My latest column in the Christian Courier.
So, I’ve done it. My days of posting, commenting, liking, and sharing on Facebook are over. My account has been deleted, the app is gone from my iPhone, and the social media site is almost nowhere in my life. After years of almost daily engagement on Facebook, there is little regret, and almost no looking back.
Over past months there has been a very public campaign encouraging us all to #DeleteFacebook. That campaign was largely motivated by revelations that Facebook (a massive corporate entity!) has been extremely careless with the personal information it holds in trust for millions of people. Much of that data, it turns out, has been widely distributed, and has ended up in the hands of who knows who. But that corporate carelessness, and the related vulnerability of my own personal information, was not the reason for my dragging Facebook to the trash bin.
Rather, I walked away from Zuckerberg’s social media juggernaut on account of a growing sense that I just wasn’t contributing much to others’ lives through the platform. Certainly, I had a few friends who contributed to my life in important ways as they shared thoughtful reflections or other material (Are you reading this, Andrew Faiz!?). But I had a growing sense that my own sharing via Facebook was decidedly about… me. Posting anything at all entails a good deal of filtering, cropping, editing, and even blurring – and although these concepts comes from the world of photography, they apply equally to almost every Facebook post. Crafting a public persona (a self for public consumption) is the name of the game with social media, and I was playing the game.
In a related vein, I found this crafting of a public persona beginning to intrude into daily decision-making, even if only in subtle ways. That is, in thinking about whether to attend some event or participate in some activity, the question of whether it would be Facebook-worthy simultaneously arose in the back of my mind. It seemed I was being seduced by a new relational and experiential calculus. Rather than thinking about loving and serving those within arm’s reach of me, or about the meaning inherent in certain activities, a part of me was thinking ahead to how things would appear on Facebook. This realization was for me, as they say, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Speaking of social media seduction, there also is (and was) something very enticing about the prospect of an ever-larger audience for one’s thoughts, life, and public self-presentation. This isn’t simply about gaining more “likes” or emoji reactions, but about the seeming need to magnify my significance; to expand the sphere within which I am known or acknowledged. But the ephemeral nature of almost everything posted to Facebook, and the fact that it will all invariably be deleted (where moth and rust destroy, and where severs over-write), suggests that most things social media are not among the treasures we might store up in heaven.
This is to say nothing of the echo-chamber nature of social media today (where we listen only to the voices of those we already agree with); it is to say nothing of the way that social media can contribute to social isolation; and it is to say nothing about the amount of time that can be wasted on Facebook. There are plenty of good reasons to pull back from our social media investment (even as there may be an equal number of reasons for some of us to remain connected in this way).
In my case, abandonment of Facebook has gone hand in hand with a renewed sense of the grace in local connections, a conviction about the goodness inherent in relationships and experiences themselves, and a relinquishment of the idea that an expanded online life necessarily means anything at all. My point is not that I’ve achieved the form of life I’m gesturing toward, but simply that such a life feels more within reach than it did just a few months ago. Good bye, Facebook.