The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed

When I’m procrastinating on writing—due to fear, fatigue, fear, lack of inspiration, did I mention fear?—Facebook is like a magnet.

One day recently, I could feel its pull, so I decided to trick myself into writing by giving into the temptation, going to Facebook, and crafting a blog post entitled, “The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed”—a sort of hopeful, redemptive response to all of the angry, nasty, and cynical news in my Facebook scroll.

The first item in my feed was exactly what I’d predicted.

A New York Times article about the anger at a political rally, replete with divisive comments from both supporters and haters. It confirmed my expectations, and I got ready to write a really good response to all the soul-sucking content.

But then I kept scrolling.

And it was the only article posted in the previous two hours that drained my soul.

The rest of the content nourished my soul.

There was an invitation to the high school graduation of my youngest cousin, and a video of his recent national drum line performance. It was breathtaking. Young people pouring all of their time and energy into creating beauty, and then bravely putting it out into the world.

And there was a group of old friends marking the 25th anniversary of one of their beloved movies by sharing favorite lines from the movie. You got the feeling that the LOLs in the comments were the real deal. Picturing people belly laughing always makes me happier.

Someone had posted a meme about vengeance: “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” Suddenly, the “feed” in my head that is often filled with ways I’ve been wounded or mistreated was filled with images of people who have loved me well.

There was a long string of birthday wishes. I often lament these. But the truth is, if I get fifty Facebook wishes on my birthday, that’s about forty-five more than I would have gotten ten years ago. And who couldn’t use more acknowledgment that the day they were born was a good day because, on that day, this world became one person more beautiful?

A friend had shared an invitation to a wine festival in Chicago. It reminded me of what my oldest son recently said after attending his first concert: one of the best parts of being there was being a part of something bigger than him. Amen, buddy, amen. We all need places of belonging, where we’re all paying attention to the same things, enjoying the same flavors, celebrating the same art. I’ll take an invitation to that any day.

I found out it was national tea day. It’s an antiquated ritual of sitting down daily, to rest and to taste and to come together. A mini-festival of sorts. My kids love making tea, and I decided we’d make tea together after school. What we made, really, was a memory.

Facebook Friends

Photo Credit: Bigstock (Tatyana_Tomsickova)

Then, another meme: “I am in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness.” I’m not sure this is always true, but it’s true way more often than we think. And it reminded me: it’s up to me to choose between the laughter of my children, or the somberness of my adulthood.

In the end, what I ultimately realized was this: if we have a bunch of anger, negativity, and cynicism in our Facebook feed, it’s not the fault of Facebook, or even the content creators. It’s because we’ve populated our Facebook world with people who have decided to cultivate their own anger, negativity, and cynicism. So, I don’t have to write the antidote to it. There already is one.

It’s called the Unfriend button.

I suppose this is true in the real world, as well. Though, of course, in life, it’s not as easy as hitting a button. Usually, it’s a long, slow letting go of the people we tried to love—the people we’d hoped would make our lives more beautiful but just made our lives more toxic.

And, in the end, the other thing I realized is this: I’m grateful for my people. Thank you for bringing the light into the darkness, hope into the doom, peace into the fear, and love into the hate. I’d friend you twice if I could.

If your people bring the love, let them know you notice. Let them know they’re the antidote, to the darkness, to the doom, to the fear, and to the hate.

Let them know they matter.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Free eBook: My eBook, The Marriage Manifesto: Turning Your World Upside Down, is available free to new blog subscribers. If you are not yet a subscriber, you can click here to subscribe, and your confirmation e-mail will include a link to download the eBook. Or, the book is also now available for Kindle and Nook.

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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Shannon Sprague

    <3

  • Love this, thank you.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Amy, and you’re welcome!

  • Paul

    You are lucky to have a facebook (aka fakebook) which is not bombarded with ego trip selfies, hipocrisy, bullying ,superficiality, nosense, waste of time , ridicule and fake. I’m pro social media (aka antisocial media) for business, organisations etc, but deeply sad by its existance and (mis) use by individuals. I can only see harm being done to our children, our health, our souls, our mental health and psycological and emotional stability. I obviously don’t have one and will reflect upon your article to ponder my views… Thank you for writing it.

