Snap:Connect:Inspire

Think Feel ACT…"Write your own story"

What to do about Facebook distress?

Facebook is a curious place.

It’s at once frivolous and funny, educational and informative, completely and utterly inappropriate. It can also be a place of great sadness as well as a place of support.

Lately I’ve been noticing people using Facebook as a place to make a cry for help. That worries me.

Sometimes people cry for help and expose their distress in obvious ways. They post things like: “Nobody ever notices me” or “Everything is going wrong in my life”.

Sometimes people are really asking for reassurance. They post things like: “I’m a failure because I didn’t… eat right, parent right or do anything else right”. Usually friends on Facebook either use this as an opportunity to make gentle fun, sometimes they reframe and reassure.

And sometimes people announce their state of mind through the topics of the articles they choose to post. When I see people consistently posting articles about like mental illness and bullying, I can’t help but think those things must be on their mind. I wonder about how they are doing? What is their story? Is it OK to even ask?

Within the last month I have contacted privately 3 people who sounded as if they had varying levels of distress via what they were saying or posting on their Facebook feed. Two of them thanked me for being the only person who noticed.

Who thinks Facebook is the right place to expose distress? Have we been conditioned into posting our state of mind so this seems a normal thing to do? Or is it because we are all so busy that we are not available to be there for those who are hurting? Perhaps it is now just easier to post your feelings on Facebook than to reach out on a personal basis to those who love and care for us?

Whatever the reasons for this phenomenon, here are some simple things I think we can do that will go someway towards helping those who we love and care for:

  1. Listen, listen, listen. And by that I mean really listen. Whether you are communicating in real life, or online, listen to the meaning not just the words. What are they really trying to say? Listen to people as if they are the most important thing in the world right now. Listen unconditionally. And if you think they may be hurting simply ask if everything is OK.  Even if there is nothing wrong, you still took the time to show you care. Most people appreciate that.
  2. Be there. If something isn’t right, don’t ignore it. Hold their hand. Give them a hug. It might need to be a virtual hug, but it helps. But either way you are showing you care and are willing to just be there.
  3. Repeat. Offer to listen and be there as long as they need.

All this of course, is far better in person. In person you can give a real hug, you can see body language, you can make a cup of tea. But virtual connections can be helpful too. You can offer support via telephone, Skype, FaceTime, text, and of course Facebook. If you are genuine and have real concern then I think the love and support is communicated electronically too.

I’ve had people support me electronically. And as much as a physical hug or cup of tea would be wonderful, the fact that someone took time out of their day to send a message of caring and support is also special. Knowing someone cares enough to this can provide great encouragement at difficult times.

And if you are the one hurting, remember in addition to Facebook there are many other ways to get the support you need. If you really need to talk, try directly asking family and friends for some time. And don’t forget you can always talk to a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist as well.

Remember: If you, or someone you care for, are feeling suicidal, seek immediate help. Call Lifeline – 13 11 14

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