- Mental health.
- Personal boundaries.
- D, all of the above.
Never a fan of discussing politics or religion on social media, I decided long before the election not to discuss anything having to do with either subject on any of my social media channels unless it has to do with topics I’m passionate about: sexual abuse or trauma of any kind, and women’s rights. If these topics arise, I made the decision to share articles I had personally researched and vetted, due to the plethora of fake news (more on that in a bit).
Regardless, I found Facebook to sometimes be a hotbed of attacks and derision. I suppose it’s because there are no limit constraints — people write opinion novels, without regard to respecting what someone has curated on their own personal wall. I’m all for polite discourse, yet I found this to be rare. No, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. How boring. Yes, I do expect respect and adulting. No name-calling, which sadly happens frequently. Come on, people.
Yes, I realize, as the account owner, I can go through the effort of creating lists of who sees what, but I simply do not have the time (single mom of two teens, entrepreneur, working author, marketer, blah blah blah). Creating lists of whose feelings might be hurt on Facebook is not a priority for me.
So, with all this in mind, I decided: fuck it. I’m only going to post in my Street Team (a closed group — click if you want to request access) or on my verified author and business pages (save the occasional cat photo or quote). Still sharing articles, blog posts, insider tips, quotes, etc., there, and I’ve connected with some amazing people on Facebook who have become real-life friends, who’ve asked me to write for them (and me, them), and I’ve created and connected with an incredible survivor community (a private, secret group).
It’s not that I stopped using Facebook altogether — just my personal wall. If people wanted to find me, they could. I’m very active on Twitter, so they could always find me there, too.
Why I really stopped posting? What happened while I stopped posting? Where am I now? Let’s deconstruct.
Why I Stopped Posting on my Personal Facebook Account
I realize my expectations are pretty high, but here’s my thinking: if you want to post racist shit on your wall, that’s your right. I have no right to go to your wall and tell you what to write or share or think because it’s yours. You curate it, you own it. That’s how it works. I respect your right to be a complete jar of hate and I will say nothing on your personal account.
Now, if you post that cowardly crap on a public page? That’s an entirely different story. Then you are fair game.
See the difference?
Apparently, I’m living in Ideal World, where I expect the same of others. Where, when they come to my personal account (aka, wall), they don’t call me names (or others who post comments and replies) or demand I do not share what I’ve shared because they respect my right to post what I want.
I don’t remember reading anywhere in the Facebook Rules having to ask permission of anyone else for what I’m allowed to post — is this a group decision? Do I need to ask “Mother, may I?” before sharing my thoughts and opinions on my own wall?
I’m not a baby and I’m not ego-bruised easily. I’m a fucking survivor and I was a salesperson for seventeen years. This isn’t about that. This is about me deciding not to deal with the whiners and armchair judges. Sure, I blocked people or unfriended. Yet, it didn’t feel like it was enough. So, I just…stopped.
And…the world didn’t end. And it was peaceful. And the angels…okay, that’s going too far. But it was nice.
Of course, being an anxious person, I started to worry: when we stop interacting with people of dissenting opinions, are we placing ourselves in a utopian tunnel of sameness? Will I stop seeing colors, a lá, The Giver? Will I let my hair go gray and get really bad bangs?
What Happened While I Stopped Posting on Facebook
A lot. Weinstein, senators, newsmen, actors, other directors…the list goes on. #MeToo became Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. And it’s about damn time. Millions of survivors have been sharing our stories of survival for years; many more have been living with the effects of sexual trauma even longer.
As a vocal, fierce advocate, I’ve gone toe to toe with people who seem to think some kinds of trauma don’t matter, aren’t as bad as others — because, you know, it’s up to, apparently, people who haven’t been sexually assaulted to decide exactly how traumatized a survivor is allowed to be — or question why some survivors waited so long to report (fear, humiliation, shame, and grooming, just to name a few).
I wrote about this for Daniel Maurer’s Transformation is Real site (I’m a regular contributor now) and the response has been mostly terrific. The only place it wasn’t? Facebook, where some people decided I was a victim who ‘couldn’t get over it,’ because writing and sharing experiences mean a survivor is still a victim, I guess. And even if I were, so what? At eleven years old, I was a victim of an egregious crime, in the legal sense of the word. I testified, and the perpetrator went to jail for eighteen months. Victims are not at fault. No victim, no survivor, ever.
