I am sitting in my office preparing for my next client when the door opens. I turn toward the door and was intrigued by what I saw next. A tall, well built man with grey curly hair stepped through the door. Behind him was his wife. She was beautiful with long black silky hair and she was petite in stature. She had an intense look in her eyes. And then I noticed it, larger than life. It was standing in between them and acting as a divider. This thing that was designed and intended to bring them together and enhance their life and relationship had become an insurmountable obstacle that followed them into therapy. I greeted them each with a handshake and a hello as this couple unknowingly ushered Facebook into our therapy session.
This story is not real, but it could be.
The reality is that Facebook is finding its way into therapy sessions with alarming frequency.
Facebook is a social media meet up place. It allows for social interactions between “friends”, from casual to very personal. These interactions can be public or private depending on your security settings. Facebook is designed to share pictures, music, videos and just about anything you can imagine.
I have no real axe to grind with Facebook, as I myself am a regular user. For the most part I have enjoyed and benefited from the ability to connect with friends and family all across the country and even the world.
In my opinion people find themselves in trouble with Facebook and other social media sites, when they mistake online intimacy for real intimacy. Last week I tackled a tough topic of “Developing Healthy Intimacy- A Cautionary Tale” and heard from many of you that it challenged you in the way you use Facebook, Twitter and other sites. For that I am glad. My goal here is to bring awareness not judgment.
Social media is here to stay whether we like it or not. Our job is to learn how to use it appropriately, with good boundaries, so it enhances life rather than threatening our connections and undermining our ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships.
Due to the anonymity that comes with online venues such as Facebook, many men and women are finding themselves tempted. Temptation looks different for every one. For some it could be representing yourself as someone other than you are; younger, thinner, prettier or more accomplished. For others it may be the temptation of reconnecting with a former boyfriend or girlfriend or meeting someone new altogether.
More and more, I hear clients say how they are struggling in a relationship because of something that was said/done on Facebook. We have allowed social media to have more power in our lives than is healthy and appropriate. With this in balance of power comes conflict.
Sisters have arguments over comments on a photo, a wife sees her husband tagged in a photo by a female co-worker, and then there is the ultimate insult…being “unfriended”.
I don’t have a quick fix to the problems this generation faces due to social media. I do have some suggestions of ways you can protect yourself and safeguard your relationships while still participating in online sites such as Facebook, twitter and Google +.
1. Limit the time you spend on social media sites. It is so easy to get sucked into looking at peoples vacation photo’s and what your friend ate at the county fair. Set a time limit and stick to it.
2. If you are married or in a committed relationship – share your passwords with your partner. There should be nothing said that you are not willing to let your partner read. Secrets do not foster intimacy in relationship.
3. Don’t engage in emotionally charged conversations via social media. Whenever possible speak face to face or on the phone. So much is lost when communicating in 140 characters or less!
4. Work on your communication skills that involve being with actual people rather than chatting on the computer. Conversation is a lost art….spend time getting to know someone better the old fashioned way. Go for a walk with a friend, meet for coffee or sign up for a class at your community center.
Be careful out there…social media is a good thing when used wisely. It’s up to you to…choose carefully!
Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart always, for it is the wellspring of life.