I am breaking up with Facebook for now. This is an ambivalent decision. I have tried retrenchments and retreats before and have inevitably failed to restrain myself for very long. Truth is, I am a chronic user. It’s sort of funny to me that I have become one since I initially resisted joining the site for so long.
What I like about Facebook: I like the camaraderie and the networked friendships. I like meeting people virtually before I meet them in person. I like the interesting articles and videos people post. I love the instantaneous response and rapid-fire conversations. In some ways it’s an introvert’s social paradise. As one who can hardly manage being in a group of five or more, it is easier for me to maintain frequent contact with many from a distance. I like being able to have a virtual Rolodex (and this is the only reason I will not completely delete my account–for now–but only deactivate it) of all my contacts and friends with whom I have no contact otherwise.
What I dislike about Facebook: When I am not feeling well about myself, Facebook acts as a stimulant and a depressant, temporarily boosting my ego before I despond again. I keep returning because I want to stay in touch with people. Whenever I begin my inevitable retreat from Facebook, I fear that I will be hurting someone’s feelings when I disappear from their friend list. Like it or not, virtual relationships have the emotional ties of friendships maintained in person. Those ties are real and important and something I take seriously. Then there’s the time spent. It consumes my mind in an unhealthy way and becomes an easy excuse not to think about more important things. It takes time away from healthy human relationships and personal growth in other areas. So, I am quitting for now. Buy me a patch for social network withdrawal (blogs are another form of social network, which I will ignore for the purpose of finishing this post).
The fear of missing out (FOMO), is what Wes Avram, a Presbyterian minister, suggests is perhaps the power driving Facebook, even more than the desire for social connection. His article “Connecting with a Theology of Technology” is featured in an issue of Reflections, the YDS magazine, a copy of which came for me by post. The entire issue is on technology and its implications for Christian ministry. Avram is asking for critical engagement with the ways that technology is influencing us, rather than simply accepting developing technology automatically as the status quo. And, of course of interest to me, Avram asks about its theological implications and the cost to religious life. Continue reading