Why Facebook can be bad for creativity
Why we all need to understand we are like oranges, squeezed by the fingers of social media followers. How we navigate Facebook can be the key to living a life of creative joy, or falling into a rabbit hole of depression and self doubt. In this article, I share what I have learned thus far about Facebook, and how we can navigate it to create an experience that enhances our lives, rather than crushing it. And, how by filling ourselves up with love, and recongising when we are filling up with something less than love, Facebook can be an emotional balance indicator.
Creatives are often introverts with extrovert behaviours. Facebook brings that out in us. We get to express to a wide audience, without bothering with crowds or having to leave our homes. We just get to express, pure and simple.
When I first joined social media, I jumped in, guns blazing! I didn't even think! This was an apparent forum to express, to share, to vent, to love, to cry, to grieve, to write. I took to it like a duck in a sewer, not understanding that it was not only impacting my personal image, but was pulling me into a quagmire of pain and despair. Instead of making me feel joy, I experienced heightened pain. Like a knife point at my chest, or solar chakra as many would know it as, I lived in constant aggravation and distress. My mild agoraphobia extended to include the virtual world and for seven years, my own world wobbled with the weight of it.
Drowning in it, reliant on it, scared by it, my creativity plunged. I had moments of clarity and incredible expression, but how much more could I have given of my creative soul?
Seven years on, I now can look back and see the trail I blazed, making all the mistakes that to others, seemed commonsense to not make. But a creative can fall into the trap of social media and it is developing some alarming social and community issues.
There is one major problem for creatives, and this includes light workers, empaths, sensitives and indigo kids. Instead of being in our comfort zone of one on one, we are talking to a broad audience. But, and this is a big but, some of feel we are only speaking to one person. And because we can't see their facial expressions or intuitively pick up on their emotions, to which many of us are attuned, we falter...and fail.
For me, I often observe the world around me and then post. I watch the news and quickly chat to my virtual friends, skipping details, enjoying the words flowing and creating impact, sharing my observations of humankind. Or a quote catches my eye and I share it.
I am a deep observer of life. Oftentimes I don't understand it, and struggle to make sense of it, but observe I do. I write realms and realms of observations in my mind. I generally don't have conversations in my head with other people. I write. And I saw Facebook as a place to share those thoughts.
Sometimes, it would be an observation of a personal experience. And unbeknownst to me, not just one but often many would be trying to decypher what they felt was a cryptic message. "Who is it about?" they would cackle, rolling their eyes. "She is at it again!" they would laugh.
Imagine (or perhaps not!) my horror on more than one occasion, when a friend from the real world has felt every post is about someone, or worst still, them. While naturally people and experiences are what many of us observe, not everything is about a person in a negative way. More often, it is an attempt (for all of us who write about observations) to bring clarity in our own minds.
In my mind, I can't make that connection - I've never read someone's post and thought it was about me. I simply wouldn't consider they have enough time in their day to be bothered finding a quote or writing a paragraph to send a cloaked message to me. I thought they would just send an email.
But in the early days, I did write posts of what was going on in my life. My step-daughter left home. Anger, guilt and self-loathing oozed from my pours and consumed my emotional well-being. We almost lost our home due to the actions of an ex-business partner. I seriously contemplated suicide. I was mugged and could not understand why one particular friend saw my post-traumatic sydrome as being 'over-emotional'. I was in Facebookland deep, and I was drowning.
My experience of social media of late has revealed some huge truths, ones I wish I had been able to consider before I dived in seven years ago. Knowing this, and accepting what is right for you, can help pull you out of the hole and help nurture your creative soul. Some of these lessons are:
It is usually not about you. If it is obviously about you (and be careful making that call), the quickest solution is to block the writer. And move on.
It is not personal. Anything anyone writes is about what is going on in their world, not yours.
Your experience of social media is different to other peoples'. Some scroll every single post. Some check in on people's walls. Some feel lost if you don't like their posts, others don't notice. Some get jealous of your perfect life, while others who are miserable work hard at creating their perfect life in images and words. In short, we all handle it differently, use it differently, and have a different social media fingerprint.
