebook hard and how do they show up online?
1. If your script is “I am not wanted” you will create your Facebook reality around this. Facebook can become a forum for trying to “get wanted” by posting with the intention of wanting a lot of comments and replies as a way to mask this script. You can even get addicted to posting because it fuels your need for attention. Alternatively, you may be the kind that sleuths out conversation threads or keeps track of what other people are posting or not posting on your wall compared to someone else’s wall. “They like me less so therefore I am not wanted”.
2. If your script is “I am not good enough” you may orient on Facebook in a couple of different ways as well. You might negate this internal story by trying to “appear” good enough by over-compensating and stating all the fabulous things you or your kids are good at versus a more authentic joie de vivre that you want to share with your friends. The vibe is felt by others when it is coming from authenticity or scarcity of feeling good. The other strategy is to feel annoyed by people who are happy in themselves so you compare, feel envious and even distance yourself.
3. The “I am not loveable” script has similar behaviors as the “I am not wanted”. If we truly don’t feel loveable when someone does post something good about us or our status, we may resent their celebration of us and bat it away. We can’t really take in their joy for us. It shows up by how we do not respond to the good stuff. The other way “I am not loveable” can show up is by posting a series of critical or negative posts wanting people to join you in the mix of negativity.
4. Others have quite healthy esteem except for in group settings so Facebook is a bit confusing because it is one big group setting. “I am left out of groups” may make it hard to know how to engage on Facebook because internally you are afraid it will prove to be true, if the group doesn’t respond as you expect. So you may choose not to fully join the process of community-building on Facebook, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is all funky behavior but I have a lot of empathy. I have done a lot of work with myself over the years on my life scripts so when I catch myself acting any of this stuff out or someone else acting it out, I feel a ton of love, compassion and acceptance.
If you find yourself getting wound up about Facebook here are some strategies to work with yourself with kindness.
1. Become mindful of what you are feeling and sensing inside before and during your Facebook play. Am I anxious? Am I clingy? Am I angry? Am I hurt? Any discomfort should be tended to immediately, the same way you might tend to a crying child with a kind word and gentleness directed back towards yourself – not out to others.
2. Get clear on your truest intention before you log in and set aside the part of you that wants to play out a script. If you notice an old script come up, move away from the computer, tend to that hurt part. Again, remember, usually the part of us that decided on these scripts was quite little so simple language, even a little self hug and a smile will shift your vibe.
3. Move into your heart and post from a place of authenticity and let go of the need for a response. Your status update is an offering or sharing about you with your community of friends not an advertisement for your self-worth. If it becomes that, move away, and take care of that part of you that doesn’t feel your worth.
4. Authentically like and comment or don’t comment on others’ posts. Avoid commenting because you think you should to be nice or included. Sharing your friends’ joys from a really authentic place can be really uplifting and fun when it is heartfelt. You can really receive good stuff if you allow yourself to be inspired by your friends’ joys rather than let a script take over and start comparing your life to theirs.
5. Take in the joy of the group. If you get some good feedback, sit back and take it in all the way. “Oh, that felt good” and breath it all the way in for a 20 seconds. You deserve it. And keep track of the part of you that might get addicted to that high and hold on to him or her because right there, a self story might have been ignited.
6. If you know Facebook is challenging for you, set up some groundrules. Don’t follow comment threads, don’t keep track of who have accepted your friend requests and don’t keep track of who does or doesn’t comment on your stuff. Just be you. Comment when you want, post what feels true and right, slow down and tend to you. Studies suggest you are better off not inviting people who are not your friends to be your friend on Facebook.
7. Kishi Fuller, MFT reminded me, as we discussed Facebook and mental health, that if you truly do miss someone, nothing replaces that human to human connection. Pick up the phone and call them directly. Facebook is an additional way to build community, not a replacement for connection and friendship.
“I am loveable just as I am!”
The metaphor I like to use to embody all these tips in a really simple way when you are on Facebook is imagine you are Hula Hooping. On occasion you bump up against other dancing folks too in playful or careful ways. When you Hula, to keep it going, you can go out and connect with others but you always have to be paying attention to you and your own fun to keep it going. You can’t get overly concerned about others or become self-conscious or the Hula Hoop will fall. It’s another take on the “dancing to your own drum” idea. Not everyone is going to like you and, even so, it has no bearing on your lovability and belonging.
I hope you keep Hula-ing on Facebook instead of using it to prove out your negative beliefs. If you drop your Hoop, say some loving things to yourself, tell yourself you are loved and start dancing your Hula dance again. I have found Facebook to be a lovely place to be in a shared state of joy and care with my community. Of course, I drop my Hula Hoop now and again but mostly I have grown to find it enlivening. I hope you do too!
Traci is a therapist and the CEO of PSYCHED & Managing Director of Sidewalk Talk. Her therapy work is centered around working with couples and individuals working on their relationships. Her many years in corporate life make her a good match for executives and leaders.