It’s been over a year since I shut down my Facebook account. I quit cold turkey. There have been no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. Some called it social suicide, a hibernation of sorts from modern society. How would people get ahold of me and notify me of important news and happenings? Some cheered that I joined the ranks of non-conformists. Still others wondered how I had the “guts” (seriously?!). We must not forget about the self-promotion aspect; my blog readership would significantly drop, book sales would plummet! Others were convinced that as missionaries living on support (ie. donations) we would lose significant funding if we stepped off the social media platform.
I don’t believe that Facebook is something evil and is not capable of good. I’ve experienced many good things as a result of my past membership. It can be a valuable tool.
The following have been some of the benefits of quitting:
I can focus and mind my own business better. I can live my life and not feel the compulsion to report it. I’m no longer my own paparazzi. My husband taught our 6-year old daughter to ride a bike without training wheels the other day. I sat in the grass and watched her ride up and down the common area in front of our house. Her stringy blonde hair blew in the autumn breeze, her eyes were shining while her two brothers ran beside her, cheering. I snapped a couple of photos on my phone and then sat down and simply watched her for a long time. I did not need to share that sacred moment with hundreds of “friends”. I did not take the time to think of a witty or precious post. Until I quit Facebook, I had not realized how much I viewed my life through that lense of “posts” and how much my mind busied itself with composing explanations. The images we try to create can actually minimize the actual moments of our lives. We become our greatest fans and forget how jealous God is for us. I’m convinced He’s kept record of all the “posts” of my life. I’m sure I will be surprised at what He deems post-worthy.
I can be more concerned about my faithfulness than my following. Let’s face it: doing the dishes, cooking the meals, going to work, training the children and folding the laundry is not as enhancing to our egos as how many people have read and commented on our posts or joined our cause. But the truth is the majority of the human race spends their days doing those normal things, too. We like to create the illusion that we are saving, influencing or changing the greater world, more than our own small ones. We are a people rather obsessed with this like no other time in history and it’s rather silly. I live in a developing country. My husband works hard to bring clean water to people here. I get to sit on dirt floors in off-the-road villages. Many of the inhabitants just do what is put in front of them on a daily basis and they do it quietly. We look at this and call it poverty. But aren’t we the ones who are impoverished because we’ve believed the lie that it is more important to be “followed” than to be quietly faithful? If our faithfulness happens to “make it big”, that’s His prerogative. I don’t have the time or energy to ensure it.
I sleep better. I get over-stimulated quickly. I’m a sponge. Images, articles and comments on Facebook often bothered my sensitive spirit. Information was given that I did not request, that I often was not ready to receive and process. My internal prayer list was getting man-induced and not Spirit-led. It’s the same reason I hate TV; overall it’s intrusive, loud, opinionated, artificial and exhausting. I have been amazed at how much more I hear from Jesus when I listen to the world less.
I have deeper relationships. I could not keep up with the messages and my emails. I realize some personalities thrive on all of that, but I am not one of them. I like a quiet life. I like real email letters even if it often takes me weeks to respond. I savor the paragraphs. I like when a friend calls to chat and has no idea what’s going on in my life and we can truly “catch up”. I like when people feel valued by me and not just one of rest of the commenters. I’ve pulled out long-neglected stationary and used it. We are not designed to know so many people. I’d rather know a few really well.
I’m not tempted to believe I’m on trial everyday. The verdict is already in. We are frail creatures. Our feelings of self-worth can rise or fall in a given day based on the comments and likes we receive on Facebook. We might exceed mediocrity one day, but the next day we feel we had better keep up the momentum or those questions of “Am I enough? Is what I am doing enough? Am I exceptional? Have I made a difference in anyone’s life? Does anyone notice me?” will return to haunt us. We can spend our lives working to keep those questions answered well. Facebook, even for those who know in their head their identity in Christ, can tempt a powerful relapse into the flesh. The truth is that I’m not in court everyday and neither are you. It was finished on the cross. Because Jesus is enough, so am I. The response is joyful gratitude.
I can experience the joy of not knowing everything. I was not one who spent hours on Facebook, but I got carried away enough to know when so-and-so’s son lost a tooth, what Susie made for dinner, what Sam thought about the football game, how politically-minded Mister X happened to be, how good-at-40-now Mrs. Jones looks or that this boy and that girl are now in a relationship. I love talking to people and actually being surprised! I love running into people and not knowing what is happening in their lives! I love hearing news about others lives directly from them to me. Have you heard the saying, “distance adds intrigue”? Yes, we need a little more intrigue. We need some privacy. I don’t need to show you a photo of what I look like when I wake up in the morning and neither do you. We have a skewed view of authenticity, but that’s another topic.
I can adjust to a new culture more fully. This one benefit is especially personal to my situation. Facebook can be the death of cultural adjustment for missionaries and the like. For me, trying to reconcile two worlds on a daily basis was too much. It hurt and confused my brain. I can not be fully there (USA) and fully here (Mexico). We each are made to live fully exactly where we are. I need all the help I can get to accomplish that great feat.
There you have it. I daresay in light of all these benefits, there is no turning back. Until God lets me know otherwise. So, drop me an email, pick up the phone or better yet, write me a hand-written letter! Eek, on second thought, don’t. I will not get it until next year. I have given into WhatsApp. Try that.
Update: May 2018 – After a whole lotta prayer, I am now on Instagram @ablycker and it’s a far better experience than Facebook.