Saturday, July 1, 2017

Unfriending Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It's a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially those I don't have much opportunity to see. I can keep tabs on events and people, see their kids, enjoy their vacations and accomplishments. I can share recipes and find some to try. News stories I might not otherwise see often show up on my page and I also love the many funny and quirky memes, pictures and videos. But Facebook is also full of misinformation and anger. People feel free to rant and rave and bully in ways they never would if they were face to face with another—at least I hope they never would. And I've found it strangely addicting. 

Two months ago I set myself to quantify my Facebook time—kind of like writing down every penny spent when beginning to create a budget. I was shocked to find out just how much time I'd been spending. I reluctantly confess that I found I was checking my wall six to ten times per day, spending an average of twenty minutes each time I checked. So I was spending as much as two to three hours—HOURS—each day on Facebook. Holy Cow! It had become a compulsion to check my newsfeed, then re-check and then check again. I had to see if others liked my 'likes' and 'shares.' I had to read comments, then comment, then read the comments on my comments and then explain my comments. It's a wonder I got anything else done in a day!

I told myself I was staying abreast of current events and 'connecting with my friends.' Facebook seems to to offer that. It provides a platform for expressing ideas and opinions; it allows us glimpses of other lives; it permits dialog (sort of). So at first blush Facebook seems to answer our deep need for connection, for friendship, and meaning, but looks can be deceiving. Facebook offers community, but it's a superficial, artificial community. I can come away from a Facebook session feeling I am more connected than I actually am. It places me square in the center of my own story, giving me much more importance than is good for me. It also tempts me to present a sanitized version of myself and my life. This is dangerous for a person called to live a life of transparent vulnerability—to confess my sins and walk in the light. And I confess it's lovely to be able to edit my comments before pressing 'post,' an option I rarely choose in real life, in real interactions, with real people. 

I guess I could toss out all my technology and go live in a cave. Sometime I feel I should, but Facebook is not the devil. Technology is a useful servant but a terrible master. I had permitted Facebook to command my time and order my day, but taking down my account would not fix my problem because it's a human condition problem. I have a regular propensity to grab whatever is available to prop up my ego—grab it, use it and abuse it. Fortunately God is faithful to eventually knock my props away to get my attention and draw me back to Him. My humanity wants to be approved and 'liked,' and Facebook is only one of many crutches I might use.

Since God hard-wired humans for relationship, we are always hungry for meaningful connection. Ultimately this is found in friendship with God...that deep, intimate, loving communion in which we are completely known and accepted as we are. Part of being made in God's image is that potential for deep relationships with other people... loving others and permitting them to love us in return. That requires vulnerability; it requires time spent face to face; it requires account-ability. Our deep friendships are one of the ways God heals our brokenness and polishes out our rough edges. We need the laughter and encouragement found in friendship. We also need the loving smack on the behind a good friend will give us when necessary.  

The good news going forward is that God has always known that social media was something I would use and misuse. It's no surprise, nor it is an insurmount-able obstacle to my faith.  I just want to use it more thoughtfully, aware of its limitations. I want to keep God first and foremost in my affections. I want to protect the humanness of my friendships by resisting the temptation to keep a screen between me and other people. It's hard to affect the world when I'm not in it. It is impossible to affect other people without having real relationship with them. That means getting into the down and dirty of their lives, feeling their pain, bearing with their weaknesses and doing life with them. Facebook is just a social could never carry a load so heavy.  Selah.

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