I was recently sitting with a group of yoga teachers, lovely people who I generally have a lot of time for. However, on this particular occasion, I had that rather uncomfortable feeling that you get when you really don’t agree with the heated opinions being voiced, but can’t quite find the words to speak up.
The topic of their vitriol? People who share their emotional angst on Facebook.
“People just share far too much on Facebook. Really personal stuff about how depressed they feel. It’s just attention seeking,” one said.
“I barely know this person, and she is sharing posts about how much she misses her dead sister. I don’t feel comfortable with it,” said another. “I’ve never met her sister.”
“I know. And it annoys me when this woman posted about how much she appreciated her wonderful husband on his birthday. I mean, she could have just told him to his face. It’s just showing off,” said a third.
Now, I am not a yoga teacher, so I didn’t feel very qualified to comment on whether sharing your thoughts and feelings on Facebook is yogic or not, but I didn’t feel comfortable.
On reflection, surely if we are working towards kindly acceptance of all our emotional states, then being able to name them is important, even when they are grief, loneliness or existential angst. Appreciation and gratitude are also attitudes worth cultivating. Naming these emotions in public is a strong way of acknowledging them.
Facebook can sometimes feel a bit like Smugbook – all those perfect holiday snaps and nights out – so personally I find it a relief when people allow their less than perfect lives to be seen in public. It helps me feel that I am not alone with my domestic chaos or my quiet night in.
If a friend of mine shares that they are lonely or grieving, I give them a few moments of kind thoughts and post a message to let them know they are not alone. I might give them a ring or make a point of chatting to them in the office next time I see them if that seems appropriate. It can make the connection between us stronger.
I’ve noticed that it tends to be my male friends who are more likely to share feelings on social media. One friends recently posted that he felt inexplicably lonely, even in a crowd of friends, whilst another posted that he missed his recently deceased father. Men are often criticised for not being emotionally literate, so surely this sharing is a great step forward in redefining masculinity.
Female friends seem more likely to share the frustrations of parenthood or juggling home and work life. The laundry that fell in the mud, the child behaving like a brat, the baby that won’t sleep, the babysitter that didn’t turn up or the cake that just didn’t rise. Letting a less than perfect life be seen in public builds intimacy.
A bit of appreciation for the long-suffering husbands/wives and mothers/fathers who support us through this quagmire reminds us all to appreciate those around us. And doesn’t everyone like to be acknowledged in public for the great things we do? Even if those great things are not ending world poverty or inventing a solar powered aeroplane, but simply being a supportive partner or parent.
So, now I have finally gathered my thoughts, here are my replies to those yoga teachers.
- If you really don’t care that someone is grieving for their sister, there is a simple solution – don’t be friends with them on Facebook. You are obviously not friends in real life, even if she thinks otherwise.
- It’s good to be appreciative of all those who help and support you, and appreciating people in public is a lovely gift.
- If you need support, it’s fine to ask for it. Nothing wrong with that. Your real friends will be happy to send you kind messages when you need them, and make time for you.
- Sharing your real life with its emotional ups and downs helps all of us to know that we are not alone, that no life is as perfect as it may look from the outside.
- If you want to share person information about your life, think about who your friends are, and your privacy settings. Make sure you are sharing with the people who really do care about you.