Many people don't offer up the full story, leaving us with what is to our minds, a cryptic message. But those close to them might fully understand. The lesson? Not all posts are intended for all people. And that's okay. It's their wall, not yours.
Getting upset by peoples' posts is a waste of energy. If you are annoyed about them, turn off notifications. Facebook is a great training ground for accepting others as they are. Mindfully practice this and, unless their post is racially offensive or seriously in opposition to your values, scrolling is a great tool to use.
Some people treat it like a journal.
Some posters lie. Again, if they are lying about you, reconsider the friendship. But if they are lying to make themselves appear grand, consider the impact on your own life. Likely they need compassion, not mirth.
Joking about peoples' posts is not cool.
Sharing private messages is also not cool. If you need to discuss something hurtful, do it with someone who does not know the person. Rest-assured that no matter how you try to keep it 'private', it will get back to them.
Learn to set your privacy settings. Only set it to public if you truly don't mind the world making an assessment of you.
Ask permission before posting photos of young adults as children or other peoples' children.
Remove location data of children. I always do, particularly for friends' children. Remove and send the photo in a private message before posting.
Facebook is no place to nurture friendships (for all of these reasons). Make time to Skype or connect with those who are important to you. On that note, be clear about who you wish to invest time in. I have dozens of friends, but have recently decided who I wish to check in with regularly (and hope they feel the same way). Otherwise, you will spread yourself too thin and risk people over-estimating the depth of the friendship.
Facebook profiles and walls rarely give enough information about a person to make an accurate call on their personality.
Being defriended is nothing to get upset about. It does not always mean that a friendship is over, just that a person is choosing to not relate to you that way or that you both have different perceptions of how social media is used.
Being blocked is sometimes a relief. If it isn't a relief, but is causing pain, connect with the person directly to talk about it. Be prepared for anger and ugly words, and know that it is not about you. (Unless you posted nude shots of them taken during a relationship. Then, it is about you.)
Blocking others sends a message you are ending a relationship, or connection. Once done, this can often not be reversed.
Think seriously before unfriending someone. Even though I recommend not getting upset yourself if it happens to you, I have not always felt this way. If my mum unfriended me, I would want to know why. Sometimes, it can open channels of communication, sometimes it can close them.
Everything we write and post is open to interpretation, and we have no control over it. Work on building your personal brand, and what legacy you want to leave the world.
You can't be liked by every body.
If you are an author or service provider in any kind of publishing service, you will be accused of self promotion.
People will tell you how they think you should use social media, so that it closer aligns with how they use social media.
The more you complain on or about social media, the worse things get. You attract at a higher frequency, amplifying the law of attraction.
People like order in their world. Some want all their 'friends' to agree with their religious and political views. Disagreeing with them can be suicide. The media understand this, and can quickly divide people. Debate and disagreement create ratings. Social media sheep buy into this every single time.
Trolls like to stir up trouble. The media is the biggest troll there is.
You may be accused of things that are not true, based on peoples' social media perceptions.
The statement "it is only Facebook" is simply not true. For many, it is a place of hurt, misunderstandings, unnecessary pain and destroyed hopes of better connections with others. For others, it is a place for family and friends and happy occasions (and these people will not understand anyone who treats it differently.)
Remember that it is your wall. If someone does not like your wall, that is okay. So long as you aren't holding a gun to their head to be your Facebook friend, what they think of you is none of their business.
The last two months have been deeply painful for me on many levels. I have questioned my goodness. Thankfully, I have a partner and friends on board who assure me my goodness is all good.
I realised this week that if I took Facebook out of it, almost all that pain would not exist. It existed 100% due to social media. And, to my perception. Or rather, how I chose to respond. That is a rather big lesson to learn.
On reflection, I have gratefully received the biggest lesson of all. Amongst tears and distress, I have come to realise that Facebook is incredibly bad for creativity, the number one value I cherish - to use my gifts to live a creative (and therefore joyful) life of giving and creating.
