In the span of a month I rid myself of Facebook and my smartphone. Take that technocratic overlords! Now, release me from your kung-fu grip.
It was hard. Recent studies have shown social networking could be classified as an addiction; I can attest to that. I felt acute anxiety at deleting my photos, posts, and friends which had been expanded over the course of seven years. Who would see my handsome face? Who would comment on my sarcastic yet clever status updates? Who would desperately attempt to be my "friend"? I was disappearing. Soon, I would be an unknown. No one but God would know my status. I've written about this trend before. For me, and I bet for a lot of users out there, Facebook was an exercise in narcissism.
My smartphone was less of a struggle. Once Facebook was gone, the smartphone was easier, it's grip on my brain less secure. Sure, I checked it twenty four seven, even getting out of bed to see if anything had "happened," but what was I checking? Facebook. When Facebook fell, my technological house of cards fell. Now I have a cheaper, simpler phone.
The freedom I gained when it was all said and done was indescribable. I know many people use Facebook wisely, but for me, it was draining. Social networking often leads to more superficial and less-fulfilling relationships. After many years of forgoing a reunion, I ended up meeting a few childhood friends in person simply because I announced I was leaving. There was a desperate scramble to stay in touch. It had been too easy over the years to comment on those friends' posts and feel that, since we were connecting, I was doing my due diligence to maintain the relationship. I can tell you talking to them in person was much more satisfying. And the close friends I have around me, going to church with me, helping me out in my struggles, are the most important people in my life. They affect me directly and care for me. I've been learning to open up, get to know them, invest in them, and allow them to invest in me. I refuse to allow 200 friends I hardly know to rob me of my time with those who really know me best.
I've refrained from writing a blog on the Connecticut school massacre. I thought about it, but there will be enough in the news and blogosphere on that evil event over the next few days. The only comment I will make, however, is how I can't help but think about the relationships lost, the friends and family cut off from one another in the wake of murder. Aren't our current, immediate relationships, so fragile and fleeting in the big scheme of things, enough? Why do so many of us live virtual lives online and allow ourselves to miss the treasures right around us? When our loved ones are killed, or even when they simply move away, we regret we didn't invest more time with them.
Facebook can help us stay in touch with the friends who move away, no doubt, but when it replaces life as it happens around you, it becomes a social problem. In fact, the online world can contribute to drawing our attention away from intimacy with ourselves and others. It robs us of our individuality and dims our perception of honest communication and real fellowship. Maybe it's like violent video games: it desensitizes us, but, rather than to violence, to superficiality. It deceives us into thinking that more is better and substitutes quantity for quality.
There are, no doubt, many benefits of Facebook, like any tool used wisely. I just have my doubts that the 1 billion strong who belong to Facebook Nation are all so wise. Perhaps Lord Zuckerburg begs to differ. Regardless, he and I are no longer "friends" and, unless I get to go out for a cup of coffee with him, I'm sure I'm better off for it.
Now, stop reading my blog, and go give someone a hug. Bet you can't do that on Facebook.