Feeling Safe on Social Media
In 2020 I was the closest I had ever been to deleting my long-time Facebook account. I had filed for divorce. It was an intense time and I needed space. I deactivated my account for four months. Even when things had calmed down some I found myself hesitant. I keep procrastinating activating it, wondering if I should just walk away. But, like many of you, having Facebook is not always an option. Maybe it’s the only way you can keep in touch with some friends and family. Maybe it’s the place you get news. Maybe it’s related to your business. It was all three for me; I had to have some kind of presence.
It started when I used it for my old job. I had to moderate groups, respond to questions at all hours of the day for events I would run and more. It was mainly used for work, a chore. When I started Digital Respons-Ability it remained a chore. I had to be on for the business. I would have to write “Facebook post” on my to do list to force myself to do it.
Facebook become mentally taxing in different ways. As a business owner I had to make decisions and do things that were not always popular. I would login to Facebook and see “vague booking” about myself, posts that were not accurate, assumptions that were made. But I’d keep quiet. My Facebook profile was not just about me anymore, but the business. And I had, and always have had a policy of never speaking negativity or sharing people’s personal information. But it hurt seeing things and not feeling I could defend myself. Facebook, like all social media, just shows one side of the story.
After those experiences I found that even looking at my newsfeed would bring anxiety. With Facebook you never know what you’ll see—what you’ll be confronted with. It’s this randomness that is both fun and serendipitous, and treacherous. I did everything I teach others to do: block, hide, unfriend, snooze etc. but still, the randomness and constant changing of the algorithm can still push things in your face. I locked things down and set all the controls I could, but what’s ended up best for me was stepping back.
I half-joke that I’m the “most boring person on Facebook.” I rarely post or comment. In real life I’m very open and will talk your ear off—but I don’t do that online. It’s not because I don’t have people I love and care about on the platform, but it’s no longer a place where I feel safe. Over the years the posts, comments and people took its toll. But, like many, I’m stuck having to use it.
This is not an advice column. I’ve taken my own advice and the problem still remains. I can mitigate things but not entirely prevent them. And in our 21st century world it’s getting harder and harder to opt out of tech. This blog post is to share my thoughts from past experiences and to tell my Facebook friends: I care about you, contact me off Facebook.