Why I’m leaving Facebook in 2013

After much time spent in reflection and prayer, I have come to the personal decision to delete my Facebook account, effective Jan. 1, 2013. From the outset, I want to be clear: I do not think Facebook or any other social-networking site is inherently evil and I would not expect, demand or require that everyone do as I have chosen to do. This decision is personal. I would, however, challenge my friends, family and anyone else who reads this to critically evaluate the ways in which one uses Facebook and consider the direction in which social media is forming us as human beings.

My decision to leave Facebook can be summarized in three key areas.

Time Management: I recognize that Facebook can be a helpful and important tool. I celebrate the ways in which Facebook allows us to connect with old friends and maintain relationships which may otherwise have fallen apart. I am fully aware of the ways in which Facebook has changed the landscape of how we interact with one another - particularly as it relates to millennials, the generation with which I work at Campus Edge Fellowship. I am keeping my work Facebook account active in order to maintain the necessary social-media presence.

Overall, however, I recognize that the ways in which I spend my time on Facebook are generally not positive or healthy. The minutes spent here and there on games, scrolling through my news feed and following the links posted by friends and family add up to more time than I like to think. I believe that we have a God-given responsibility to be good stewards of our time. I also believe wholeheartedly we ought to spend some of that time in recreation, relaxation and relationship-building. Are the hours spent on Facebook contributing to these goals? Typically, no.

Self-Aggrandizement: What is my goal when I update my status, post a picture, comment on a video or contribute to a discussion? Sure, sometimes I use Facebook to encourage someone else. Yes, there is a wonderful sense of celebration with the public access to the latest achievements and events of my life. Yet, at its heart, what is my goal? If my goal is really just to inform family and close friends, there are other, better, more private means by which to do this - and with the closing of my Facebook account comes a commitment to more active publication on this blog, as well as the launch of a private blog for our family.

At its heart, an overwhelming number of my Facebook posts are written with the hope that someone else will see, like and be impressed by what is happening in my life. More “likes” equate to a greater sense of satisfaction and even, dare I say it, greater self-esteem. I want everyone to see how adorable my baby is in part because I want to feel better and happier about myself. Despite the ways in which Facebook can be used for good, when I’m honest with myself I realize that it is more often forming and shaping my heart in a direction that puts love of self before love of God and neighbor.

Choosing Offline versus Online Interactions: At the core of my decision is the realization that Facebook is forming me to be the kind of person who chooses the digital over the tangible world. At Christmas we celebrate the God who became flesh. The God who chose relationships. The God who chose to spend His time with the outcasts of society. If my goal as a Christian is to be like my Messiah and Rabbi, Jesus, then is Facebook shaping me to look more like Him? For me, I have to admit that the answer is no.

Some may say that as a pastor, I need to connect with people where they are and should realize that today’s millennials are migrating away from face-to-face interaction and even away from e-mail in favor of text messages, Facebook and Twitter. If I’m going to connect with students I need to be accessible on Facebook. Yet, isn’t part of my calling as a pastor to embody an alternate vision of human flourishing? To demonstrate a new way of existence that comes from being raised to new life in Christ? Isn’t that new life better demonstrated through conversation over coffee, laughter over dinner or tears shared in a moment of silence? I could be wrong, but I can’t shake the feeling that Facebook isn’t helping me achieve my calling as a pastor, husband, father or follower of Jesus.

I don’t expect that everyone will arrive at the same conclusion I have. I know from dialogue with friends and family that some think I am nuts and some are more optimistic about the role Facebook can play in their spiritual formation. But as for me, I am saying good-bye.

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This is a good challenge, Kory. I think you're dead-on in terms of self-aggrandizement. If I look back at my Facebook timeline, it's often embarrassing how many of my posts lean this way (even if they're humblebrags disguised as something else).

I've been reading Thomas A Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, and so many of his reflections are reminders against this, including one entitled 'On Avoiding Vain Hope and Conceit.' Granted, this is coming from a 15th-century monk who couldn't conceive of Facebook, but one wonders how to translate such wise counsel to our tech era. Perhaps a commitment to Facebook posts that are not "proud of your good deeds," in Thomas' words, "for God does not judge as men; and what delights men often displeases God."

What would that sort of Facebook discourse look like?
Nothing personal or anything, but leaving facebook to change the way you interact with people, is like plugging your ears because you only want to read sign language. If you want to CHANGE the way you use Facebook, by all means do so. Stop playing games, they are wasteful and unnecessary. You don't HAVE to post anything. It can be, however, a useful means of listening to what people are thinking and saying. If you then want to initiate offline contact, do so with the increased context gained from the your "online ears." Facebook at it's heart is an interactive news aggregator. You can make it a complete waste of time by adding other distractions and nonsense to it. But you don't have to, and you don't have to close off a valuable means of communication to your friends who don't chose to follow you in your Facebook cutoff. Maybe you talk to all of your friends everyday and find out all of the things they follow and love and hate and feel passionate about. And if you have the kind of life where you can do that, I congratulate you. Most people I know, including myself, can't do that or don't always feel comfortable doing that. Facebook is an important conduit to a world we can't always make time for. Does it have it's problems, yes, but they don't have to be deal breakers.
I recognize your point, David, and believe me - I thought about it. This is what I'm getting after at the beginning - Facebook isn't inherently evil. It's a tool which can be used for good or ill.

