Monday, May 7, 2012

Facing the Truth

Facebook, as many of us know, is both a blessing and a curse.  It lets us keep up with friends and loved ones; reconnect with old friends, past flames, and contacts in distant locations; and practically relive our High School and College years.  However, there are large challenges built into that freedom to connect.

One of the most prominent challenges we face is connected with handling the information we can now retrieve.  We voyeuristically examine the actions and updates of those we care about – we see who they spend time with, and what they’ve been doing.  Those dating and in relationships may examine Facebook updates and posts to assess the honestly or loyalty of their companions.  Parents who enjoy this often permitted ability to check-in with their kids are now learning about their child’s friends, romances, and activities online.  In both situations information is achieved through a level of spying not through honest sharing.  And as a result, we’re lost in knowing what to do with, or how to handle the information we receive.

A second, but equally important challenge is connected with determining who you “friend” on these social sites.  Do you want business/professional associates as Facebook friends?  Have you over-connected to those from your past and now you’d like to scale-back those relations?  Do you want to limit the access of your companions or relatives because of the issues noted in the previous paragraph? 
And a third, common and unfortunate challenge is that many use this site for a type of escapism.  Some of us find ourselves spending hours posting and perusing updates, playing games, and wasting time that might better be spent enhancing relationships with friends and loved ones who are physically available and in need of our attention.

Fundamental to all of these issues is the need to set boundaries. 

Know what you want – and why you want it.  Do you need and enjoy a few minutes of escapism?  Recognize that for what it is.  You aren’t working, so this is “play” time or “me” time.  Much like watching TV, Facebook fills our desire to escape.  If you’re spending a lot of time in this arena, chances are you’re avoiding dealing with something, or someone.  Be aware of the choice you are making.  

It’s also important to know what you want when it comes to determining who can be your friend.  Perhaps your boundary is to only accept close friends and non-business associates on Facebook.  LinkedIn might be the site you use for business social-networking.  New platforms on Facebook, and sites like Google + that allow you to segregate contacts into “circles” might also be helpful in organizing your connections.   

Finally, the same holds true for those who are virtual spies.  Know what you want to do with that information.  Are you making sure your kids are safe?  Then that is what you can use Facebook for – ensuring their safety.  Not for determining who they choose as a friend unless there is a clear line connecting those two issues. 

Are you verifying your ex-boyfriend hasn’t jilted you for a past love?  Then verification is what you are allowed – not access to confronting him with what you know.  Either you learn that he was trustworthy – or that he wasn’t.  Either way your relationship didn’t work out and Facebook isn’t the way to change that.

Learn their boundaries – and respect them.  How does your family (or your boss!) feel about the time you spend on social networking sites?  

When it comes to who you connect with – keep in mind your children may have “friended” you because they felt pressured to do so, or were worried they’d hurt you by refusing.  Your new love may have wanted to demonstrate their growing interest in you, but may not be ready to announce you’re involvement with one another via a publicly pronounced change in “relationship status”.

Ask questions to determine what their boundaries are with letting you see deeper into their world.

Set your own boundaries ­­- and be clear about them.  That may mean limiting who you friend or on what site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)  you “friend” them.   It may mean sharing your comfort level with your social-networking friends regarding what sort of information or photos you’re comfortable with them posting about you.  It may also mean setting boundaries for yourself regarding how much “play” time you spend on social networking. 

All of these skills in setting boundaries require a degree of self-exploration along with the ability to have honest communication with those in your life.  For more suggestions and advice on that, please feel free to peruse our other articles on that subject.  To enhance your skills through communication training, please contact me at

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