Like millions of other computer-users around the world, I happen to enjoy keeping up with friends and family on Facebook. Since ill health has robbed me of many opportunities to leave the house and socialize this year, the social media website is marvelous for filling me in on big news and, in my case, big prayer requests.
However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among some of my Facebook connections that isn’t so beneficial. In fact, this trend has led to many Facebook rants, arguments in the comments section and strained friendships. What is this awful trend? I call it “Facebook Freakinout.”
Some of my social media connections (and countless others I don’t know) tend to get emotionally worked up over what they read on Facebook — usually images shared by organizations that communicate a certain political or religious bent. They usually express their Facebook Freakinout by using phrases such as: “The world’s coming to an end! This country’s going to hell in a hand basket! Our rights and freedoms are being taken away! Conspiracy! Work of the devil! I’m just going back to bed.”
Sadly, I’ve counseled a half dozen friends over the past two years after they got so worked up over stuff on Facebook that they completely lost sight of God and their relationship with Him. They were an emotional mess! It is so easy to overly focus on the things of earth. It’s even easier to focus on the things of earth that are completely out of our control. Pretty soon our biblical worldview goes to hell in a hand basket, assuming we had such a godly way to see the world in the first place! We cease to realize that God is still on His throne, He still loves us, and He is still at work in this world redeeming the lost, broken and hurting.
Tip #1 — Do not let emotion drive your life.
What makes Facebook Freakinout such a problem is that we tend to fuel our emotions on things other people post instead of letting our knowledge of God and trust in His wisdom determine how our emotions react. You see, when our emotions are placed at the top of our relationship with God, we have a distorted relationship. It’s not right! If I was to let emotion determine how I feel about God, I would most likely despise Him most days and downright hate Him other days! I could easily go from a Sunday morning high of emotion after church to a Sunday afternoon low after a football game or after an argument with my spouse. Or, perhaps better yet, I could go from feeling good about God when I wake up and have my prayer time and then hate Him after receiving a nasty bill collection notice in the mail.
But that is not the right way to relate to the Almighty! Look at David, the mighty king of Israel. His psalms are full of raw emotions, gut reactions, and cries for divine response. However, at the end of his cries, David acknowledges who God is and what he has done. The result of that admission? Praise of God. Always right your emotional ship with the certainty of who God is, as revealed in the Bible.
Our knowledge of God, as revealed in Scripture, should dictate how we use our emotions when we read negative Facebook posts.
Tip #2 — Limit your exposure to negative posts. Click “unfollow” in your newsfeed.
I look at political posts on Facebook with a big grain of salt and either a grimace or a grin. If someone is going nuts and posting multiple items a day, I will simply “unfollow” them. They are still friends on Facebook and I can still message them, but whenever they post overreactions it doesn’t show up in my newsfeed. In order to see their latest, I have to enter their name in the “find” bar at the top of the website and click on their page. If someone is always “sharing” items they found on the internet I do the same thing in my newsfeed.
I suggested this to a friend the other day and he seemed shocked that you could actually do this. “You mean I don’t have to look at everything everyone posts?” he asked. Nope. You don’t. If stuff is upsetting you on Facebook, block the posters from your feed. Remember that you are still friends with them and can still contact them but you don’t have to be bombarded with posts that induce Facebook Freakinout.
Tip #3 — Resist the urge to comment on freakinout posts.
I’ll shamefully admit that this one is the hardest for me to practice. When someone posts something that I find to be outrageous, my first reaction is to comment on it and try to “bring them down to earth” or “correct their error.” Maybe I should’ve been a school teacher. Lately, though, whenever I give my two cents it seems that four are thrown right back at me! I inflame the emotional situation and do more harm than good. I’ve even strained friendships over attempts to correct. No more!
In Star Trek, the Borg aliens used to declare “resistance is futile.” Thankfully, that is not true when it comes to our words and actions. James says that it only takes one spark from the tongue to start a forest fire. Last summer I volunteered at a campground that was barely saved from such a fire. Forty-four thousand acres consumed in only three weeks after a lightning strike.
Our keyboards (touch or real) are an extension of our tongues. Resist commenting on frivolous things publicly. If a brother or sister in Christ has gone off the deep end, spiritually, call them or, at the very least, message them privately.
Tip #4 — Reduce your overall exposure to social media.
This is always a good thing, I think, unless you are a shut-in and cannot physically socialize with others. The longer you are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., the greater the chance that you will see something that produces freakinout. Set boundaries for your day and stick to them.
Try this: Try limiting your Facebook time to, say, one hour a day. Now to many people that seems like an eternity to be on Facebook. I have friends who get on Facebook once every few months, and my best friend checks Facebook once or twice a year! But to others, a one hour time-limit means an eternity awaits you apart from Facebook! “What do I do with all that time? Agony!”
Like I wrote before, social media can be a wonderful tool for keeping up with old friends and distant family. I think it can be a great ministry for someone who desires to help people with their questions or problems via social media. But for many people, Facebook is coming in the way of their relationship with God. And when that happens drastic steps need to be taken. Are you suffering from Facebook Freakinout? Beware and take action, my friend!
Remember who God is and let your emotions flow from that knowledge. Eliminate the negativity from your newsfeed. Resist commenting on freakinout posts. And reduce your exposure to social media overall. Doing so will help you fight the freakinout and return you to some semblance of stability.