I’m not sure what it is about the Facebook dynamic that creates this pile-on, mob mentality, where total strangers demand their needs be met, particularly when an issue has nothing to do with them. My experience and the #MeToo experiences of millions of other survivors don’t belong to them. It’s not their narrative to shift and change to fit their comfort level. Yet still, they accuse us of wanting money, attention, fame. It’s sickening.
Is this mentality exclusive to Facebook? No. We see it everywhere. I see it on Twitter as well, however, the content limitations of Twitter require brevity. They also conveniently have a Mute button.**
**Just announced this week: Facebook now has a Snooze Option. Read more here.
Where Am I Now? Mixed.
Am I hiding, giving away my power or running away? Nope. I made a conscious choice to only interact with groups and people important to me. This is me taking my power back and only being accessible to people I want to interact with regularly.
As a test, I started posting again on my personal account this past week and sure enough, Trump supporters showed up to denigrate an article I shared as fake news (despite the fact that I had vetted the article, backed it up with sources and witnesses who were there that said what happened, happened).
Here’s my issue with that fake news claim: it’s awfully convenient to call an article one disagrees with “fake news.” That’s Propaganda 101. Here’s my process for posting articles: I personally review every article I share and ensure I can find another source (see, we have this thing you may have heard of, this search engine called Google where you can search stuff — though I do recommend searching incognito to avoid the filter bubbles). Politicians will have you believe that certain sites are liberal or conservative depending on their ‘side,’ and therefore cannot be believed.
I call bullshit on this ridiculous bias. I minored in Journalism in college, and wrote for several magazines and newspapers after college. I write for many publications now. Regardless of what you’ve been fed, there are amazing journalists out there with integrity who just want to bring you the news.
This bias has a name, by the way: the hostile media effect. “The very nature of bias is that it’s a perception — it’s something that people see and they base it on what they see. Basically, whenever people are engaged in an issue, they see coverage as biased against their position, no matter what it is.” (Source: Dave D’Alessio, Journal of Communications)
Wake the hell up, people. Use your brains. Do your research. Especially if you are writers!
I provide source materials and facts to back up what I say. Your personal prejudices may keep you from believing something but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Yes, journalists and news sites make mistakes and they retract them. In this incredibly fast, minute-by-minute news cycle, it happens.
I normally don’t share political or religious articles on social media. Why did I share this one? Because it was about LGBT and black reporters being shunned by the White House holiday party, for the first time in a generation. Because the issue matters to me. Because it’s my right to share it. Then I stepped away to work and eat and I came back and wow — mud-slinging and nastiness. So I said ***COMMENTS CLOSED*** and figured okay, everyone settle down, let’s just go on with our lives.
But, nooooo. They continued to go at it. It’s 24 hours later as I write this and people are still leaving comments UNDER where I wrote ****COMMENTS CLOSED**** to tell me how unfair it is they were being picked on and disrespected after they picked on and disrespected others. Um…
Seriously? Adulting Time. Let it go. This is not your wall. Take it over to your wall, or go read a book, or write a blog post, or kiss your kid, or volunteer for your political party, or a homeless shelter or watch Buffy. I don’t know, but stop posting on my wall about how unfairly you’ve been treated over inflammatory comments you left on a post you didn’t like and called fake news.
There is Life Outside of Facebook. Live It
Ultimately, I’m posting again because of my advocacy for survivors. It’s important to me to use my voice and platform for those who can’t or aren’t able to speak about their abuse.
Compassion matters. Survivors matter. In the end, that’s all. That’s everything.
Will I unfriend and block people? I have, my friends, I have. I find Facebook exhausting sometimes. And a time-suck. Despite the many benefits of connecting with readers, family, and friends, what I’ve discussed today are real drawbacks that can and do affect me and countless others. Setting boundaries is crucial. So is living life off the damn computer and phone.
I truly do not have answers, and I’m sure sharing this will incite people who disagree with me, which is cool. I’m an adult and this is my blog. I get to say and share and rant as I please. And hey, as I say, disagree with me. Let’s discuss it. Politely, without name-calling, in a way we can all learn.
Otherwise, we might as well be mumbling to ourselves in a corner, wondering where all the colors have gone.
