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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Facebook: A Cold Hard Look

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 23rd 2011

 

facebookFacebook has over 500 million active users who log about 700 billion minutes per month looking at pictures, writing in quotes, sharing stories, and sometimes just sweeping up and down the screen. This can be a wonderful adventure in checking in to see what people are up to personally and professionally who you may have lost touch with years ago. I also have to consider, like anything else, at what point does it increase our stress, water down our relationships, become an addictive behavior or shift us away from what really matters? This is worth being curious about and your experience will be different from your neighbors.  

Here are a few things to consider when taking a good cold hard look at your relationship to Facebook and what it potentially means in the scope of your life in being inevitably nourishing or depleting.

 

  • Intentional or Unintentional Use - Whether you’re surfing Facebook on the phone, your IPad or your computer, how often do you switch onto it intentionally as a time of restoration or play versus unintentionally as a time to check out? Do you ever wonder if you’re using it too much? Have you ever tried to cut down with it only to find yourself using it for the same amount of time later on? We have to wonder at what point does something become a problem or addictive behavior? The truth is, nothing’s a problem unless it’s a problem, but it’s worth being curious about how it’s impacting your life, is it a problem?

  • At times, not truly restorative - The reality is, we can use Facebook to nourish us as a time of restoration. But if we are unintentionally drawn to it as a means of distracting ourselves or checking out, it’s likely wasting your invaluable resource of attention and depleting you more than you know. It takes a lot of attention to sift through the enormous amount of information even if it is passive. Your mind is still at work and not really getting the relaxation and restoration it truly needs. When it’s on your phone, it’s even worse as your attention is sifting through information and looking for the next update from email, text, chat, tweets, YouTube, app updates or whatever. Or maybe you’re on Facebook while interacting with your friends, kids or watching television. This is called continuous partial attention and it’s inevitably taxing on your system.

  • Watering down relationships – There’s just a truism that we can only have so many close quality relationships. When we’re paying attention to so many people’s lives at once, we have to wonder to what extent is does this water down the “quality” of our relationships. On the one hand it can create a feeling of staying connected, but on the other hand if it is taking us away from the people who are in our physical presence like family and friends, then are we really getting the connection that we need?

 

I actually enjoy Facebook and think it's pretty cool getting all the Happy Birthdays I wouldn’t normally get, posting my blogs, seeing and hearing about distant friends or distant family I wouldn't normally stay hear about and even posting some family pics as a simple and easy way to send them out to family and friends. But this post isn't meant to judge Facebook and what it offers, but i more meant to be an inquiry for all of us as Facebook, among other applications, work hand in hand with the auto-pilot nature of our minds and it’s important to just do an honest check in and see if it is taking us away from other parts of our lives we would like to engage in (e.g, exercise, meditation, quality interaction with the people in your physical presence, reading, resting, etc…).

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction contributes to a living wisdom we can all benefit from. 

 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    facebook? - - Jun 24th 2011

    Isn't it a bit simplistic to blame facebook for some of these problems though?     I would think that there already had to be some kind of distance in the relationships.   Facebook is being used as a convenient "escape" or method of avoidance but the root of the problem lies somewhere else.   If facebook wasn't available, some other method of avoidance would be used such as alcohol for instance, right???

    Marital/family issues - Scott - Jun 23rd 2011

    I have seen an increase in marital/family issues related to  "facebook addiction."  More and more I'm seeing clients in my practice who are neglecting their spouses and families due to a person in the relationship spending countless hours on facebook.

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