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A couple of nights ago, I logged onto Facebook to see a post by one of my friends titled, "Day 1" and which proceeded to detail something in her life that she was thankful for. And all of a sudden, I was reminded about the "30 Days of Thankfulness" phenomenon that pops up all over Facebook during the month of November. If you're not familiar, it's quite a simple concept: list something each day that you're thankful for, for the entire duration of November. And juuuust in case you're not familiar with why it's done in November, it's the month that families in the US celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday.
When I saw my friend's post, I noticed a lot of different emotions that popped up in me. Shame, being a particularly interesting one. I had completely forgotten to be thankful! What kind of a person was I that I couldn't remember to be thankful during November? (Silly, right? But true, nonetheless.) So before the first day of November was over, I deliberated over what I was going to write as my item for Day 1. I finally came up with something that I felt was good enough (<-- notice this) and went to bed. Day 2 came around and I again tried to think of something I was thankful for. There are the obvious ones - family, friends, job, etc. - and I went with one of those because, honestly, I was feeling very sentimental about family that morning. My thankful post came from a place of sincerity and honesty and I said something in that post that I wish I could remember to be thankful for every day.
Then, this afternoon, I saw another friend post something about the "30 Days of Thankfulness," but who had a completely different take on it. She complained about how, only two days in, she was becoming terribly annoyed by the whole thing. And soooo many people commented, saying that they were nauseated by it all. And the whole conversation really got me thinking....
Why am I using Facebook?
Of course, living in Japan means that I use Facebook to keep up with a LOT of people that I wouldn't see otherwise. I like to see snippets of what's going on in my friends' and family's lives. Yes, I could call, but differing time zones and weak internet signals make it hard to connect.
I also use Facebook to keep those same family and friends updated on myself, my husband, and our children. For grandparents in particular, they enjoy seeing pictures of the girls, and reading little stories about them on my Facebook statuses.
I find out information from Facebook - news events and articles - that I probably wouldn't normally be aware of.
But, if I'm brutally honest with myself, I'm also using Facebook to craft an image of myself. An image that when praised OR criticized, influences my own personal sense of value. And what's more, it influences the way other people value themselves as well.
I felt shamed by forgetting to be thankful. How utterly ridiculous is that? And by joining the thankful movement, I was proving to the world (and myself, maybe?) that I wasn't going to take things for granted. But... my thankful posts were crafted in a way that wasn't always completely sincere - I noticed myself trying to write something meaningful, and something that everyone else would think was meaningful too.
Facebook is a great tool to use in this technology-driven day and age. But Facebook should not become an extension of ourselves. What happens on Facebook - "likes" and comments - shouldn't make us doubt our self-worth, or inflate it.
"Researchers have confirmed that the desire to be 'Liked' on Facebook is a universal phenomenon. We all want to feel worthy of love and belonging. In some ways, the 'Likes' we get on Facebook satisfies this need in a distorted way." - Psychology Today
The truth is, we are all worthy regardless of what anyone else says or does. We don't have anything to prove to ourselves or others, because the worth we're trying to prove is a given. We just seem to forget it an awful lot of the time.
So, the best decision for me is to take a step back from the "30 Days of Thankfulness" this year. I'm going to make an effort to be more thankful throughout the entire year - living with a grateful heart - instead of making a case for my gratitude online during the month of November. I don't think everyone else should do the same, but I do think we all should try to be more aware of why we're posting/liking/commenting on things on Facebook (and life in general). When we take time to notice what we're doing, we have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we are acting from a place of authenticity, or from a desire to be something other than ourselves. Always remember: You are enough.
"When we know we are enough, when we know we are in the perfect place right now, when we seek to add value instead of extract value, when we detach from the outcome, but still try our best, when we allow what wants to emerge to emerge – we step into a kind of flow that cannot be thought out by mankind." - Mastin Kipp, The Daily Love