    • Shayne Wheeler

      Paul- I think Kelly pointed out exactly why social media is not always a bad thing. I feel most people are either 1-overboard on the social media, or 2-so against it that they look down on those of us who do use it. I tell people this often: FB is (for the most part) what you make of it. If you surround yourself (friend) with good positive people that uplift you, then that is what FB is.
      I post on FB to make others laugh, to encourage, and to share my crazy life stories of my family (sort of like a journal-minus the doubts and fears). I often get compliments and people saying how they look forward to my posts because they know they will be funny. That makes me feel good. I do believe that laughter is the best medicine. I often get told that my children are super funny. I don’t believe that they are any funnier than your average child, I just know how to SEE it (and how to re-tell it well).
      I am SUPER picky about who I friend. When I finally do friend you, the second negative comment I am unfriending you. I have zero energy for negativity.
      On a side note: My husband has a shirt that says “how do I block you in real life”! People love it.

      • Shayne Wheeler

        Btw Paul- I totally agree with social media ruining children. I’ve been struggling with our 14 year old since she was 11 and got her first iPod (who knew an iPod could text and make phone calls?!! 😳). It is definitely for the mature. If I had it to do over, we’d be homeschooling without any single electronic. (Read: Any. Single. Electronic!!!)

        • Paul

          Hi Shayne, thank you for your comments, I didn’t mean to be offensive or to look down on all (of you) who uses FB. If I did I apologize. I just wanted to express my view. I find FB (and its cousins) really intriguing and disturbing. I’m a rather optimistic person who tries to see the positive in things but FB challenges me to do that. The narcisistic ego engolfing nature of it being just one amongst the many problems…. (the anxiety to be “liked”! ) And unfortunately, the youth is the biggest target. Which you agree being quite catastrophic. All this said, blessings on all of you who uses it wisely – and I really mean it – and can get good things out of the experience, as Kelly has described. Thank you again for taking the time to read my opinion and to reply. Sorry if I sounded disrespectful or judgemental as it wasn’t my intention.

          • Shayne Wheeler

            I was not offended at all. I appreciated you being honest and I read your initial comment as saying you may have felt you were being slightly (very very slightly) harsh on social media after reading Kelly’s post. FB is the only one I use. I snoop on my daughters phone every so often and find Instagram a dangerous popularity contest and snap chat can just go to hell where it came from. (My daughter currently has a very trendy flip phone due to misuse of the Internet).
            Best wishes.

            • drkellyflanagan

              Paul and Shayne, your exchange epitomizes why I love this community here at UnTangled. Lovely people who can communicate and disagree while leaving each other’s dignity intact. Thanks for modeling that for the rest of us. Paul, if you look back at my posts from earlier this year, you’ll see several revealing my love/hate relationship with mobile technology, media, etc. It was fun to be able to write a post in which I started out biased against it and then it won me over!

  • Laura Chichester

    Oh my goodness thank YOU Kelly! You are making a huge difference in a world full of static and all sorts of less meaningful “things”.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you for your affirmation, Laura, I’m grateful!

  • Lyz Harvey

    Today – log in to FB (bigtime procrastination for me too!) – first thing I see is your statement – thank you for the difference you have just made to my life! Bless you, Kelly xxx

    • drkellyflanagan

      Love that serendipity, Lyz, and so glad the post arrived at just the right moment!

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    I love this! I am thankful for the fluidity in your thought as you moved from the piece you thought you would write to the one that begged to be written and for the true wealth of individuals who have populated your feed and my own feed (virtual and in vibrant real life) with positivity, laughter, belonging, celebration, and support. What a blessing those connections are across distance and time and what can feel like a whole lifetime of becoming someone we weren’t when we knew each other last; that there are still things that bring us together is a joy.
    And what isn’t a joy, where we find no connection or light, I’m glad for the practice in letting go.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Amen to all of it, Shel. This was actually my most fun post to write in a while, because of how much the focus shifted from starting it to finishing it. It’s nice to feel led like that. Blessings upon you and your people; I’m guessing you’re a magnet for the light. 🙂

  • Just Thinkin’

    A month ago I took a few hundred off my Facebook and a lot more off linkedin. The reasons as exactly what you say – who edifies, who tears down. Not big obvious tear downs, but who tempts me away from my values? Who dishonours women, who celebrates violence, who loves divisiveness (ok, just those who love it more than me, sadly), who cheapens sex and sexuality, and denigrates gentleness and meekness? These people are largely gone from my feed and I am better for it.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Vaughan, this is fantastic. Would love to see a post listing a bunch of these very thoughtful criteria for refining social media contacts!

  • Steven Douglas

    A week ago I made a similar “unfriend” recommendation to a friend who is struggling with depression and I think it’s helped her tremendously. While she struggles to find her light again, it seemed to me that last thing she needed was the dark cloud of negativity that flooded her timeline. She was uncertain about many of the friendships and decided to “unfollow” which can also be effective, and I saw a difference in her mood almost immediately. Thanks for a great article Kelly.

