Jun 282015 0 Responses

Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout

In our house, the word “timeout” is often considered a negative. It’s normally a form of punishment. One of the kids will have violated a house rule and their consequence is an age-defined time spent in isolation to reflect on their actions, calm their emotions, and consider a better course of action the next time they are faced with a similar scenario. They consider it a negative, but for their overall development, it is a positive.

Mommy and daddy often take a timeout for very similar reasons. We need to remove ourselves from the situation, keep from doing something we regret, gain perspective, and hopefully make a good choice. We aren’t forced into a timeout like our children, but we choose to isolate ourselves as a form of protection.

This parenting technique and marriage tool can also be a useful approach to social media. Sometimes, you need a Facebook timeout. (See: Drama Addicts–Why Some Friends Are Always Drawn to Drama)

I took one last week. I still posted on my wall. I “liked” a few articles. I even commented on some posts. But generally speaking, I put myself on a Facebook timeout. It was self-imposed. My mom didn’t put it in the corner. My wife didn’t threaten me. My employer didn’t ban me from social media. I did it to myself.

I refused to engage with two major news stories (one local and one national) which were dominating my news feed. It’s not because I was disinterested or wanted to ignore the situations. It’s not because I lacked something to say. I put myself on a Facebook timeout because I was afraid the tensions were too high, the risks were too great, and my engagement would not productively add to the conversation.

Stating my opinion ran the risk of doing more damage than good. In those moments, why not be quiet?

There is a danger of being quiet in times of controversy. I would never encourage cowardice. We must have the boldness to speak in difficult times even at the risk of creating tension with those we love. We must be willing to stand up against injustice and give voice to those who are oppressed or disenfranchised. If you are concerned about offending the powerful in speaking for someone or some group who are being unfairly treated—speak and let the chips fall where they may. (See: Don’t Be a Facebook Piranha)

However, if the noise is loud, if everyone is shouting their opinions, if no one is listening, and if speaking would in no way help others, but would only temporarily make you feel better—don’t bother. Take a timeout and wait to engage on another day.

A self-imposed Facebook timeout is a useful option for anyone who regularly posts to social media. It can serve several functions:

It can protect you from yourself. There are moments in which we are not in the right mindset to have our opinions known by others. If we are hurt, mad, or bitter and if we air our opinions we will likely regret them later. Post opinions when you are emotionally in a good spot. Stay quiet if you are not. (See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook)

It’s a reminder your opinion isn’t necessary on every topic. For those who post a lot on social media, it is easy to get into the mindset that our opinions are necessary for everything. They aren’t. The world can go without knowing our every thought. By being silent on occasion, we can be reminded of its truth.

It can help you listen. The biggest mistake we make on Facebook and other forms of social media is that we talk far more than we listen. By refusing to state your opinion, it gives you time to listen to others.

It can deepen your thought. First responses are rarely right responses. However, after we publicly state our opinions, we interpret every story we read through the lens of our opinion. We become biased. Whenever we stay quiet, our minds are more open to be influenced by new information.

Facebook can be a fun forum to exchange ideas, interact with other people, and engage in the broader world. Yet Facebook is neutral. It can be good or bad, all depending on how we use it. When we are at our best—our most thoughtful, kind, interesting, and intelligent—it is at its best. When we are at our worst—our most selfish, close-minded, mean, and inconsiderate—it is at its worst. (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks)

Because we aren’t always at our best, we shouldn’t always comment on social media. At times, the best we can do is put ourselves in timeout.

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