Pruning the Facebook Tree….or Yelling ”Timber!”

I had another friend tell me this week that they thought they were going to delete Facebook. This is not a person who uses Facebook very much, so I can’t see that the action will change their life very much. I was frankly surprised it was “a thing”. I feel it has been a good thing in our lives as friends, allowing us to keep in touch. In fact, I wished this person used it to post more because I love knowing what is going on with them. With the busy-ness of our lives, the preferred direct communication is difficult sometimes. When we do get together there is only time to share so much. To already have an idea of what has been going on? We can cut to the chase and get to the details! I know their encouragement of me (through my excessive posts of daily life) has been a gift.

I had another friend delete Facebook this year, and I will confess it still makes my heart ache. I mourned. It was our only form of communication. Granted it was an acquaintance and not a close friend, but he is someone whose thoughts and insights enhanced my life. His life is very different than mine, and I enjoyed seeing the contrast. I miss him.

Some people seem to see Facebook as this super negative power. It’s just an app….though I admit it can have power. But in your life, really only if you allow it to. I believe I hold its power, and don’t experience a lot of negatives. I have the power to choose my friends (some are people I have never met, which is weird and wonderful and I guess at times could be creepy. Mostly it has been wonderful.) I control whose posts I see and whose I don’t. I seldom block people or posts…..but if I want to, I have the power. If an image or a post particularly bothers me (and granted, some I don’t want taking up space in my brain). I can wipe it off my page and focus on others that uplift and encourage me and make me think without shuddering.

I am fascinated by Facebook behavior….by the things that people share and the sides of them that come out when they do. I try to keep things in perspective and realize one statement does not the person make. People have bad days. People express themselves badly. And then there is the opposite. Some people only post the good and amazing parts of their lives. They post words of great wisdom, when truth is they live really screwed up lives. This doesn’t bother me. They, too, can say something that encourages or changes me for the better. Even if they really don’t live it in their real life. I’ll use their words well.

Some people only post about others. They’ll tell you about the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren, but never give a glimpse of their own lives. Some rant on topics to the point I wonder what their goal is…though I know they truly have no goal or they would do it another way. They are just letting off steam. Facebook is their chance to vent and get validation from those who agree with them….and start fights with those who don’t. They seem both proud and confused when people unfriend them. They are the drama queens and kings of the world….and would probably be offended if you made that observation to them. But we know it, don’t we? Most of us don’t choose to live such drama in our lives and should not take it as reality.

Which leads me to another observation I have made lately….how many people are slaves to the opinions of other people. Oh, I am not beyond it….which probably is why it fascinates me so much. I have identified that as a personal weakness. In doing that I give myself power to change it. I tend to notice it in myself more quickly and put things in perspective a bit faster. One of the greatest truths I have ever learned is that people are human. Yeah…inane statement to some…insert eye roll here if you find it necessary. But as an analytical type, that simple statement has often changed my whole view of things. 

Even the brightest and most intuitive can be off base about things. I learned this best from people criticizing me (and while I have been criticized a lot in person, nowhere near as much as on Facebook. Especially from complete strangers.) I used to agonize when someone I respected made a critical comment about me that didn’t ring true. It confused the daylights out of me. I would obsess about it and look for the truth of it. They had to be right…they were smart and had made many observations of people and things that were on point. But as I marinated in their words (sometimes preparing to grill myself), as I looked at who I know myself to be, I simply didn’t agree with what they said. Or I agreed completely in the observation itself, but where they saw it as a weakness in me, I saw it as a strength. It was not something I wanted to change, just because they said so. As for a stranger criticizing me, it only hurts until I consider the source and remember they are judging me based on one written comment….it smarts a bit longer when my “real” friend doesn’t defend me as a person of value.
The Facebook meme words of wisdom would tell me to cut these people completely out of my life. They would be seen as negative influences and therefore should be banned. But if you look at everyone as simply human, you realize that you can keep people like this in your life and simply realize they are sometimes wrong. Or they are right in a way, but it is not something that you need to change now. Or ever.

There are parts of who I am that annoy other people (sometimes I annoy myself), but I am not inclined to change them. I am sometimes a difficult friend. I am on occasion brutally honest. It’s a family trait, inherited from both sides. The McKinneys and the Scotts are honest and blunt and critical and very often loud in spouting their thoughts. Not an excuse for me to do it excessively, but it is what I know. And I prefer going through life this way rather than being someone who wears a mask all the time.

