On Leaving Facebook

Since announcing to the 10 people who read my status updates that I’m leaving Facebook for good, I’ve been fielding a number of Facebook-related questions, namely:

Why? Why would you, as a missionary kid with friends on 4+ continents, choose to cut yourself off from the easiest method you have of keeping track of these people? Have your introvert tendencies finally done your personality in for good? Are you going to be a hermit? HOW CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS?!?!?!

Good questions, all.

I’ve flirted with the idea of severing my Facebook ties for quite some time now. I’m embarrassed to admit how long, because it will demonstrate just how attached I am to that medium of ‘connection.’ But with the advent of Timeline, my decision was made.

My reasons for leaving, however invalid, are as follows:

1) Facebook sucks the intentionality from my relationships.

Visiting the page of an old high school flame/enemy/best friend/mentor and skimming around for interesting pictures or stories of their lives may grant me a sense of being connected to them, but I haven’t actually connected. It’s easier to pull up someone’s page and peruse it for 15 seconds to verify “nope, nothing’s changed in their life!” than it is to call them or shoot them an email. This means that I limit these ‘relationships’ to merely tracking momentous events, rather than connecting deeply at a soul level. Sure, it’s great that so-and-so had a baby, but knowing this doesn’t scratch the surface of who they are. . .and ultimately, results in me using the events of others’ lives for entertainment and distraction, rather than being open to relating to people–good, bad, and un-entertaining–on a deep, self-sacrificial level.

What, counter my detractors, about the fact that it gives me a chance to keep up with a broader array of people, people whom I don’t necessarily know well enough to call?

Maybe it’s because I’m a Stone Cold Introvert, but my gut response to that is. . .why would I want to? I’m suffering from information glut regarding my real friends as it is. I don’t want 1000 friends on whose walls I occasionally post a very shallow compliment about some action they appear to have taken or some baby they appear to have made. I’d rather have 15-20 friends whom I know more personally, to whom I can write and with whom I can Skype or call.

In a world as frenzied and ridiculously connected as ours, I think I need to disconnect from some of the outliers in order to be able to delegate my relational and emotional energy in appropriate and meaningful directions.

2) Facebook grants me a sense of false intimacy. . .and may be sucking my social skills dry.

Facebook has become a convenient way for me to express myself socially in a safe, controlled environment. It’s easier for me, as an initially shy and introverted person, to write on someone’s wall to tell them I enjoyed meeting them and look forward to hanging out sometime than it is to tell them in person, easier to send them a message setting up that hang out time than it is to give them an actual phone call. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I don’t like allowing myself to use what amounts to a social crutch. I am trying to be conscious of and eliminate decisions and actions in my life that are based on fear, and using Facebook instead of face time to build relationships is one of them.

I can’t tell you how many acquaintances have suddenly become fascinating based on their Facebook profile, rather than actual conversation. I’ve also noticed that my affection tends to flow much more freely on Facebook walls than it otherwise might. It’s easy to make almost glib declarations of care or respect or love on a public medium, where it is likely to be taken much more lightly.

3) Through the medium of Facebook, I have unintentionally created a false persona that I no longer care to sustain.

One time last spring, I was asked out by three guys in two days. . .all over Facebook. Why? Because it was spring (official girlfriend-hunting season), and because they had read my status updates and wall posts and felt a connection with me based on that sliver of e-evidence. I did them all a favor and turned them down en masse, because the connection wouldn’t have translated in person. . .or, more frankly, the connection wasn’t to me, it was to the miggle (man giggle) that they had at my expense every time I posted something funny.

Quite a number of people have told me that they bookmark my Facebook page just for the status updates. It’s not that I mind that. I enjoy vapid entertaining. But the more attention  I got for it, the more tempted I am to live my wildly colorful (by means of much hyperbole) life in public. Over the past several years, I’ve myself posting things to my friends’ walls that could easily have been saved for text. Why? Because I thought they were funny, and I want people to keep thinking I was funny.

Suddenly, instead of being a useful communication tool, Facebook has become about managing a mirage, the smoke and mirrors I’ve unintentionally created around my personality.

I hate that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being considered funny. . .but I hate being funny for attention. That humor loses its edge, becomes blunted under the weight of self-importance and desperation. And I want to nip that in the bud.

4) Timeline. And Mark.

Mark Zuckerburg’s apparent attitude has always gotten under my skin, and the Facebook empire’s refusal to take the complaints of its users seriously as it has rolled out one major change after another is bothersome to me. . .not only because it reveals the vast passivity of our culture when it comes to actually having to sacrifice something in order to have a voice, but also because, though I know its a free service, Facebook would be nothing without its users. It therefore irks me, however irrationally, that Facebook continues to disrespect the voice of those who use it.

Furthermore, I think the Timeline set-up is as ugly as a demon’s backside and as confusing as that fact that The Bachelor still has participants who believe this way of finding a mate is somehow going to work.

So what do I hope to get from my Facebook withdrawal?

Hopefully, fewer, more intentional relationships. More time not spent thinking about myself and how to transfer my technically-pretty-boring life into attention-seeking-hilarity via Facebook post. A tiny bit less advertising and commercialism in my life.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe leaving Facebook will cause any tenuous sense of community I have to implode. Maybe I’ll be lonely and hermited as a result.

And if that happens, I’ll come back, lick my wounds, and allow you all to shamelessly mock me. . .after you’ve re-friended me.

PS: You may be wondering when D-day will arrive. . .I have a lot of pictures and contact information to collect before I disconnect completely, so while I’m aiming for April 1st, ‘post-graduation’ may be a more realistic deadline.

PPS: For those of you who have asked how you’ll know when I update my blog. . .well, you can check back here at random (I don’t anticipate that my writing output will be too impressive until May 13th, also known as “The Day After Graduation”) or sign up to follow the blog so that you get email updates whenever I update. Or you can stop reading, though I personally favor this option the least.

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3 thoughts on “On Leaving Facebook

  1. Lauren, I love your thoughts on this! It’s a funny world we live in now, and I am often to plug the plug as well. I am encouraged by your example, and I hope the “outside world” beyond Facebook becomes even more sparkling for you in it. 🙂

    Read these two quotes recently that I think you’ll appreciate:

    “[W]hether we use Facebook or not, we could all use less personal grandiosity and more divine grandeur. There is no limit, no satiation point, for our study of God, for our meditation on his perfections. However we use or don’t use social media, we all need less immersion in our narcissistic, self-driven world and more immersion in the “world of love” that is communion with God through union with Christ. A good rule of spiritual thumb: less of us, more of him (John 3:30).”
    — Owen Strachan

    HUMILITY IN A SOCIAL MEDIA AGE. “Wherever the Holy Spirit is there is humility…. Wherever there is a work of the Holy Spirit there is the exaltation of Jesus Christ and everyone else fades. Of all the ages in the history of the church this is the one most capable of feeding human pride – because there are so many ways to stick yourself in front of people’s faces across the planet. This is an easy time for proud people to make the most of themselves.”
    — John MacArthur

    1. Thanks for these quotes, Julie! “There is no. . .satiation point for our study of God. . .” That’s such a great challenge. Sometimes it’s easy to look at the gospel and think, “Yeah, heard it,” but I’ve found that that tends to happen most when I’m taking in knowledge about God through avenues other than the Word and Himself, if that makes sense. It’s when I really open myself up to relate to Him, rather than just hearing about Him from people who know Him, that I start to realize how true that quote is.

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