I’m getting off Facebook.
Some might wonder why. So below are some of my reasons.
But before I get to those reasons, let me make clear right away that I am fully aware of some of the positive ways people can use social media. I’m not saying those ways don’t exist. The question for me is when do the negatives outweigh the positives? And am I remaining with Facebook because of these positives or because disconnecting from such a ubiquitous platform is likely to elicit blank stares, peer pushback, or angry emojis?
So, my reasons.
First, there’s a lot of nonsense on social media generally and Facebook in particular that lowers rather than elevates public discourse on important issues. Especially when our culture is more polarized than ever, it seems to me that social media exacerbates this situation rather than ameliorates it. Seeing posts and comments that feed into negative attitudes about public figures and social, political, and cultural circumstances, and that showcase one’s position on a controversial issue rather than opening a dialogue about it, from people I respect and know has made me, in some cases, if not want to unfriend people, then at least want to, or in some cases actually, unfollow them. It certainly doesn’t help that interactions on Facebook don’t lend themselves to nuance. People these days often think with their feelings and post accordingly.
Second, I don’t think social media is particularly conducive to conversation and relationships. It lacks personal presence and underestimates the importance of face to face encounters and leads us, I think, into the temptation to abandon the difficulty of actual in person relationships. This happens when people choose to talk via posts and comments rather than in person. I’ve even seen examples of people essentially airing their feelings about very personal matters in this sort of quasi-confessionally vulnerable way. What this is, as far as I can tell, is a form of passive-aggressive behaviour that allows us to say things without having to deal with actual people.
Third, there is real evidence that the more time a person spends on social media, the greater their chances of experiencing problems with mental health like depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Whether it’s cyber-bullying, the fear of missing out, or the ever present human tendency to compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel, the time we spend on platforms like Facebook and Instagram tend to make us feel worse about ourselves. I have personally felt the effect of Facebook in this respect. Even in the sense that I found myself awaiting responses and comments to things I post. There’s that little hit of dopamine we receive whenever someone says something positive and affirming about our post or simply gives it a thumbs up.
This really leads me to my primary, and forth, reason for wanting to leave Facebook. I didn’t like the effect it was having on me. I didn’t like losing time to it. Being on Facebook too long reminds me of the days when I had cable TV and I would sit there flipping between channels for hours without actually watching anything and feeling like I had just completely wasted my time.
Notice I haven’t said anything about the nature of social media itself and how these platforms were designed to get us addicted to using them. I recommend watching the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, to explore that side of things. Needless to say, it didn’t sway me in favour of Facebook.
Now, again, I’m aware of the positives. There are aspects to being on Facebook I will miss. Some of those are good things. I have some friends who post cool and interesting and even thoughtful things that I will not see without being on Facebook. So it’s about weighing the pros and cons. It’s about being intentional regarding my own well-being. To quote Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial.
An important aspect of my discipleship to Jesus concerns a word related to discipleship: discipline. My desire is to be more intentional with how I use my time — how I redeem the time. In fact, I have deleted a bunch of apps on my phone that tempt me to use time mindlessly. Except Freecell. I’m keeping that. This doesn’t make me super-spiritual. It doesn’t make me a special Christian. I’m not more Jesus-y in taking this step. If anything, getting off Facebook involves facing some of my weaknesses and shortcomings. We’re each called to become more and more self-aware for the purposes of putting ourselves in the position where we can become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Right now, for me at least, this means saying farewell to Facebook.