“Facebooking” Femininity

Four mouse clicks. Thats all it takes for me to bring up my Facebook page, and I feel plugged in. I have friends. My opinion counts. What is on my mind elicits responses from others and I feel like I belong. It doesn’t matter if I barely spoke to one of my ‘facebook friends’ back in grade school – when they comment on one of my posts or photos, I feel good, and I like that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this post is not to rag on Facebook.  I simply want to explore why it is so appealing (and addicting) to us – and by us I mean us, as women.  “OK Laura, this is going to be a stretch…I hung in there with your explanation of make-up, and even related to the post about “wombing,” but Facebook?  C’mon!”  Perhaps it may sound like a stretch, but nevertheless,I believe that we truly can learn something from our exploration of this topic here today……..

Before I truly begin, however, I want to make a few disclaimers:  Again, I have absolutely nothing against Facebook, those of us who use Facebook, or those of us who use other social networking sites.  I shamelessly promote this blog on my Facebook page, and am very grateful for those of you who share my posts on your Facebook (and Twitter etc) pages as well!  Seriously, a sincere thank you – you flatter and humble me!  Anyway, yes, as I said, I “Facebook” or FB as the lingo goes.  It began as a way to communicate with my deployed brother while he was in Afghanistan and quickly morphed into a way to escape for a few minutes from my ‘Mommy/Wifey Duties” that never seem to end, and to feel like, at least for a few minutes, that I belong to something – a community.

That, is one of the main reasons we like Facebook – community.    Human beings need other human beings – we need communion.  “Communio” as one of my heroes liked to say.  It is how we are created.  “It is not good for man to be alone” ~Gen 2:18   (sidenote – here we are back in Eden – again 🙂   )  Right from the beginning  man was created to be in communion with another.  Adam and Eve were  the first community as well as the first couple, first parents (and, yes, first sinners).

We are created to thrive in a community.  In today’s fast paced world we sometimes sorely lack the community we need.  As women we have a unique need for bonds with other women.  Back in “Scientifically Female”  (a post from September) we discussed how we de-stress by talking (as opposed to men who de-stress by zoning out).  Well, a little deduction would lead us to believe that if we, as women, need to talk , but men do not have this need in the same way that we do, we perhaps also need other women…..perhaps we need community.   In the post “Back Then” (also from September – if you are new to the blog, please feel free to look in the archives and read some of the earlier posts) we spoke about women needing other women, and how it was in community that femininity was ‘absorbed’ and understood by younger girls.   To quote from that post, “A few hundred years ago women didn’t even think about trying to define femininity.  It was just who they were.  A girl grew up surrounded by the feminine influence of her mother, her sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, etc.  She absorbed and learned.  She was affirmed and encouraged.  She blossomed.” 

Nowadays we don’t have that same sense of community.  We strive for it – long for it even.  Why do you think there are so many book groups, church groups, and volunteer groups, almost all composed of women?  Why do we begin to feel isolated and depressed when we don’t have friends to talk to, and when we don’t have friends to support us?   Because we need community.   This is why Facebook (and other social networking sites) are so appealing to us.  They give us a little sense of community.  We feel connected to people.  It can give us an almost instant feeling of belonging, of mattering.

This sense of support is so essential to our wellbeing.  It’s amazing how, if I am having a bad day a simple update to my Facebook status can cause a flood of well wishes, prayers, and encouragement to come my way through cyberspace.  Sometimes it is this feeling of being supported, the kind words of a few “friends”  that brightens my mood and makes the whole day better.  This is not a bad thing; but it speaks to our need for support and encouragement, and it also speaks to the fast pace of the world in which we live.

Very lucky is the woman among us who lives in close proximity to the women in her life who make the biggest impact.  So many of us (myself included) live far away from family and friends.  For a time I was extremely blessed to live on the same military base as one of my closest friends (she is truly more of a sister than friend).  How wonderful it was to be able to drop by unannounced, to bring over a treat, a pick me up, or dinner when I thought she needed it, and to have her do the same for me.  What a gift it was to be able to get together and to talk – about everything and nothing – amidst kids yelling and playing.  How incredibly comforting it was to be able to share everyday life, in person, with someone who truly understood. 

