I’ve had the above picture on my phone’s lock screen for several months, and one thing I’ve come to realize from looking at 1 Thessalonians 4.11 multiple times a day is that Facebook is working hard to keep my life from looking like what the Apostle Paul encourages in this verse. Posting everything on Facebook is the opposite of a quiet life—it’s a loud life that shouts for attention, approval, and affirmation from everyone who reads what I post. Spending hours refreshing a news feed is the opposite of minding my own business—Facebook is designed to keep me in everyone else’s business as I mindlessly scroll through the thoughts and affairs of other people. And spending time on Facebook is the opposite of working with my hands (i.e., being productive)—I can’t think of anything less fruitful than devoting hours of my time and mental energy toward eliciting something as intangible and meaningless as digital reactions. For me, Facebook has been more harmful than helpful, more wasteful than productive, and more in-charge than in-check. I reactivated my account in 2013 when we began raising support to move overseas because I hoped it would help us reach and stay in contact with more people, and it has served that purpose for us. But because I believe Facebook has taken away more from my life than it has given me, I’m going to deactivate my account indefinitely and focus my attention on real life and real interactions.
Honestly, I wish everyone else would join me. I imagine we’d all be better off if we had more time and attention to give to those around us instead of constantly putting them on hold so we can see what’s been posted in the five minutes since we last refreshed our feed. But it’s not my job to convince anyone else to think how I think or do what I do—if I’ve learned anything from Facebook, it’s how futile it is to try to change other people’s minds through an online post. And I realize other people will see less harm and more benefit in Facebook than I do. I know a lot of people who are trying to use social media to have a positive, meaningful impact, and I hope they succeed in doing so. But I’ve run out of reasons for devoting so much of my life to this platform, so I’m going to joyfully end my relationship with Facebook today and (hopefully) never look back.
I’m looking forward to not having the option of using Facebook as an excuse to ignore my wife and kids or get upset with them when they want me to look away from my feed and give them my attention.* I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and not feeling an inner drive to step out of the moment so I can take a picture, write a post, and sit back to see what my friends think of our interaction. (Here’s a Facebook post I’ll never get the chance to share: I’m genuinely disturbed by how quickly and thoughtlessly parents are willing to put their kids online in exchange for the digital currency of likes and followers—it’s starting to feel a lot like prostitution). I’m looking forward to seeing a friend and genuinely being able to catch up because we haven’t already read each other’s stories and don’t already know everything about each other’s lives and family. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the day when I can have an experience and genuinely enjoy it for what it gives me in the moment without forfeiting that pleasure by immediately trying to figure out how to make it “postable” in hopes of getting the pseudo-pleasure of likes and comments that I’ve come to prefer. I don’t think we were meant to be in constant broadcast mode, and I’m hoping with enough time, my mind will stop immediately reverting to “How can I share this?” every time I see something funny, interesting, or memorable.
I realize the vacuum in my life that results from leaving Facebook will be filled by something, and I hope it’s filled by more reflection, more journaling, more real interactions, and more time to focus on the things, activities, and people that want and deserve my attention. If you happen to try to tag me in a post or write on my wall one day and remember I’m not here, you can pray that I’m succeeding in prioritizing the right things. I would really appreciate it. Or you can send me a message (I’ll keep my Messenger account active) or give me a call and we can meet up and chat. I would really appreciate that as well.
Thanks for reading this far. I realize that by posting this: 1) I am giving the impression that my presence on Facebook is important. I don’t believe anyone will truly be affected by me not being on Facebook, even if this lengthy explanation suggests otherwise. If your first thought when you saw this post was, “Who cares?” then you’re on the right track; and 2) I am contradicting everything I’ve said here about how inconsequential Facebook and Facebook posts are. If I really thought they didn’t matter, then I would just close my account and never look back. I guess after 7 years of being active on Facebook, I thought an explanation for leaving might be warranted, and to be honest, a small part of me hopes it will cause others to at least think twice about how much of their precious time they devote to being on Facebook. Life is a vapor (James 4.14), and when we’re at the end of our life, I doubt we’ll wish we’d spent more time flipping through people’s political opinions and pictures of what they had for dinner. I’m hoping that leaving Facebook will help me be more thankful for how I used my time when my time is up. There’s no guarantee that closing my Facebook account will help me focus more on what matters most, but I’m praying it’s a step in the right direction.
* I realize a lot of things can take our attention away from other people, but Facebook is particularly adept at it.