In The Postmodern Condition, Jean-Francois Lyotard warned that as the age of technology progressed, society would experience a deepening conflation of information and knowledge. Thirty-six years later, information scrolls past people at almost immeasurable rates; those people, in turn, costume that information as knowledge and send it singing and dancing onto social media platforms that masquerade as curators of epistemic claims. Take this blog post, by way of a simple example; you may glean some information about me while reading, but that doesn’t mean that you know me.
It’s possiblethat someone will take pull-quotes from this post and make claims about me, either good or bad, on their social media platforms. But, those pull-quotes will most likely be ripped out of the context of me, of who I actually am. Anyone who interacts with those pull-quotes without ever having met me or had a conversation with me are running the risk of constructing opinions of me based on contexts and definitions of terms that don’t relate to me. In short, people have the opportunity to claim to know things about me when, in fact, all they may have is de-contextualized information. While that may not technically be why I deactivated my Facebook account, it definitely has skin in the game.
Denying that social media has altered how we relate to information and knowledge, much less each other, is a tough proposition to defend. And to help guard against social media’s possible negative outworking in my life, I took a year-long break from Facebook about three years ago. At the onset, I intended for that break to be just that – a break. My plan was to return to Facebook. That break felt necessary for me to be able to decompress, reevaluate how I should use Facebook, and then hit reset. Exiting that break, I believed that I was cognitively and emotionally ready to Facebook appropriately. I was wrong.
It is now been over two years since I returned to Facebook, and all of my good intentions, all of my beliefs about the value of Facebook, and all of my personal safeguards intended to help cage me into a helpful approach to Facebook have ultimately proven to be no match for my personality quirks, if you will, and my sin. I have finally, and by the grace of God, been confronted with the honest assessment that Facebook is not edifying for me, is a hindrance to my sanctification, and has the potential to be a stumbling block to serving those whom God has placed in my life (if it hasn’t already).
The reasons for my Facebook exit are below. The list is not necessarily in order of importance, and the accompanying explanations are brief and not comprehensive. While not being a fan of grand exit from Facebook pronouncements, I do feel compelled to write this post because, for good and bad, Facebook is a community and I believe that I have some responsibility to not just disappear without explanation. Also, and hopefully, my reflections may prove useful for others. By God’s grace, maybe my thoughts will help prompt some of you to consider whether or not Facebook is edifying for you; I pray that it is. God has called Christians out of darkness and into light; He has freed us from our slavery to sin. I prayerfully desire for my brothers and sisters in Christ, both in the *real* world and the online world, to be able to enjoy Facebook to God’s glory. Because King Jesus has yet to return and complete my salvation, my sin prohibits me from enjoying Facebook. When King Jesus told us to cut off our hand if it offends us, He meant something. For me, exiting Facebook is cutting off my offensive hand. Here’s why:
- Facebook Encourages Confusion about Community
One of the things that I love about Facebook (and will miss) is the audience level view into the lives of past friends. And by “past friends,” I mean those friends, prior to social media, that while perusing old photo albums were relegated to the phrase “Oh, look, so-and-so! I wonder what they’re up to now?” Well, thanks to Facebook, we know what “so-and-so” is up to now, and that’s a positive. Unfortunately, for me at least, Facebook moves past that and into the realm of being tempted to assume that my primary relationships are with people for whom my current sole connection is Facebook.
This is a tricky one, because I have friends from my past whom I keep up with on a personal level even though I rarely see them face to face. Facebook has been an added way to keep in touch. These friends are not the Facebook “friends” that my confusion is referencing; I continue to have a relationship with these friends regardless of distance. Even still, my problem in this area isn’t totally disconnected from those friends either.
During moments of struggle, when the desire to commune with a fellow Image Bearer is a gift from God, it’s easy for me to seek the immediate gratification of “likes” and encouragement that can be found on Facebook. Facebook “likes” and encouragement are not bad, in and of themselves, but, for me at any rate, they often serve to derail me from actively seeking counsel, prayer, and relationships with the covenant community that the Holy Spirit has placed me in. Facebook, if anything, should be a supplement, a very unimportant supplement, to living life together within the community of Believers that God has given you.
- Facebook Prompts Me to Anger Instead of Prayer
I would imagine that this reason is almost self-explanatory, especially considering we’re in the throes of a Presidential election season. But being confronted with this has caused me to realize that my natural tendency is to be more concerned about being right than I am about the souls and sanctification of others. It’s not natural for me to want to prayerfully and humbly love people who express differing views than mine about things like theology, politics, and art theory. When those opposing views are expressed on Facebook, the format makes it easy for me to ignore the person, focus on the disagreement, and feed my anger. Face to face, while not always easy, does make it much harder to ignore fellow Image Bearers. I have some legitimate concerns about specific Facebook friends, but I should be praying for them and not stewing over how wrong they are.