Facebook is also, if we choose, a forum for personal growth and wisdom. But it needs to be managed and understood.
The first instance happened after my last blog. I wrote about my childhood experience of bullying, which included instances of interactions with a number of people. The essence of the article was the effect unclear boundaries had on creativity and my journey. It was not intended to lash out at anyone, but to help those feeling under attack, as I did many times as a child.
I received a lawsuit threat. I was called a liar. I was rejected by another friend, who said the social media campaign waged was too much for her to bear (she is not on social media). And I noticed a small group of FB friends disappear. Most were not missed, but one was, leading me to also realise this truth:
When someone unfriends you, or you unfriend them, it may not be noticed for a long time, because the world is not all about you.
The second was following my commentry on Adam Goode. A friend disappeared, with no explaination, just a 'piff' comment directed at people she felt were racist. This highlighted another valuable lesson.
Not all friends share a generous view that everyone is entitled to an opinion. You cannot have any view, unless it is their view; and
Your tone is always open to misinterpretation. If someone diometrically opposes your views, they may take any comment by you as an attack on them, even if it is a general comment.
People like this will often feel your posts are about them, even if they are not.
The third was a school friend I have loved for years. She became upset (unbeknownst to me) that I had not assisted her with a request. Well, I had not seen it, did all I could to find it after learning about it...but that was enough to tip her over the edge and unfriend me. Added to that were posts I had not seen about things going on in her life.
At the time, I was hurt, knowing that this was a direct message to me, rather than just opposing views on social media usage.
I wrote to her, upset on realising I was unfriended after a few decades friendship, and asked why. I did receive a reply, which was unaccepting that I could possibly miss her posts. In her mind she felt I was deliberately ignoring them.
The simple fact is, I did miss them.
And this is when social media gets ugly. Really ugly.
See, if I post I have just given birth and you miss it, something in our mind can trigger that all of the friends I consider who are in my inner circle see it. The simple fact is, most do not.
And from this, I learned possibly the most valuable lessons of all:
Even though you might know you can't see every friend's posts, some think that because you are on social media yourself, you must see theirs. Irrational linkages like this are increasingly common, and causing unnecessary distress to the perceiver. There is a sense of 'what about me?' in the way they handle social media - a neediness that can be time-consuming and dangerous to appease.
The old saying that true friends can pick up where they left off after years of not speaking does not apply to all friendships that have jumped into social media territory. Some friends have expectations that don't match your own.
On the same night I realised this esteemed friend had unfriended me, amongst tears and dispair, I messaged a mutual friend. But, about something completely different. I had good news to share.
A few days later, I followed up on the personal message as had not seen a reply, and whoa...it looked like she had blocked me! My mental defences broke down and all I could see was a web of gossip. Fortunately, I checked my friend list and saw she had simply deactivated her account. This is the scary bit and another valuable lesson:
You can never assume. Facebook does not disclose whether you are blocked or the account is simply deactivated, unless you look at your friend list. A deactivated account becomes a "Facebook user" and you are no longer able to respond to a chat. It can be very confronting, despite the person opting out of social media's simple and personal reasons for doing so.
Social media destroys relationships. It can build them too, and our personal brand, but gives us the sense that we are closer to people than we really are, particularly if there is a face to face part of the friendship or relationship that enhances perceptions of what you post. Relationships are built on connections that are real, not just memories or presence in a virtual world. We change. We grow. We regress. We are human. Facebook is not the place to cultivate or measure the worth of our friendships. But so many of us do.
With all of these lessons over the last seven years, my creativity has been carelessly tipped out the window each time I have been absorbed with rejection, guilt, anger, feelings of worthlessness and neediness.
Facebook is the mirror of what is inside us, no matter how we paint it. What you write or how you perceive is a direct reflection of what you are carrying inside.
