I have been fighting it for longer than I care to admit, but it’s well past time for me to say goodbye to Facebook. Six years ago, I caved after a noble fight to stay away from it because I wanted to share photos of my new baby, and that’s mostly what I’ve used it for over the years. I’ve stayed tethered to it because I love to see pictures of other people’s families, too- both people that I see every day and others who I’ve only been able to keep up with or reconnect with because of social media. But over time, as our culture has changed and the platform itself has changed, it is no longer something that brings me joy. In fact, it’s hard to believe that something seemingly so benign could bring so much anguish.
I’ve struggled to pinpoint what it is that is unhealthy or undesirable for me about Facebook. And here’s what I think it is- it exploits the very worst of our human nature, the part of each of us that says I am the creator of truth, that what I think and feel trumps all else. We have this innate, God-given drive to connect with other human beings, which I think is what God was getting at when He told us to love ourselves and our neighbors, but we go about it in such broken ways. We want to connect with others, but we feel the shame and insecurity of all of our weaknesses, so we think that we can hide those places and just show the side of us that we want them to see. We decide what role we’d like to play in the little drama of Facebook, and we give it our all.
If you think about it, Facebook truly is a theatrical event, it’s just that this play has millions of characters and a worldwide stage. Each of us decides what character we’d like to inhabit at this particular stage of our lives- some of us are the doting mom or housewife, others the moralist, the teacher, the jaded political pundit. We offer the character we play on Facebook as our stand-in for the real deal, the actual, nuanced, can’t-fit-it-in-a-hashtag person. What happens, though, in our need to have a part in the play, is that we only share things that make us look the way we want to look, the things that will mask whatever insecurities we harbor, and we have very little regard for how it affects those seeing it. When we share a photo of ourselves having a great time with friends, we think about whether or not the photo is flattering, not how our friends who didn’t get invited to that particular excursion would feel being left out. We share our thoughts and feelings on current news events of the day, without pausing even for a moment to consider that we can’t possibly know all of the ways this might affect others reading it.
We share our judgments, our alliances, our political agendas, our view of the world, except it’s no longer about connecting with people. For far too many it has become simply about being right. As if smothering others with your particular agenda could ever convince anyone that you’re right. As if it isn’t incredibly arrogant to think that you have the upper hand on all of the tough issues of the world, and you’re enlightening the rest of us poor idiots. As if you have all the right answers, and you’re just waiting for the rest of us dummies to catch up.
The real downfall of Facebook and other social media is this: purveyors of information no longer carry a burden of truth. If you have a Facebook account or a Twitter account, we have accepted your thoughts, your opinion, your version of the world as legitimate. In other words, if you’re over the age of 13 years old, you can be an expert on any topic you choose. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true, it simply matters if someone believes it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve offered a well-rounded, thoughtful, educated contribution to an issue, it just matters if you get people riled up enough to share it over and over again. Over time, this has created a digital world that is so full of bullshit that those who do actually care about what is true and right and good can’t find it in all of the mess.
So as much as I’d still love to see those cute baby pictures of the friends I don’t see often enough, the price has become too much for me to pay.
So long, Facebook. Good riddance.