Why I deactivated facebook

Here I am at a wedding Friday with my new friend.

We drove five and a half hours to a wedding Friday. If it wasn’t for my dear friend’s daughter, I don’t think we would have made the trip after driving nine hours home from vacation the weekend before. But we did it. Yes! I’m tired!

I wore a bright print dress in blue, green and white. When we first walked into the wedding crowd, I spotted a woman wearing the same dress! I waved to her and she walked over and we laughed.

“You know it’s reversible,” she said.

I had never met this person before. She is related to the groom and I am friends with the bride’s family.

We were interrupted by our husbands who informed us it was time to take a seat for the ceremony.

The wedding was lovely. It was held outside near San Diego at Mt. Woodson’s Castle — a stone mansion built in the 1920s that’s now a wedding venue.

After the ceremony, I bolted to the bathroom and flipped my dress inside out. Now I was wearing black with white polkadots!

I saw my new friend and she said “You didn’t have to do that!” I asked my husband to take a picture of us. I wanted to share it with a high school friend who sold me the dress. I thought she’d get a kick out of how the reversible dress came to the rescue.

I posted the picture on Instagram and tagged her. It automatically posted on facebook.

One of my other high school friends commented on my pic in a very suggestive way. It was creepy. It made me want to take the photo down. Then I thought, I rarely use facebook, I’m reading all sorts of negative things about facebook in the news. Let’s be done with it!

That’s why I deactivated my account.

It’s not deleted. I can restart it any time. The only reason why I would do that is for the years and years of photos that are housed there. I may want to download them. Then delete it for good.

Do you use social media? Why or why not?

That time my son tried to give away the cat on FB!

Baby Olive
Olive on her first day with us.

I began writing this blog in 2014, mostly focusing on parenting. Understandably, because that’s what I was doing. Now, in my empty nest, I write more about the little things going on in my life or about what I read in the news.

One of my joys now in my empty nest is our cat Olive. She delights us with her antics wanting us to play chase around the house. I like to watch her watch the quail through the screen door. She wants to sit on my lap every afternoon like clockwork. I remembered that time my son tried to give away the cat with a FB post and how I found out about it. This was one of my very first posts:

Robert’s asthma and allergy appointment–on his first day home from college for his four-week Christmas break–didn’t go well. The doctor said we could get rid of the cat or put Robert up in a hotel for four weeks.

We’ve only had baby Olive for a year. We’re not too attached, but still. She’s a member of our family. We rescued her from a local pet shelter and committed to be her loving family. And she’s Robert’s little sister’s cat. Not mine. I felt before we agreed to give Olive away, we needed to discuss this with little sis. Or, let Olive be an outdoor cat.

I heard that Robert had posted on FB for a new home for Olive. Of course, as his loving mother, I’m filtered from seeing his posts. Grandpa, on the other hand, has full access to Robert’s FB account. He told me about the long and lengthy post about how I love the cat more than my own son. Short and shorter: we needed to get rid of the cat. Several people had said yes to adopt the furry feline.

Am I a terrible mother for not wanting to give away our pretty little kitty, Olive Bear?

Robert said I’m infected with Toxoplasma gondii and I’m in danger of turning into a crazy cat lady. I “googled” the toxo thing. It’s different than cat scratch fever, which can cause chills and a fever. T. gondii is a protein that invades your bloodstream and makes women crazy about cats. Or, it makes men crazy in a wild way. And there’s a link to schizophrenia. It’s why my OB GYN told me not to change the litter box while I was pregnant. However, he said that if I’d been around cats my entire life, most likely I was already infected. Great.

 I know about crazy cat ladies.We had one in my home town. She lived in a house filled with felines and feces. Hundreds of cats. My parents drove me to her house out in the country a few miles from town. The home badly needed paint and had broken floorboards with cats leaping in and out of the foundation. We picked an adorable calico kitten named Pansy to bring home. Pansy died a few weeks later from feline pneumonitis

We had bad luck with cats when I was growing up. I can name the ones we owned when I was young: “Ting, Tack, Tenni-runner, No Name, Thomasina I, Thomasina II, Little Leticia, Bianco, Streshia, OJ Simpson. We lost these cats (in addition to the aforementioned Pansy) by the time I reached first grade, due to an overzealous cat-hater neighbor. He caught them in a wooden trap, dropped them in a gunnysack, then tossed them in the river.

When we moved out to the country, I adopted Saute´ when I was in second grade. I named her for the ballet term “jump.” I had her through high school — although she lost a leg early on sleeping in a truck engine. Coyotes and bears were kinder animals to our kitty than our former neighbor in town.

pretty kitten with wide eyes
Baby Olive in my daughter’s arms.