If you are my real life friend, I almost always have an opinion on the choices you make in your life. There will be few times you don’t know what these opinions are, whether you ask for them or not. As your friend, I feel the obligation to tell you. My goal is to only say these things to you one time if they are negative, unless you bring them up again yourself. Or unless I see you making what I believe are critical errors in your life and I am following you around with a life preserver so you don’t drown. I sometimes fail in that “one time only thing”, but most of my friends know the magic words are “We’ve already discussed this.” That usually makes me put a clamp on it.  But if you know me well, you know I believe you get to make your own choices in life. You get to make mistakes. You don’t have to change yourself or how you live because I have an opinion. These things in themselves will not ruin our friendship. If they cause struggle or consequences for you, hopefully these will be the times I will be there for you the most. Even if I could say “I told you so.”

There are people I don’t particularly care for. There are days I don’t like or respect even my closest friends. There are times I feel unappreciated and overlooked. There are times I don’t meet expectations and times I offend. Sometimes I ask for advice and decide your view is not my own, so don’t take it. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable….but sometimes it simply clarified my own take. No offense intended. And there are times when I decide certain opinions of me just don’t matter. Even from the best of people. These times seem to increase with age.

But “unfriending” friends? I don’t do it often. I am OK when they do it to me and realize they have that right and don’t owe me an explanation. Though I have been known to ask anyway. Because yeah…..sometimes the curiosity gets the best of me. And sometimes I want to know how someone I love can discard me (because sometimes that is how it feels). Even though, once again, I fully believe they have that right. You are not obligated to be my friend for life. Well….some of you are. But me believing that doesn’t mean it is necessarily right.

In my life I have learned that often if I run from certain relationships or try to pretend certain people don’t exist, God will keep putting these people in my path. Over and over and over again until I realize I just need to surrender. Usually it is to remind me that they are more than a caricature. They are a complicated human, both good and sometimes “evil”. That does not mean they are worthless. And because they are not where I am in life, or where I think they should be, it does not mean that God is not prodding me to love them well. Where they are….without judgment. How does shunning people change them for the better? It’s a concept I have thought about a lot in recent years, especially since I had discussions with a friend about certain Christian groups that do it often (I had no idea), and I abhor the whole concept. I admit I wanted to join one of these churches for the express purpose of eventually being shunned. But that’s a character flaw with me. (And one that I kinda enjoy.)

But as for us….spending our time trying to convince anybody their opinion of us is wrong (especially strangers) is usually moments of your life wasted. It’s fine to be who you are today. You have to accept where you are so you can be better tomorrow. Work on not ever living life for applause from anyone but God. (He knows you inside and out and is not going to unfriend you.) Let that be enough.

Those folks who tie you up in knots? They are mere mortals. Just like you. Fallible and wonderful. But sometimes you do need to avoid them and regain your equilibrium. 
That;s OK.

You’ve heard this from me before. If you don’t have people around you who love you warts and all, who don’t acknowledge all of who you are, who spend all of their time with you trying to mold you into who they think you should be, and who don’t include you in their lives with open arms and open doors, then knock down those walls you have put up to everyone else and open up yourself to the world. Find your tribe. You need those who support you well, so you can counter the many you will run into who won’t. Sometimes you make changes in your tribe. Your needs may be different, or theirs. You may no longer serve each other well. Sometimes hard relationships are worth it. Sometimes they are not.

A relationship is not just about you….think of the needs of others equal to your own needs. Not more, not less….equal is best. There needs to be balance there. Love the full person (even the things you don’t like.)  Don’t give them a life sentence for a minor infraction. Embrace the good parts. Minimize the bad parts. Be kind to strangers. And cut the public drama. Quietly prune your friends list, if you need to (stop with the public “I am deleting 97.6% of my friends today who I no longer need in  my life”. What’s the point of that anyway?) Walk totally away if it burdens you excessively. But think twice before you destroy that tree. Maybe you need to prune, and in time it will produce fruit you will enjoy eating.

You can control Facebook. It doesn’t need to control you. One thing I like about it….it’s a microcosm of our world. You can learn a lot about others. And about yourself. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Even if on days you are really aware that we can all be quite annoying. But on another day….oh, how beautiful our people, how beautiful our world.

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