Surviving the Gratitude Posts on Facebook

computer-and-meditation2Are you taking part in the 30 day gratitude challenge? Or has it been inflicted on you by your Facebook friends?

I’m kidding about that… though there’s been good discussion this month about potential mine fields in the gratitude challenge. One person’s gratitude is another person’s “bragbooking.” Here are my 5 tips for making the most of the gratitude challenge. Yes, November is almost over—yikes, by the way—but these tips are broadly useful for social media interactions in general.

We’re all learning how to communicate in these new forms of media. And I’m a big believer in cultivating hospitality online. That said, each of us is responsible for our own reactions to what we read and experience on the Internet.

This was driven home recently, as I found myself bristling at the gratitude posts filling my Facebook newsfeed. Colleagues were grateful for an influx of children in their churches, or for a beautiful musical offering in worship that morning. Others were celebrating the quirky gifts of their children. With each update I began to feel worse and worse, even though emotionally I’d been feeling generally grateful for several things in my own life.

What made the difference? Why was I suddenly so bothered by these posts? Were my friends becoming more obnoxious? I don’t think so. The gratitude posts have not changed much over the course of the month (though maybe they’re getting less frequent as people peter out). No, my friends were no more obnoxious than they ever are. (Kidding again.)

The main thing difference was that I hadn’t taken my tech sabbath that weekend.

I normally take a two-day break from Facebook, Twitter and other networks, and that weekend I didn’t, for a variety of good and bad reasons. So in addition to being worn out after a full weekend and a big day of worship duties, I’d been dipping in and out of the social media river nonstop. By Sunday I was DONE, and I finally realized why: I had not given myself the break from it that I have come to need in order to enjoy the rest of my time online.

Oops.

In an ideal world, if we’re going to use social media, it should be a source of joy rather than consternation. But there are times when the latter reigns. Often the reason is obvious and understandable: a bevy of baby announcements when we’re dealing with infertility, or gushes over a wonderful spouse when our own marriage is in trouble. The hardest ones for me are the Dad posts, since mine died way too young.

But other times, the reason is more subtle. If you’re feeling a vague sense of dissatisfaction and can’t pinpoint the cause, consider whether you’re simply overloaded—whether your social media use could use some better boundaries around it.

And that one friend who pushes all your buttons? It’s really OK to hide her posts. I won’t tell.

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About MaryAnn

pastor, writer, haphazard knitter
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11 Responses to Surviving the Gratitude Posts on Facebook

  1. Esperanza/Monica says:

    Thanks for this additional post. The thanksgiving posts kerfuffle is going in my sermon this week, I think. Lots of explaining up front (what? what’s Facebook?), but I think it’s worth it. My thesis is that our thanksgiving is properly directed to God, not to other people. When we get that mixed up (on either end of the people to people relationship), that’s when there is potential for bragging/hurt feelings/kerfuffles of all kinds. I dunno. It’s not written yet; we’ll see where the Spirit takes us.

  2. Susan says:

    I had to hide several feeds this month. I’ll probably bring them back when this is over.

  3. Erin Sikes says:

    I think this blog could easily be titled “how to survive facebook”. I came home from a wonderful, restorative time with college friends in Vail and when I was on fb the following week, I saw a picture of some other college friends on a wine weekend and I felt a weird pang of envy….even though I had JUST RETURNED FROM FOUR DAYS IN VAIL. I had to shake my head at myself and log off for a few days. Sometimes reading other people’s gratitude posts reminds me to be more grateful, and other times it just makes me weirdly tense and envious.

  4. Erin Sikes says:

    And in a twist of weird timing related to your own tenderness around gratitude posts, today is my dad’s 78th birthday, and for the first time in the history of social media someone (my sister) posted a picture of him on facebook. So while you could have checked my news feed religiously for years and years and wondered if I even had a dad (I do, he’s just shy) today, of all days, there is a picture of him with some sentimental musings from my sister, which of course made me think of you when I saw what she had posted.

  5. I was fascinated by my reaction to the structures 30 Days of Gratitude posts. I rarely get defensive about what other people are doing, but I had a kneejerk, almost panicky “Hey! *I’m* grateful, too!” reaction when the 3rd or 4th day rolled around and I hadn’t specifically used the “Today I am grateful for…” format in any of my posts. It was weird — it was like I felt I needed to *prove* to other people my gratitude, and I didn’t like the feeling.

    But I did recognize it. I’ve just started a new business endeavor, and in addition to excitement and delight, it’s also brought up all sorts of doubts and fears and wondering if I can really accomplish all that I see before me — and when I fall into my most tizzying depths of insecurity, it’s that “prove to others” gremlin that appears.

    I think you pegged the underlying problem and solution for me. I have daily morning and evening rituals that help me recenter and reconnect with Love, my vision, and the Tao — and I haven’t been doing them as religiously (word choice deliberate to denote consistent, sacred acts) as I could. I notice the difference in my equilibrium and ability to navigate and take joy in my life.

    I hereby commit to doing those things that help me feel better. :D

  6. It helps to recognize that social media is sometimes a coping outlet for people struggling with something. A lack of interactive skills in face to face situations will show up in social media interactions as well. And of course, our reactions to social media posts are not all that different from our reactions and thoughts during face to face encounters. Social media encounters just come at us more frequently and have a “in your face” feel as they pile up. if it gets to be too much, a break may be in order.

  7. Charlotte Lohrenz says:

    Cindy Bolbach and my non-religious friends have always given me a lot of grief about the 30 days of thankful. Their basic message was/is: “Get back to being the real Charlotte and tell us what you really think”. But, I had been struck by a challenge by some preacher (moi?) made recently to offer more good news than bad. So, I’ve tried a middle ground of not using the format and still trying to not complain on Facebook for November.

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