Why I Buried Facebook

I may have mentioned that I recently gave up my Facebook account.
(I realize that it’s impossible to delete one’s account once and for all. But I created a dummy email address, changed my FB email address to that email, made a password out of a random sequence of numbers, and used that password to deactivate the account–you get the idea. It would take at least three difficult steps to retrieve it.)
Why did I decide to do this? First, I’ll share an email I sent to Corrie after I buried FB, and then I’ll add further explanation:
Hi,
I really have gotten rid of FB.
Remember in P&R when Ron Swanson falls prey to Tammy Two again, and his friends stage an “intervention” that includes a video of Ron telling his future self that he needs to get rid of Tammy once and for all?
Remember in The Silver Chair when Rillian tells Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum to tie him to the chair and not listen to anything he says in his fits? (Of course, that’s not a good analogy because he was actually sane when he was tied to the chair “in fits.” But I digest…)
Well, this is me doing that with respect to FB. I just can’t control myself. There is a lot of good stuff on FB, but there’s also a lot of garbage and stupid stuff. I’ve realized in periods of “detox” that it has restructured my thinking about issues, people, and what’s important in the world–and not usually in a good way. It controls my emotions in ways that it shouldn’t. It is “fake presence,” and I need to focus on the “real presence” of people that I care about. “Browsing” is something I crave and can’t really stop until I get my fix. That is bad.
The reasons that “Future Benj” will give for starting up FB again might be:
  • To promote our ministry, my writing, or the podcast
  • To get in contact with people whose email addresses I don’t have

Either of those things can be achieved through your Facebook account if necessary. I might at some point ask that we rename your account “CorrieAndBenj” or something like that. But if that is the case, you will need to sign me in and sign out if I ever use your account for the two worthy purposes mentioned above. I can’t have control.

I’m sorry to have to ask you to help me with this. There’s no CD that I can cut up, as with my computer games. I’ve buried the password and the account, but it could possibly come back–I think. If you ever see me browsing on my account again, please look at me sternly and forward me this email.

Benj (it’s really me–not Phil writing this on my email account)

Background on computer games: I loved them when I was in high school and college, especially sports and world-domination games. But I couldn’t control how much time I spent on gaming, so eventually I decided to uninstall the games and cut up my CDROMs (or CDsROM–like postmasters general, right?). That was early on in seminary, I think. At one point, years later, when I had something of a break in my dissertation-writing, I downloaded and reinstalled Civ2, just to see if I could control myself. No such luck: I spent the whole week obsessing over the game, playing every minute I wasn’t working, and ignoring Corrie and Daniel. So, I deleted the game and accepted that I will never be able to play a computer game that takes more than 15 minutes from start to finish (like cribbage or chess).
Back to Facebook: Once again, I’m an addict trying to get sober. That’s reason enough to say goodbye to Zuckerberg. But I think FB’s power to realign and restructure my thinking is worth exploring further.
Some folks are content to use FB to share photos of their kids and occasional funny messages. Fine. But I found myself commenting on posts and sharing strong opinions–which are pretty much the only kind of opinions I have. There is a place for strong opinions, and I think that there are even some online fora that are appropriate for that.
But instead of sharing thoughts with the intention of seeing the best in “the other” and the genuine empathy that changes people’s minds, I tended to share my opinions in a way that signaled my allegiance to (or against) this or that group. This happened both in the comments on posts I agreed with (confirming my “cred” in my own small group) and in the comments on posts that I disagreed with (mostly just telling people they’re wrong in unhelpful ways, in public). How many times did anyone admit publicly on FB that my point was valid and that their opinion was wrong? I can only think of one instance. How many times did I admit when I was wrong? I can’t think of a single instance.
(Arnold Kling has explained this tendency very helpfully in his book, The Three Languages of Politics, which is a steal at $2 on Amazon.)
Facebook is not a medium for serious discussion, because it thrives on the instant, the feed, the fleeting, the self-promotion. Blogs can be used the same way, but they don’t have to be. I’ve likened FB to a giant warehouse with several hundred individuals, each standing on his/her podium, shouting whatever comes into his/her head, while folks meander through the rows, trying to discern something meaningful in the cacophony. The blogosphere, by contrast, tends to have fewer shouters, and–here’s the key difference–the speakers are often reading prepared statements in a measured tone.
The intentionality and delayed gratification of “posting” is the key. On FB, I would post meaningless (if sometimes funny) crap several times every day. Here on my blog, I only write every few days, once a week, once a month (during the lean years). Often, I draft a post, let it sit for a few days, edit it, and finally post it. Good writing is rewriting, as they say. I would imagine that my thoughts would be even more coherent and meaningful if I had to write them out by hand. But then they’d be difficult to disseminate. So, a blog will have to do for now.
The medium does shape the message. It doesn’t mean that this difficulty can’t be overcome; it just means it requires effort. This blog is worth the effort for me–and I hope for at least a handful of you out there. Thanks for reading, thinking, and conversing.
Think hard; but also, think well.
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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
This entry was posted in Culture-Economics-Society. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why I Buried Facebook

  1. Jim Pletscher says:

    Good for you. I’ve enjoyed and will miss your posts, but I completely understand. In fact, I’ve considered doing the same. Every session on Facebook ends up being a mix of bitter sweet feelings. … just not worth the energy.

    Hope you and your family are doing well.

  2. Pingback: Best of 2014 | think hard, think well

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