For Rachel’s poetry and memoirs, go to Amazon
Ron Waterman saysDecember 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm
I really respect the way you’ve explained your approach to the last 30 days, and believe you found a reasonable answer. I try to avoid the negative only baiters also… You should be able to explain your view or problem without denigration and insults. Thank you …
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 11, 2017 at 5:44 pm
Thank you, Ron. I do believe the same, though apparently, some diehard folks believe differently. Social media is an interesting animal, from a sociology perspective. I’d imagine behavioral scientists are having a field day with research LOL (seriously, though). Being professional, polite, and respectful are poof! gone! if someone disagrees with what we post on our own streams or walls (and I’m not even talking about inflammatory or racist language).
Some people love to jump into the thick of it. I’m just too busy and I find the negativity toxic. So this is MY choice. x
Lisa A. Listwa saysDecember 10, 2017 at 12:42 am
Couldn’t agree more…on so many points here. You are wise. Do your thing.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm
Thank you, my friend. I realize not everyone agrees, yet that’s cool. My life, my choices. x
Bob Mueller saysDecember 10, 2017 at 11:34 pm
Kind of love this.
The only thought I have is to be wary of filter bubbles when using Google to research a story. WIth Google tracking your searches and traffic, you can end up in a sort of echo-chamber search with results that may not be what you need. Either do your research in incognito mode, or use DuckDuckGo, a non-tracking search engine.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm
Hi, Bob! Thanks for the tips. I should have mentioned: I do use incognito mode. That’s a great tip people don’t probably know about though. I’ll add that.
I don’t use DuckDuckGo, though I know many people do. Appreciate your thoughts. I do worry about those filter bubbles. Thanks. x
Jonah Bergan saysDecember 11, 2017 at 3:44 am
When they don’t respond, it means your voice isn’t loud enough. When they agree with you, it means your voice isn’t reaching far enough. When they shout and scream and call you names, it means you have a voice and that voice is making a difference.
On a post-by-post basis, it remains your choice to engage or dismiss, but don’t stop talking. Don’t silence yourself. That’s what they want. You have friends, they are on your side. Turn to them for support when you need support, but when you want to know if you are being effective -when you want to know if your voice is reaching where it should, the angry trolls will let you know that. You can judge it by their volume.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 11, 2017 at 5:52 pm
Jonah, thank you! You know, it’s just exhausting sometimes. Breaks are okay. And this was more about re-assessing and taking my power BACK.
That said, I didn’t feel like I was running away; more of a mental health break from being so accessible. As a said, I was and am still on Facebook, still available to my fabulous Street Team and posting as usual on my Pages.
I do have wonderful support which makes a huge difference as you say. And you are so right — striking a nerve with people means I’m on the right track, reinforcing that I’m doing exactly the right thing. Thank you, brother. x
Dr. J. saysDecember 11, 2017 at 8:13 pm
Love the clarity of personal boundaries, Rachel. The *continued commenters* seem to lack them. Our culture is losing the listening component. Quiet reflection and civility are being lost. We can only change what we have control over. That’s what you did with Facebook. Bravo. D. 🙂
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm
Thank you, Dr. J. I believe much of it has to do with the political climate and division, the likes of which we haven’t seen historically because we haven’t had social media to widen the divide.
I can only choose to do what’s best for me. Everyone else has that same choice. x
Kelly Williams saysDecember 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm
I so feel this! While I was pregnant I left. The stress was too detrimental to the baby. And I’m sure those folks would say good, while picketing planned parenthood. The cognitive dissonance goes sooo deep. Yes, I have a bias, but it’s based on facts, not my emotions. I work in a sociopolitical field! I know what I’m talking about. Being female doesn’t negate it. Assessing things from the perspective of love and empathy is not wrong, but standing on the side of hate is! But then they just call names when I’ve disrupted their fragile snow fort with truth bombs. And, then, the pile up begins.
I drop out, because my baby, my dog, my family does not need me stressed and feel that toxicity emanating from me. I’m not spreading the message of hate. I continue to fight, even if it gets ugly. To do that, rest is required. I’m ever so thankful to count you a friend, and support you.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:29 pm
So glad you are taking care of you and your family, Kelly. It can be so incredibly unhealthy and toxic. Creating and forming a little life is so much more important than arguing with trolls! You are amazing and talented, and that’s what shines. Thank YOU for the wonderful support.