Thought leader and teacher, Dr Wayne Dyer, (R.I.P. today) explains that this like squeezing an orange. You expect orange juice to come out, not grape, pineapple or apple juice. Always just orange juice.
When we are 'squeezed' by what we perceive or choose to believe on social media or our offense to something or someone, if anger, shame, fear or grief come out, that is what is inside us. Facebook has become the forum for pushing our buttons. How we respond is if you like, a key indicator of our deeper emotional state. And if that is off balance, our creative soul is being starved.
My Facebook journey began in 2007 when a friend sent me an email request. I joined. I failed over the next many years, treating it like a journal, imagining everyone would enjoy my 50-word blurbs and as I had nobody close to blurt to in person at particular point in time, I also thought it helped me through crisis.
I did not realise that some would skim over them, collect an opinion, and decide I was a basket case. These very same thoughts, I can share with face to face friends with a smile, a laugh or a tear. But they get the humaness of me, and can decide there and then if I am losing the plot. For the most time, I am passionate. I say fuck a lot when I am passionate. And I don't understand a lot of human behaviours like dishonesty and deception and hate being misunderstood. Facebook ticks all those boxes. Just look at the author of My Whole Pantry, leading millions on her healthy eating campaign while claiming she was a cancer survivor. This highlights the danger of social media left in the hands of, well, all of us. Not all of us are going to use it for good. Intentionally or not.
Creatives rely on personal and authentic connections. This is often cloaked in sugar in social media but sends us into turmoil. It can destroy who we are for absolutely no reason at all, building up self-doubt. It can send us into meltdown. It can also paint unrealistic pictures of our abilities and qualities, leading us to believe we are more than our human selves. It is not called a virtual world for nothing.
So, how to navigate this?
I have absolutely no idea. I can only say that I have stopped posting on my personal page, I have stopped measuring my likes from friends or family, and I let a lot of stuff glide on by. But I am human, and learning, and I can still stumble when someone expects more of me than I am apparently giving, who measures our friendship by whether I see their posts or not, or check their page, or does not accept my thoughts the way I accept theirs.
I have shed a mountain of tears for loss of friendships and family relationships I thought I had. I have made massive mistakes by blurting my hurts in public. I have learned some hard lessons.
But you know what? While we can all claim we are offended, the simple fact is that they are not real. We are all the orange that Dr Wayne Dyer talks about, being squeezed and releasing whatever is inside us at the time.
Friendships and real relationships often survive misunderstandings. But Facebook has a way of cementing errors, making them realer than real and thrusting a knife into the fabric of our lives.
We can use social media for good, to build connections we would never have had. But every positive has a negative. And Facebook's is, for creatives, dark. We express. We are mostly honest. If you unfriend us, we ask why, if we cared about you. It creates turbulance that we hate. It also creates the connection and openness we crave. We are caught in a world of sureality that we love and despise both at once.
To navigate the world of social media, fill yourself with love, so that when you are squeezed, that is all that comes out. If anger or fear comes out, it is a sure-fire indicator that something is vibrating out of balance in your life. Stop. Don't respond, and breathe.
These are the lessons I wish I had known seven years ago, and that I am grateful for today.
Today, I choose love.
And in so doing, the Facebook river calms and flows into gentle streams. I can dabble my toe once more before stepping into the cool and often uncertain waters. I can accept that we are at once different and connected. And I can stretch my arms to the universe that surrounds me and let my creativity flow into every pore, filling my essence with love and joy, allowing my creative source to embrace me.
In doing that, I open my creative spirit to love. And peace once again returns to my world.
Post-note to current and past social media friends
As noted, I have made many errors on social media and been misunderstood more times than I can remember. I have also inadvertently hurt others when anger or fear has come out of me when squeezed by triggers in my mind. This article in no way assumes lack of responsibility for those mistakes, or responsibility for reverse misunderstandings. It does however, speak of the lessons I have learned, the most recent being like a drop of diamond rain in my mind.
We are all on the journey together, learning at different speeds. And that is the best that we can hope to do.
With love and learning,