On Thursday, December 20th I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. In full disclosure I am not committed to leaving it deactivated forever. I made this move against the recommendation of my wife and closest friends. Nonetheless I have committed to being Facebook-free for the remainder of 2013.
The question remains, why? Rather then let acquaintances, connections and dare I say “friends” (all supposed 918 of you) speculate I figured it would be best to set the record straight.
I was an early adopter of Facebook, having jumped on the bandwagon in 2005 while I was still studying at school. At the time the appeal for me was to connect with my high school friends, none of which were going to the same school I was. My Junior year of High School morphed into my Senior year and I got out of West Chicago Community High School in three years instead of the normal four. This meant that the group of individuals I had grown up with I was no longer graduating with. Facebook helped me stay connected with some of those people I grew up with and also find out what I had missed my would-be senior year.
I didn’t get heavily involved in posting until 2009 when my daughter Lucy was born. The months leading up to her entrance in the world were filled with posts and pictures of me and my baby-momma packing the pounds and preparing for our daughter’s big appearance. By that point my Facebook friends had expanded to include church friends, neighbors, colleagues from work and college friends as well. So Facebook became a great way to share with them what was going on as a young couple with a growing family.
Fast forward to 2013, eight years after I first setup my account and here I am deactivating it for the first time ever. I’ve longer surpassed Dunbar’s number with regards to my friend count and it’s always been on my mind that many of these connections simply don’t matter. But some of them do. Some of them matter a lot.
I have tried in larger part to resist the urge to discuss politics on Facebook. If you’ve met me in person you know that I am more than willing to share my positions and defend them, and have a reasonable conversation about them. For the most part, I don’t do that on Facebook. Likewise, religion is another topic I do my best to steer away from. This area I have been more gray with though, especially as of late. Please don’t misunderstand me, I have expressed my faith and frequently share things from the Higher Things website. But you won’t find me sharing my beliefs on what I consider to be polarizing social topics. It’s not that I don’t have those beliefs, I do - and as my closest friends will tell you I’m pretty passionate about them too. (Systematic and liturgical theology, the things that most of the world doesn't care about are another story - those I've largely considered fair game for better or worse.)
I consider it a matter of pride that what you get when you talk to me is the same whether it be by text, email, phone or in person. I try very hard to maintain the same level of sarcasm and crassness whether in person or by email. I outright refuse to take myself too seriously on any of these mediums either. This is not a standard I believe to be common though, and I think these medium allow many to hide behind their keyboard and says things in ways they simply would never do in person.
People are very much entitled to their opinions. They are equally entitled to post them on Facebook (or Twitter or the flavor of the day). I’m not getting off Facebook because I don’t want people to speak what they believe or think. If you need to, please read that sentence one more time. I’m getting off of Facebook because I still want to have dinner with you. It dawned on me this week as I watched close friends and immediate family openly criticize my faith in an offensive and personal fashion. I think they thought it was cute, perhaps even comical. I think stupidity prevailed over judgment and they didn’t think it was nearly as awful as it was. Here’s the thing that got me though, none of the people who circulated the meme in question would dare say such things at the Christmas dinner table. They just wouldn’t. It’s in large part because they are decent and kind individuals who love me as much as I love them. Yet on Facebook for whatever reason they seem compelled to cross that line boldly. I’m sure it’s in part because they have friends who are going to hit that “Like” button, or perhaps give them a “True dat!” in the comment feed. But I think they forget that I’m their friend too.
I really enjoy seeing pictures of friends and family. I love hearing about your trips and weekend travels. The recipes you share are not only delicious but inspiring. The posts you make that you’d never be willing to say to my face… those trouble me. They hurt. And I guess that’s ultimately what has driven me away from Facebook. My feelings have been hurt and it’s been done in the shadows of the dark alleys of my Facebook feed. I'm sure others feelings have been hurt to, maybe even by some who agreed with you on your last rant but find this just as offensive as I do.
Growing up my dad would often tell me that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” For much of my childhood I wrote this off as just another stanza in the long ballad of life. As an adult I realize there’s a lot of truth and wisdom in such a statement. I guess the reaction then to those friends I mentioned earlier is this… You don’t get to see pictures of my kids at Christmas. You’re not going to get to see the videos on my wall as they open the presents you sent. You’re going to miss next week’s sonogram. And when it comes to that Christmas Wossel recipe we were going to re-share, well you’re out of luck there too. It's pretty tasty by the way.
I don’t know if this is forever… I’ve got the unusual occasion to take time off at Christmas (for first time in four years) and I felt my time might be best spent focussing on my kids than on Facebook. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for 2014.