Lisa S. saysDecember 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm
It surprises me that you have Trump supporters commenting on your personal page. I post political a lot on my page without getting unwanted comments because I limit my posts to Friends only. If a Facebook friend chooses to be hostile repeatedly, then I have no problem unfriending. I consider my personal FB page as a place to express myself, and I limit and screen friend requests.
I do not agree with all of your posts, but I would not be disrespectful to you.
I hope you find a way to continue your posts and keep a safe environment to share on your personal page.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:33 pm
Hi, Lisa! Nothing surprises me at this point, LOL. I have struggled with blocking people, but no longer. If they cross that line of disrespect, that’s it. There’s a difference between disagreement and rudeness. If they can’t see that, I’m not about to become the Facebook police. I’m just done.
Thank you for supporting me and being respectful, even when you disagree. That’s all I ever want from anyone. 🙂
Jackie Cioffa saysDecember 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm
So many valid points here! Facebook is such a time-sucker, and the negativity is astounding. I find Instagram to be more liberal. While I continue to post on my personal FB page about the no-no subjects, politics, sexual harassment, mental health, gun control, etc. and wait for the nasty comments I try to let it roll off my back.
I feel responsible to use my voice respectfully, and will continue to do so. I have however scaled way back on the amount of time I spend on Social Media.
Life is chaotic, opinionated and messy enough, so good for you advocating for yourself and carving out some me time and sanity!
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Jackie! You make so much sense. Scaling back makes a lot of sense. I find I have less and less time to write (because of my business) so spending less time on SM is where I’m headed as well. It’s important for building relationships, so I’m having to be more selective who I respond to, and how available I make myself.
It can all become exhausting and unhealthy if we let it. x
Darlene Burns saysDecember 15, 2017 at 7:15 am
Simple and clear cut. I have taken the same attitude across the board. This is my platform. My blog and my page! If you can’t have a respectful exchange of dialogue, then go somewhere that’s welcomed! As always, you keep adding gems to your crown and WE (the public) are better for it. Thank you for being who you are Rachel.
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm
Thank you, Darlene! Glad to see we’re of the same mind. I’ve been such an advocate of social media for so long (and still am), but I guess it’s now in smaller doses. Healthier chunks, with my own guidelines in place.
Thanks for the lovely, kind words. x
Tracy Riva saysDecember 15, 2017 at 2:50 pm
You speak the truth for so many of us who can’t share our stories. All I can manage is a #Me Too.
I respect you so much and know first hand how carefully you vet things. You’ve thankfully even caught mistakes I didn’t on my own wall. You are one of the bravest people I know and hopefully the world will start spinning on its axis correctly sometime soon and life will return to normal where people are respectful of one another. x
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm
Tracy, you are wonderful. I’m always happy to be a voice or help you! You are a dear friend. Thank YOU for your unwavering support of me and my books.
I respect you as well — people don’t realize how much you do and take on, and what you’ve experienced. It’s not necessary to share (I hope you know that). Much love and respect on all counts.
Linda S Moore saysDecember 23, 2017 at 9:01 am
That was beautiful. I agree so much with all you wrote. I left facebook for a while and I’m still alive and still doing ok. I don’t live, breathe and survive for facebook. It’s just somewhere for me to go and see friends and authors that I love.
Thank you for sharing this and many more things that you share. It HELPS!!
Rachel Thompson saysDecember 26, 2017 at 8:14 pm
Thank you, Linda! You’re so kind. I share my experiences and truths. Transparency rocks because it cuts through the B.S. of game-playing and ‘appearances’ to the deeper core. This is the reality of how extraneous activities can affect us — both the positives and negatives. As I’ve said, I’ve met amazing people on social media (including FB). I’m not giving it up. Rather, I’m limiting it. For me, that’s the best and healthiest decision. x
Lori saysJanuary 18, 2021 at 4:11 pm
I have a Facebook account, but rarely post. Even though I am a middle aged adult, I try to be mindful of what I post. If you only post things that serve the author, you will be unfollowed and you may be the only one seeing your posts. I also don’t let myself brag about my accomplishments. I want to be humble. I like to show genuine care and concern about others. Social media helps fuel a me, myself and I mindset. Social media also exposes those that may have a narcissistic personality disorder. We are to gray rock a narcissist. Don’t give them the attention they so desperately crave. Many people look for validation through social media. I am an empath and find social media draining and stressful. I absorb others’ emotions on there.