 I was pregnant with Robert when we adopted Sherman. My son’s allergy doctor told me for years to get rid of Sherman. I didn’t. Robert was allergic to lots more things than cats. Things I couldn’t control, like rye grass and oak trees. Sherman lived from 1992 for 17 years — when the neighbor’s dog jumped a wall and killed him. 

I know it’s terrible not to want to get rid of our cat. I never believed that a cat could be harmful to my child. Now, my son is living in beautiful Santa Barbara, going to college.
He’s only home for visits. Or maybe it is the toxoplasmosis that let’s me rationalize all this.

If you have suggestions on how to keep a cat when you have family members with allergies, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Olive all grown up
Olive cat living the indoor life in Arizona.

“Kittens are angels with whiskers.” — Alexis Flora Hope

We bought an air filter for my son’s room and he’s been able to visit us without getting sick. It’s amazing what an air filter can do — except with the current supply chain issues, I rarely get the replacement hepa filters.

Do you have family members who have cat or dog allergies? Do you think you’d get rid of pets because of them? A doctor friend who is allergic to cats just shook his head when I told him we kept our pets despite of our son’s allergies.

Tweeting to the choir

Of all the social media platforms, I spend more time on Twitter than others. I rarely use Facebook. I use Instagram occasionally. But I look at Twitter every day. It’s my way of keeping up with current events. By seeing what’s “trending,” I learn about earthquakes, elections and breaking news. I also look up how my sports teams are doing and can find out almost instantly if they are winning.

I follow a few writers and other people I like on Twitter. I never comment or get involved in the many Twitter feed fights. My WordPress shares my blog posts automatically to Twitter and I get a few readers that way. When I wrote for SwimSwam weekly, I’d retweet my stories they tweeted as well as other ones that caught my interest — like my daughter’s college swim team results.

In a short snippet from Investor Business Daily (IBD) on their To The Point page, under the Trends column I read:

Tweeting to the Converted

Most Americans do not use Twitter, and of those who do, a minority of active users produce nearly all the tweets, a new study finds. A quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter, and among users, the most active 25% produced 97% of all tweets, a study from Pew Research Center finds, confirming similar findings in 2019. Among highly active users, most tweets are either retweets (49% of the total) or replies (33%), with original tweets just 14% of all posts…

IBD A2 To The Point, Week of November 22, 2021

I would have added a link, but this newspaper is one of our old-fashioned paper types that lands on our driveway.

My takeaway from the article above is that people who take Twitter as a pulse of the nation shouldn’t. It’s a tiny slice of the pie and most likely doesn’t reflect anything more than the opinion of a very vocal few.

What is your favorite social media platform? Do you use Twitter to follow news, sports or current events or are you hands off?

Tweet of Oct. 21 Elizabeth Wickham blog post. What's healthy and tastes good.
For my plant-based friends, this post offered a tasty recipe. This is what my tweets from my blog look like.

Are parents harming kids by posting pics online?

Tiger and pumpkin Halloween kid pic
The first Halloween for my kids together.

What do you think the long term outcome will be for parents posting every moment of their kids’ lives on social media?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I was guilty of this myself.

Do you remember when once a year relatives or close friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house watching old slides of your parents?

For decades parents have loved to photograph their kids. That’s because our kids are the most gorgeous and special human beings on the planet. Even Lucy took lots of photos of Little Ricky. There’s an episode about that.

I took tons of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got cameras. I was guilty of taking photos whenever I could. And posting them on Facebook. Now, I don’t take as many photos of my kids, because when we’re together, I just want to be with them in the moment. And I’m not as active on Facebook, either.

I wrote the following post six years ago wondering what would happen when parents post photos of their kids all the time. Well, six years later, we’ve seen plenty of negative things. Some positive, too. Did we have “influencers” six years ago? When you read the excerpts of the articles I included, please remember they are dated. But they were already seeing issues.

Post from October 2015:

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.
First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

Thank goodness we didn’t have Facebook when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem and I could send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop that made double prints. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the end result of my old fashioned film and camera. A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

Stacks of photo albums in a closet
A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.
Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB. I’m learning Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think moms should post photos of their kids all the time on social media? Do you think that has an effect on the children’s social media habits?

Defaults can change social media

Live now sign on bookshelf
A bookshelf of my favorite children’s books holds a sign reminding me to live now.
Get off social media and into the real world.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal, I learned that some of the addictive aspects of Facebook Instagram and the other social media sites can be fixed. Like eliminating “likes” is an option. You can also stop push notifications for up to eight hours. You can even limit data collection.

