Tag! You’re it! / Keeping the Freeloaders at Bay
Dear Dr. Hurd,
Is it possible to be addicted to something like Facebook? I am so sick and tired of the whining, complaining, and fake nonsense that fills my phone every day. But I keep going back! It’s like a compulsion, and I cannot escape it. I am pissed off and disgusted after every little “session.” How can I get over my unexplainable need to scroll through all this garbage?
Dr. Hurd replies,
You suggest that this is a problem, but in fact it’s a contradiction. On the one hand, you say that Facebook posts are filled with garbage. That may be true, but your behavior suggests that that garbage is valuable to you. Otherwise you wouldn’t keep logging on.
We call something a compulsion when our head says, “No” but our body/emotions seem to say, “Yes.” In other words, you have a divided opinion. That’s OK. Now just try to resolve it. Start by making a list of what you like about Facebook. Then make another list of the kinds of posts you dislike or find a waste of time.
You have a choice here. Either be done with Facebook altogether, or change the way you use it, i.e., limit your contact on Facebook only to what you find valuable. If you choose the latter, begin to police yourself by keeping your phone away from you at times when you’re committed to doing other things such as engaging in conversation or engaging in other activities. I know people who actually put the phone in a different room from where they are watching TV or whatever. Try it… you won’t die!
Avoid the term “addiction.” Addiction implies that you’re helpless and powerless. You have many other options. Try what I’ve suggested, or if you discover a better method, go for it. The bottom line is that you’re neither helpless nor addicted over this.
Technology exists to serve your purposes; not the other way around. If you let it run your life, then the fault is yours.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I wrote to you a few weeks ago about feeling uncomfortable when my partner’s mother died. I liked your answer and thank you. But the family spectacle that is now playing out is more horrific than anything I’ve ever seen. Relatives are raiding her home—literally breaking in—to get things that belonged to her. The house was willed to my partner and his sister, but this little army of extended-family moochers are making the process of trying to sell the house almost impossible. They never visited her even once when she was sick; though they were always happy to accept her generosity. The house is in Florida, and my partner is here in Delaware and he feels helpless to stop this attack on his mother’s possessions. His sister is a wimp and will not confront the freeloaders. What to do?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Start by asking your partner and his sister why they’re afraid. There may be a specific and rational concern. More likely, it’s an irrational fear of confronting others, even when they’re plainly in the wrong.
There’s no shame in trying to shame someone out of something, at least not when you know they’re wrong. Since you’re concerned enough to write me about it, talk with your partner and his sister about specific things they can say to confront the offending moochers. One example is the direct approach: “What you’re doing is disgusting. Stop it!” Or perhaps a bit gentler: “Let’s save this for the appropriate time.” Apparently what’s missing here is somebody who is in charge. Unless the deceased mother indicated otherwise, that would presumably be your partner or his sister. Whoever is more able and willing to stand up to the vultures should do so. Ask your partner and his sister what they honestly believe their mother would have wanted under these circumstances. If they say she wouldn’t want a fight or a fuss, ask them if she’d want people who were technically her relatives, but not her own children, going through her things. Ask them if she’d want her own children to go through this emotional pain because of others’ unwarranted behavior.
From what you say, it sounds like their mother and these extended family members weren’t very close. It’s possible she’d be horrified to know of what they’re doing. Encourage your partner to consider sticking up for her by shooing or shaming them away. Legal action could be a last resort, and they’d have to ask a lawyer about those topics.
None of us have to confront or do battle if we do not wish to do so. Respect your partner and his sister’s prerogative to decline doing so. This is, after all, their mother, and I realize you think they’re being wimpy, and maybe they are. But there’s no point stirring things up if they don’t want to. Ask them if they will regret having said nothing if they do nothing now. In times of grief, people get emotional, so encourage them to try to rise above the strong emotions and think this over carefully.
Then, you should step aside and let it go.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.