    • drkellyflanagan

      It was wise counsel, Steven. When we’re depressed, we need to saturate ourselves with light, both physical and spiritual/emotional. I’m certain that made a difference. And, yes, I’ve learned about the “unfollow” button today, which makes total sense!

  • Julie Salinas

    My feed has been full of a lot of political bashing and I’m tired of it. While I dont want to unfriend them, they are generally cool during normal times, I do not want to read their rants or tear down of another person just because they don’t like their politics, so I just unfollow them and make them only an acquaintance. It has really lightened up my newsfeed! I also have stopped following local news – there wasnt enough good – only scary fear mongering and I just prefer to have my FB be a happy place. Good post!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Love the balanced view you exemplify here, Julie, giving your crowd the benefit of the doubt that they’re reacting to a cultural event but generally pretty cool. That’s grace. Thanks for bringing it.

  • A much appreciated post. You have a wonderful way of putting things in perspective.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Carolyn.

  • Nela

    Amin! Love to read you!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Nela!

  • Lynette Janneker Julius

    Thank you Kelly for these awe-inspiring facts. It seems that the idea of an Unfriend button in real life is marvellous. Yes, that would be fantastic and cause less heartache, less confrontation and conflict. Please be encouraged that you do motivate me to think more about light hearted issues.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you for the encouragement, Lynette, I really appreciate it!

  • Karen

    I couldn’t have said it better myself .. we have the choice of what we allow ourselves to read on FACEBOOK. I went and hit “unlike” to a bunch of “NEWS” pages I joined because I couldn’t take the constant depressing sad stories anymore. I think the news chooses to focus on the bad and not the good, and sometimes if we focus so much on all that negativity, we become it. Facebook really gives us the ability to choose what we want to see – no one forces us to do anything, we choose that – and that also allows us to focus on the good – if we choose to.

    Nothing bothers me more than when I see someone post a status message saying “I am deactivating my Facebook because its taking up too much of my time and I am sick of reading all the crap and drama on here” ummmm well why the need to deactivate it? its YOUR CHOICE what you read, what you focus on, and how much time you spend on it, Facebook has nothing to do with that, its your choice, and yes its your time you are putting into it. Lean to balance the time between life and relaxing into connecting with friends, why deactivate yourself from it?

    So thank you for this reminder – its all about choice and the choice being ours!

    • drkellyflanagan

      I hear you, Karen. I respect the decision to get off of Facebook, but it is so much more constructive to experience and express it as a personal choice and an act of self-care, rather than a criticism and judgment of the people being left.

  • Grace

    Four o’clock is coffee time in this house…kids get a little treat while Mommy has a stout cup-a-joe.
    And this morning I wrote on FB about the Brooks logo my 7-year-old noticed on the inside edge of my shirt (kids always notice what’s really on the inside…) RUNHAPPY. It was my theme today! And I too saw mostly life-speaking things on my feed. It’s priceless to seek the good in people and find it, it’s always there, even when we must dig deeply. Kids do that well. This is a wonderful community where you cultivate just that! 🙂

  • Mike Gates

    I find Facebook best in small doses. Just for my own happiness.
    My favorite part of my experience on Facebook thus far is changing my wife to “acquaintance”, just so I’d stop having everything she does fill the feed. She’s interacts waaaay more with it than I do, and I found it overwhelming. 🙂
    Overall, I find it a mixed bag, just like the est of humanity. Some incredibly beautiful, some incredibly ugly. Most of it ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • Marilyn Holloway

    Thank you for writing and posting this! I too find joy, laughter and encouragement on Facebook. That is what I seek, that is what I find. There is a worldwide community of people who are bringing light and love in so many small ways, like drops of water coming together to form an ocean. That is where I belong, to the ocean of love.

  • Joyce Slaughter

    There is also a “Hide” functionality for those people who will notice and give you grief for having unfriended them … I have more than a few such people in my life. And thankfully, I can blame Facebook’s ever changing algorithms when they ask if I saw this post or that.

    What I find interesting in your examples above, is those memes that are typically seen as positive, but are actually negative because of the memories and feelings they evoke form the reader. Any meme or quote that takes you down before it lifts you, isn’t wanted in my feeds …

  • Debbie Grace

    So enjoyed this post, Kelly.

    Especially “I’m grateful for my people. Thank you for bringing the light into the darkness, hope into the doom, peace into the fear, and love into the hate. I’d friend you twice if I could.”

    Yes.

  • Agreed! Great thing about the “mouse”..it’s highly responsive to scrolling quickly past the things that are just not edifying! I quite enjoy FB..there’s usually always some post of a video or photo that makes me smile, unlike the news channels!