There is one thing that pops up every day in my practise- something upsetting that happened on Facebook (here-on-in referred to as FB). Personally, I despise FB. I have tried it in earnest three times since its first appearance and each time gotten completely irritated and fed-up with the whole thing and unsubscribed. The first time I used it just for personal use and it drove me bananas. All the people I had not talked to nor seen in 20+ years were finding me and asking me to be their ‘friend’. At first, I said yes to every invitation, not wanting to hurt feelings and being mildly curious to learn about what they had been up to over the last two decades or so. But once I’d seen their pictures and learned of where life had taken them, I was done. I was happy to do the same for them so they could close the book on me as well. As a therapist, I believe we all have an innate need to ‘learn how the story turns out’ on people we knew in the far distant past and it satisfies that curiosity when we get the bare bones of the unfinished story. But beyond that my logic is this:
IF WE AREN’T STILL IN REGULAR CONTACT TODAY- THERE IS A GOOD REASON WHY.
Let’s face it- people we knew when we were kids are often not the people we’d choose to be friends with as adults. The fact is, we’re constantly growing and changing and as we do so, we need to switch up our friends along the way. I know there are those very rare people one comes across early in life who end up being friends for life (I have a couple and I am so very grateful for these amazing women), but it usually doesn’t work like that. It’s common that the person you enjoyed eating glue with in kindergarten is not the person you wish to share a glass of Cabernet with as an adult.
Here are some other tricky FB-induced issues I’ve helped clients sort through over the years. I will touch on each one briefly with the hope that they may provide food-for-thought:
Being FB “friends” with one’s children or parents
This often has catastrophic effects when it comes to establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries with family members. I don’t believe that parents should be their children’s “friends” in real life or virtually. A parent is supposed to provide for the needs and safety of their child as well as healthy guidance. Children (no matter what age) need to have privacy in certain areas of their lives, as do their parents and when they are FB “friends” they have access to a lot of that private information about each other, especially with respect to other important relationships in their lives.
Finding out about your partner’s affair(s) via FB
I can’t tell you how many clients have told me that they discovered their partner was having an affair by looking at their FB account which was left open ‘accidentally’. FB can be a ‘virtual hook-up’ place for people who are unhappy in their relationships or tend to stray anyhow. I realise that FB is merely one medium to hunt for unfaithfulness in a partner, but be careful what you look for- you’ll most likely find it there.
The pain of having to “unfriend” someone whom you were previously close to and having it end catastrophically
I recently spent an entire therapy session witnessing a client come to the decision to “unfriend” her own sister who was writing abusive character assassinations on her FB page for all to see. While she realised that this behaviour was totally damaging and unacceptable, she had a really hard time dealing with the guilt she felt around “unfriending” her own flesh and blood.
Parents reading their teenagers’ FB correspondences and learning things they didn’t want to know and losing the trust of their child
I know that there are differing camps around monitoring your teen’s FB page and that some people feel it is imperative, while others insist that it is an invasion of a child’s privacy and personal boundaries. I can see both sides. Where I have seen it get families into seriously hot water is when there are no clear agreements between parent and child about FB use and monitoring. In many cases, a parent finds their teen’s FB page open on the computer and takes a look around and is mortified by what she finds there. Examples I have heard of include: illicit drug use, sexual promiscuity and pornography, and cyber bullying. My advice to parents is to sit down with your teen(s) and come up with an agreed upon course of action regarding FB use and communication between parent and child.
I can totally understand the positive uses of FB and think they are wonderful such as:
· Sharing updates on your life and your family with loved ones you don’t see very often
· Sharing inspiration with others
· Communicating in a fast and easy way with important people in your life
· Learning from others via interesting posts they share
· Spreading the word about good causes and garnering support for those in need
Just like anything else, I think we need to use some basic common sense with this social media tool and use it wisely. Now go and post this article on FB!