I recently decided to forgo my socially networked identity and deactivated my Facebook account. I know, I know; social suicide, right? At least, perhaps, internet-related social suicide. And just writing that sentence makes me wonder about the seemingly obvious paradox found within it. Is there really a society, a community, a true list of friends found on Facebook? Is social connectedness found solely within a list of hundreds of people, some whom are actual friends, others not so much, posting snarky snippets in “status updates”? Or are pictures of people enjoying life chosen to represent the best side of life, faces and figures, reality? (Remember the days when nobody really knew what the internet itself was and we lived in a much smaller world? If not, check out this video from the Today Show in 1994.)
Awhile ago I read this post by one of my favorite authors/thinkers James K.A. Smith. In it he describes his reasons for leaving his Facebook reality and identity behind. He talks about it in regards to his formation and the effects FB was having on him. What he says really does resonate with me and my faults. I, too, have a very addictive personality and have found myself spending WAY too much time on FB. The ease of the accessibility into the lives of people added to the massive wave of information that we all find ourselves swimming in everyday makes it difficult to keep afloat. Sometimes life passes us by without our noticing it.
This is a factor that pervades nearly ever facet of our culture and thereby our lives as well. Step back and think of all the free-floating information that comes across our paths everyday. Television, magazines, Facebook, blogs, phone apps, and a plethora of other media drown us with pummeling waves. The moment we wake up we are engulfed by these things, but only if we let them. There’s a saying, “We make our tools and then our tools make us.” How true is this? Part of my fear is the connection between media oversaturation, which leads to an insatiable appetite for more, and then in turn leads to an apathy towards it all.
Can this happen in regards to people? Could Facebook lead to an unconscious determination to search out and find out things about people and yet miss the people themselves? Are we turning people into mere information containers through our never-ending voyeurism into their lives via images, status updates, and other digital means? I don’t know. All I know is that Facebook definitely has an agenda, whether it recognizes it or not, and if I’m not careful, I could allow it to continually put me on a trajectory that I may wake up too late to.
Facebook isn’t inherently evil. It is not of the devil. It is a tool to be employed for connection and networking, by which it does do a great deal of good. I will certainly miss the ease of writing a few things, sending a few things, or looking up a few things in an attempt to set up a meeting or further a conversation. So much so, that I’m not saying I won’t ever be back. Actually, by the time I decide to or not I may be too late. Check out this article discussing the possible downward trend in FB.
Basically, I don’t want to miss out on my real life because of my FB life. I don’t want to miss out on real connections with people in lieu of the surreal connections FB offers. Most of all, I want to be aware of the person FB, along with every other factor in my life, is turning me into. All of our habits are formational. The question is to what end are they forming us?
These are just some thoughts of mine and the actions I have taken because of them. If these resonate with you, let me know. If not, why not? Do I have a blind spot? Let me know.
UPDATE: Since posting this I came across this article on the Pope’s letter concerning social media, communication, and Christians. Check it out.