My problem was that I found myself treating and viewing Facebook as though it were indispensable in my life. I think that when we view something as so essential and fundamental to our lives, we are dangerously close to idolatry. By no means do I mean that all Facebook users are using it in an idolatrous fashion. I, however, couldn't shake the feeling that I was.

The more that I have reflected on Facebook, the more I have been drawn to the language of addiction. I am hesitant to go here - I have not done any research on the brain chemistry of Facebook usage (though I suspect that it is out there) - and I know that addiction can be a separate issue. I do, however, suspect that there is a fair amount of crossover here. Some people are able to change, say, their behavior with regards to alcohol with a fair bit of ease. Others, however, reach a point where they realize that their usage must be all-or-nothing. I find myself wondering if technological tools like Facebook may be similar - some people can commit themselves to using Facebook more effectively, efficiently, and with less selfish motives. For me, I found myself in that cycle of need-to-change - promise-to-change - fail-to-change - start-over. I suspect that when we find ourselves in those kind of cycles it may be a good idea to take radical steps to change.

Again, this is what I decided was best for me. I'm not advocating a mass exodus from Facebook. But, I do advocate critical self-reflection on the role of Facebook in one's life.
I can see where a Christian would take a different route than yours, Kory, but I can't see where one would think you were "nuts." I've been disappointed at how Christians use Facebook and have "unfriended" some of my Christian friends in order to avoid their silly posts.
Kory, thank you for your thoughts on this. While I can't say that I face your problems with regards to Facebook, I can understand what you are saying. So If it's a matter of breaking habits and recommitting to something, I understand and support you in your decision (not that you really needed it). We should all examine our habits with a critical eye. Anything in our lives that becomes the most important thing other than God, is an idol and as such must be cast down from our lives. If that's Facebook than so be it.
I respect and admire your decision brother.
I can't speak to the time management issues, since I think this is a personal question. For me FB takes up no more time than I spent gossiping with coworkers when I worked in an office, and gives me a much-needed mental break so I can work better when I log out again. But I recognize that everyone's situation is different, and for some people it can become a first-class time-sink.

However, I have to disagree --emphatically-- with your suggestion that offline relationships are somehow less genuine, less enfleshed, than their offline equivalent. I'm a graduate student living far away from my parents, and since I often write about what I am doing or share pictures on FB my family back home can now experience some of my life along with me. So long as the things I am sharing are genuine, FB gives them a chance to see my life rather than just hearing the highlights on a phone call every week or two. I also have friends who I have "known" for longer than I've lived at my current address: people I know from FB's predecessors but who I chat with regularly and hear about what they're going through and talk with them and simply hang out. After the Connecticut shootings or my own recent concussions, these people have heard me out and been as much senses of encouragement as anyone I knew "in the flesh."

I firmly believe that it is the sharing of our real lives and continued investment in each other that gives us the kind of relationships God desires for us. Online posturing can get in the way of this, but so can gossip shared around the coffee cart before Sunday school. It's not the way we share but that we share, that matters.
What a great conversation, Kory.

I left Facebook over two years ago when it felt inauthentic (for me) and demanding.

I was tired of missing the important messages (like "My grandma died") in the clutter of Farmville plays and observations on someone's Starbucks' order.

Also, the like flags are often passive aggressive. Like bumper stickers, people could flash an opinion without opening actual discourse. My friend calls this family of passive aggressive interactions "hit and runs." I was just so tired of seeing this side of people.

Privacy considerations are also no small matter. Facebook's frequent changes to privacy policies require constant monitoring, and it has even been so bold as to state that all photos posted on Facebook are Facebook's property (a policy which was revised it after user outcry).

Once I left Facebook, I realized how much my signal to noise ratio improved. I'm happy have unloaded Facebook from my daily life.
I think your approach and thoughtfulness here is admirable while I agree with your first two reasons, the third idea to me is a problematic for us in 2013. The idea that "offline" and "online" are two different things is quickly becoming an misnomer. In the same way we rarely seen a phone call as a cheap imitation of interaction, I think we're beginning to see online interactions and relationships as valuable. The idea of "digital dualism" is one we need to better articulate. In the same way I don't really don't separate my professional from my personal life, I don't distinguish offline from online. At least not to suggest it's always a case of one being better than the other. I'm not suggesting there aren't times when sitting down over coffee isn't better than communicating offline but it's a bit like comparing apples and oranges. I'd suggest looking at this post about the term in more detail.

http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/02/24/digital-dualism-versus-augmented-reality/

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Just think, without doing this online, I'd have never read or thought about this. ;)

 

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