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.