- Facebook Discourages My Creative Output
This is the most selfish and foolish of my reasons. Maybe. I’m not sure that I have enough of a correct perspective on my life, work, and purpose to be able to state with much certainty that this is the most selfish and foolish of my reasons. Regardless, it’s true and it does hurt. Here’s what I mean:
I write things; friends read things; those two things are rarely the same thing. As an actor, I crave an audience. Unfortunately, writing is an exercise in loneliness. It doesn’t help when I write something that is ignored by most of my friends who turn around and share similar things written by strangers. I’m not so pious as to refrain from admitting that I do take some small comfort from the fact that this problem is not unique to me. Pretty much every single one of my artist friends, regardless of the discipline, struggle with this exact same thing. Solidarity, however, does not make a thing righteous.
Referencing reason number two for my Facebook exit, it’s incredibly uncharitable to harbor any resentment towards my friends for not engaging my creative output in the ways that I think they should. For starters, my creative output may not be as good as I believe it to be … I don’t actually believe that, to be blunt, but … For another thing, because of Facebook’s algorithms, I can’t state with any level of certainty that my friends who are sharing similar things even saw my thing. Finally, even if my friends are willfully despising my creative output, feeling sorry for myself indicates where my faith and identity truly rests – in myself. As a Christian, I am in Christ. I belong to King Jesus. My identity, how I view myself, should reflect that. In turn, my response to other’s response towards me should reflect the humility and love of Christ Jesus.
On a personal level, and bringing it back to the heading, I enjoy creating. I believe that creating reflects who God is. I’m thankful that God has blessed me with creative talent, whether those talents are large or small. Feeling sorry for myself because not enough friends interacted with my creative output hinders me from creating. I thought that I could power past that; I cannot. Removing the audience, even for this post, frees me to create without expectations in regards to the audiences’ response, or lack thereof.
(I considered closing the comment section for this post to ward off the risk of people kindly yet unhelpfully stoking my ego. If you read my stuff and it benefits you, even if that benefit is being thankful that God has blessed you with a marketable skill, please don’t try and convince me that my voice is needed or even wanted. I actually have a funny anecdote about a blog post from years ago, but that anecdote involves some people who do read this blog, so I won’t relate it. Trust me when I say that it would help make sense of my motives for this otherwise head scratcher of an excursion.)
- Facebook Feeds My Lack of Sober-Mindedness
Going back somewhat on my above claim that I haven’t quantified these reasons in my mind, if number two isn’t the most important reason, this one is. As Christians, we are called, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable”; Facebook not only isn’t helpful for me in that regard, but is an active hindrance. As already stated, I crave an audience; once I have an audience, performing is the next natural step. I can no longer convince myself that it’s not my fault if parts of my audience don’t understand the performance. It’s not ok to allow my desires, many times flat-out self-serving anyway, the opportunity to be a stumbling block to serving others. God has placed brothers and sisters in Christ into my life for our mutual sanctification. If they perceive me as frivolous, controversial for the sake of controversy, or any other number of characterizations that fall under lack of sober-mindedness and lack of self-control how can I serve them? And, to be blunt, being sober-minded and self-controlled are areas that I struggle with anyway. Facebook feeds my flesh in this regards.
Maybe if my negative Facebook interactions/responses were characterized by only one or two of these, I could rely on the work of the Holy Spirit through spiritual disciplines to grow me to the point of being able to engage Facebook in edifying ways. The fact that the four combine to create a toxic environment for my sanctification pushes it into the realm of “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”. I will miss seeing the photos of my high school friends’ children, being exposed to music and movies that I may not be otherwise, and seeing my many different worlds interact; however, for the sake of my sanctification, I need to say goodbye to Facebook.
 Possible not probable.
 Or even in their private minds.
 Which I still believe.
 It may very well be; I haven’t quantified my reasons in my own mind.
 Not to mention my unwillingness to listen to and consider dissenting voices on Facebook. Dialogue on Facebook has passed useless and lives in harmful for me.
 I am not currently wallowing in self-pity. This decision is not being made from that emotional state. In fact, my decision to exit Facebook is being made, in part (small part), to help protect me from future wallowing in self-pity.
 I Timothy 3:2, ESV.
 Matthew 5:30, ESV.