I truly believe that it is this that draws us to Facebook – to social networking via the internet.  It gives us a little bit of this ‘communio.’   When we need to vent, we can, and someone is sure to tell us to “hang in there.”  When we are proud of ourselves, we can say so, and brag a little bit – and then hear what we all need to hear – words of praise, words of encouragement and admiration; someone telling us that we are doing  a good job.  This too is so important to us.

Back in slower, simpler times when families and friends lived in true little communities, and everyone knew everyone, encouragement, help, support and understanding were more easy to come by.  If you saw your friends and various family members several times a week while you worked and played, worshiped and prayed together, someone would be bound to notice if you needed some words of encouragement.  Someone would notice if you were doing a particularly good job at something – because you would be sharing everyday life with these women.   This is not my reality though; and I have a sneaky suspicion that many of you are in the same speed boat.  So what then are we to do?  We Facebook!  Our frustrations, fears, shortcomings, achievements, and thoughts, and the encouragement because the support, and the responses we need are sure to start pouring in.   What makes it even better is that it’s all in the form of small ‘sound bytes’ – just enough of a response to make us feel good, but quick enough to fit into our frenetic and chaotic, busy lives.  Especially important to us is the emotional support that it seems to offer. 

When we are at home all day with kids, or stuck in an office all day with work, it seems to give us a boost to hop online for a few minutes (well maybe more than a few 😉  ) and vent our frustrations, get some encouragement and voice our opinion of the moment. 

We must be careful though Uh, oh, I knew it, sooner or later she was going to drop the bomb on Facebooking and make me feel bad for loving it….”    No.  No bombs no big “its great, BUT…”   just an observation, made out of charity.

We must be careful to not sacrifice or lose real, authentic, intimate  friendships in favor of easier and more convenient ‘facebookships’  (friendships on Facebook).  I think FB and the like most certainly can have a place in our relationships – I think it can be a great tool for networking, reconnecting, and staying in touch.  (I know a lot of military families who find it to be a huge blessing.)  But I also think that the purpose of social networking should be to  support friendships, not replace them.  I would like to think of it as a “Friendship Supplement” – a way to bolster friendships and to keep in touch – especially over long distances. 

The difficulty that we face is that friendships – authentic in person friendships – are hard!  Any relationship worth having needs to be maintained – needs to be invested in.  I think this is one area of our lives that becomes increasingly challenging;  especially as we all become more involved in work, or marriage, or family life, or all three!  Taking time out to “hang with the girls” seems like a luxury.  Yet time and again mental health experts, spiritual leaders (and even my mother!) all say that it’s still important to nurture your female friendships.  So, we let Facebook and Social Networking pick up the slack.  Again, not all bad, but it will not fill the gap that face-to-face, in-person, female friend interaction can fill. 

This is one reason I started the Daughters of the Heavenly King (see the “About the Daughters of the Heavenly King” link on the top for more info).  We need other women to bond with, to pray with, to encourage and support us.  To help us understand and  develop this beautiful gift of Femininity that we have been given by the Father.  We need deep friendships and in order to maintain them, we need intimate communication – not just status updates and comments.  (although when life gets crazy these things can help you at least stay in touch).

Now I am not saying that long distance friendships do not work – heck, I married my husband after our entire engagement and courtship was long distance!   Most of my dearest friends do not even live in the same state as me – and all of my extended family lives at least four hours away.  What I am getting at is that Facebook can’t always fill in the gap.  It can’t do for us what a phone call, or handwritten note can.  It can’t deepen a friendship, it can help sustain it perhaps, but only if there is time and effort put into the relationship.  Life would be easier maybe if it could, but thats just not how we are made! 

So, despite your hectic and fast paced lives, I encourage you to pursue and cultivate those friendships you have that are dear to you.  I encourage you to form new friendships – hey, start a Court even!  (See the about section)  Facebook away, but don’t allow yourself sacrifice your authentic and intimate friendships in the process – even if that would be easier!

And now its time for me to check my Facebook page (again)

So until next time, May God Bless your beautiful Feminine Hearts!


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