At the beginning of the year, I announced my decision to leave Facebook. In the days immediately following I wrote a bit about the experience of abandoning Facebook (here and here) and the emotional turmoil accompanying this step.
Eight months in, I can admit that sometimes I cheat. I occasionally find myself using my work Facebook account to browse the newsfeed and even log in to my wife’s account to play a game or two. I will also admit that my use of other social media has increased even as my Facebook use has decreased. I am fairly certain, however, that the combined total of time spent on social media is still less than it was previously.
When I originally left Facebook, I framed much of my decision in terms of how Facebook was or was not shaping me to be more Christ-like. While certainly not perfectly, I believe that leaving Facebook has better equipped me to be open to positive spiritual formation.
Yes, at times I miss Facebook. I have had many folks express their relief that they can at least follow my wife’s Facebook account for news of our family. This relational power, I would argue, is one of the greatest goods of social networking. I wrestle with this question - by abandoning Facebook am I missing out on a powerful tool for maintaining Christ-like relationships?
Despite this, I still stand by my decision to leave and have no plans of returning. Why?
I framed much of my decision in terms of how Facebook was or was not shaping me to be more Christ-like.
Some relationships are stronger. Despite having less contact with some friends, I feel a stronger relationship with those with whom I have kept in contact. Some friends, recognizing that I would no longer appear in their newsfeed, intentionally reached out to me. I continue to maintain close relationships with friends across the country. While leaving Facebook has changed the way we keep in touch, it has by no means eliminated those relationships. These relationships are often deeper because of the lack of Facebook contact; we can’t settle for a simple "head-nod" in the form of a Facebook like (see Bethany Keeley-Jonker’s Think Christian post) to convince ourselves that we have communicated with each other.
I receive less unnecessary information. By the time I left Facebook, my friend list was overflowing with individuals with whom I had little meaningful relationship. The disc jockey at our old karaoke bar. Folks from high school who never said five words to me in school. Sure, you can change what updates you see and who you hear from on Facebook, but, overall, it has amazed me how freeing it is to disengage from the relentless flow of minutiae and Internet memes. While I cannot say that I always use this freedom to engage more fully in my faith, by exposing myself to less unnecessary information I find my overall stress level decreases and I am less likely to be needlessly jealous of some classmate of bygone years.
I learned to gut check my motives. Using Facebook for primarily work-related purposes means that I don’t post about myself or in order for other people to see or hear about me. I don’t participate in arguments or discussions on Facebook; if I genuinely believe I have something to contribute I can tell the individuals in person. While it is certainly possible to engage in Christ-like dialogue on Facebook, I suspect that most of us find our blood boiling with anger more often than filled with Christ-like love when we participate in the average Facebook debate.
From the moment I left Facebook I have said that I by no means see this decision as a panacea - neither in the sense that it would address all of my shortcomings nor in the sense that it is the right course of action for everybody. Ultimately, however, I feel that largely abandoning Facebook is the right course of action for my life. While it may not be the decision everyone should make, I suspect that many of us could at least use a break from social media. Some may even find themselves joining me in the post-Facebook world.