How? Read this article called “How to Fix Facebook, Instagram and Social Media? Change the Defaults” by Joanna Stern linked below. It shows screen shots of where to find the defaults and lists a bunch of things parents can do to limit their children’s addictive relationship with social media. Some of these I’m going to do for myself, too. Stern also discusses legislation that’s in the works for social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Default settings in our social-media apps were designed to benefit companies and their bottom lines. What if regulation pushed them to benefit us?

Quick homework assignment: Open Instagram, tap the head icon at the bottom right, then the three lines in the top right corner, then Settings, then Privacy. (Almost there, I promise!) Tap Posts and switch on “Hide Likes and View Counts.”

A few of you hopefully followed along. Most of you probably ignored me like the airline’s automated call system when I scream, “Representative!”

That’s OK. You’ve proven my point: Most people don’t change the default settings in their social-media apps—or any apps.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-fix-facebook-instagram-and-social-media-change-the-defaults-11634475600?mod=life_work_lead_pos5

I for one haven’t looked at the defaults in any of my apps. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do unless you want to delete them from your life forever.

What are your thoughts about changing defaults in apps and social media? Is it something you’ve done before? What do you think is most useful for you or your kids?

Is it time for a digital detox?

early ipod
I remember when my kids’ only high tech device was this ipod to listen to music and the computer below that was not hooked up to the internet. They used disks with children’s activities for the Mac.
Bondi Blue Mac from 1998.

I was interviewed by a journalist last week for a survey about the state of American families. She reads my blog and interviewed me for a story a few years ago about parents hiring coaches to improve their parenting. You can read her article called Why some parents — including Prince Harry and his wife — are hiring parenting coaches HERE.

Last week, she asked me about major problems facing families today. I mentioned the rising costs to raise a family and also worries about the digital world, screen time and depression. I’ve read so many articles about how social media and screen time is causing depression and anxiety in our kids. The numbers are skyrocketing. Add that to the pandemic and kids literally had a year of isolation and not being with their peers.

Immediately after the interview, I ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal called: Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine. The article gives a scientific explanation for what is happening to our brains. I found it fascinating and thought I’d share it with you, too.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in wealthy countries like the U.S. may be a result of our brains getting hooked on the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure

By Anna Lembke, Wall Street Journal

—Dr. Lembke is a psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University. This essay is adapted from her new book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” which will be published on Aug. 24 by Dutton.

A patient of mine, a bright and thoughtful young man in his early 20s, came to see me for debilitating anxiety and depression. He had dropped out of college and was living with his parents. He was vaguely contemplating suicide. He was also playing videogames most of every day and late into every night.

Twenty years ago the first thing I would have done for a patient like this was prescribe an antidepressant. Today I recommended something altogether different: a dopamine fast. I suggested that he abstain from all screens, including videogames, for one month.

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

The article helped me understand the physical issues with screens that are affecting us — as much as the emotional problems with feeling left out, bullied, comparing yourself to the make-believe social media world. Although these issues with mental health affect mostly young people, I’m sure it’s not limited to their generation entirely.

To answer my own question, “Is it time for a digital detox?” I say yes. I’m trying to find little ways each day to put down the phone or other media and do something healthy. Whether it’s sitting outside listening and watching birds, or taking time to stretch, there are ways to make it a better day and improve mental health.

Here’s another excerpt:

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

red cardinal on bird feeder
I like to sit outside and enjoy listening to and watching birds.

What do you view as the major issues facing families today?

What are your thoughts about the physical and chemical changes in the brain causing an addiction to social media, screens, video games, etc.? Have you heard about this before or is it a new concept to you?

How much time do you spend on social media like facebook, pinterest or other news sites?

WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

I read an interesting article today about Instagram and teen girls called “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Internal Documents Show.” Written by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharama for the Wall Street Journal, the article says that social media may become the youth generation’s tobacco companies.

Waffles the pug. Waffles has his own Instagram account wafflezworldwide.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Isn’t this scary? I feel like someone’s unleashed Godzilla on the world. What will we know 10 or 20 years from now? Hopefully, we will move beyond social media and get back to in person interaction. I think if I were a parent of younger kids today, I wouldn’t let my kids have a smart phone, but stick with the flip phones or dumb phones. I didn’t get my kids smart phones until they were in high school.

Another thing I found troubling with this article is that Facebook has done internal studies for several years and they know Instagram has issues at its core. But they downplay them to the public. Our congress and senate have asked for Facebook’s studies and they do not comply with the requests.

Here’s more from the article:

In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects on teens, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

The features that Instagram identifies as most harmful to teens appear to be at the platform’s core.

The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” the research states.

What are your thoughts about Instagram and other social media? Do you spend much time with it? Do your kids or grandkids? Do you notice a change in how they feel after they use social media? I find I’m using it less and less.