What prevented me most of exterminating the Facebook bug from my life was that I believe strongly in the power of ideas. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver wrote decades ago. They do. A powerful idea can change a person’s worldview and hence their life. A change in one’s view on say, the existence of God and human origins can shape a person’s whole understanding of the meaning and purpose of life. I’m reminded of William B Provine (1942-2015), professor of the history of biology at Cornell. In the movie Expelled by Ben Stein, Provine affirms his acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and how this acceptance caused him to reject belief in the Deity. He notes that with no God, there is no hope, no free will, no meaning, and no ethics and no morality. (One needn’t hold theism and Darwinism in contradictory terms, however. As far as morality, an Aristotelian natural law perspective does supply an ethics by means of understanding ‘the good’ based upon the knowledge of the essence of things). Yet, the point here is, Ideas Have Consequences is axiomatic. If there is no God, what hope do we have? We may have an ethics based upon epistemology, but ultimately, what hope can there be on metaphysical grounds? As Provine says in the film clip, “We live, we die, and we’re gone. We’re absolutely gone when we die.”
So of course, I used Facebook quite a bit to promote philosophical and scientific arguments for the existence of God, archaeological evidence which supports the historical reliability of the Bible, and so forth. And I know that a number of people were impressed by such things as the arguments for God, the Bible, and for the resurrection of Christ, so much so that one fella from my high school told me a few years ago, “Chris. I was an atheist. But after the things you’ve posted on Facebook, I believe in God. I’m not sure about the whole Jesus thing, but I definitely believe in God.” That’s encouraging to me. Facebook has been a source of good after all. Yet, it’s simply not enough for me to remain an active participant on this social medium. It is no medium, but a maximum in the lives of so many, controlling their time and energy and inhibiting relationships in the real world. While it is true that I’ve encouraged other people in their lives and have influenced people with pictures and stories from Ethiopia as well (volunteering with an NGO that helps women and children affected by HIV), and while it is true that Facebook is a powerful medium, it is not enough to keep me partake in its pogroms.
I had to say goodbye to Facebook for a number of reasons.
First, the violence. There are videos of other people getting murdered (butchered) by Palestinians in Israel. There is one particular video of a trooper interacting with a crazed lunatic. Expecting an arrest, I decided to watch the footage. Suddenly the man goes back to his car, gets his gun, and starts shooting at the officer. The officer is screaming in terror with cries for mercy. He was shown no mercy. I heard the officer’s dying breath, and watched the evil man who murdered him speed away in his truck. Shocked, I sat in stunned silence and prayed to God for help. This experience is called “ontological shock.” It is a shock to the core of one’s being, as if one is left suspended over a cliff, awaiting the snap of the chord and a fall into the abyss below. I was then shown another video that very same morning of a couple of cops confronting a crazed skinhead holding a hatchet. Then I was reminded of gruesome images of slaughtered children in Syria. Perhaps you’ve seen these things too. This was the main reason why I quit Facebook.
Secondly, I found myself distracted constantly by always checking my “account” (why it’s called that, I do not know). How many likes did I get? What comments did I get for what I posted? How am I going to reply to so and so in this debate I’ve gotten myself into? The controversial articles about political maneuverings in our nation (same-sex marriage, abortion, government corruption, Big Business corruption, etc.) constantly filled my News Feed. I discovered that I really don’t need to read that article. “Must read!” “So good.” “This. Read this now.” “Worth your time.” “Take five minutes.” “Watch and share.”
Enough. For, the articles in the News Feed disappear into its own abyss, to be forgotten. “Oh, but Chris, you have to read and share. You never know how you might influence someone for the better.” Maybe. But after trying to maintain “balance” with Facebook for ten whole years and not succeeding, I decided to cut the chord. It has been good for my health. Here is what I mean.
My third point is that Facebook is an ADD-machine. I discovered my attention span was extremely short. I’d be doing some reading or research for a class I’m taking or for a lesson plan I’m creating, and after a paragraph I’d need a ‘Brain Break'(I read some heavy material for my graduate program in philosophy). Time to check the Facebook. It’s like Brain Candy, and I need a fix. But now, without Facebook, I can actually focus on what I’m doing and get so much more work done, like writing projects, studies, lesson plans, etc.
Fourth, I have to tell you that my life is so much better without it. I have so much more peace. I’m more focused. Here’s a really important tidbit: I don’t have to compare myself to other people’s awesome lives. I do that enough as it is! Oh, how I wish I were living that dude’s life. He travels here and there. Look at his cool job, personal achievements, education, car, house, vacation, talents, star son or daughter doing such and such in sports, music, theatre, or what have you. All of this comparing our lives to one another’s leads to depression. Of course, I’m just as guilty as the next person for perpetuating the myth that my life is so awesome and wouldn’t yours be cool if it were like mine.
There is a fifth and final reason–the best reason–for quitting Facebook. The other night, after our evening reading of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, my daughter says to me with a big smile, “You know Dad, now that you’ve quit Facebook, you can spend more time studying, or playing guitar, or focusing on your children.” With a wry smile she nods, emphasizing the final phrase. But she’s sincere also. That solidified the deal for me.
Of course, I know social media can be and is used for the exchange of ideas. Ideas do have consequences. There is such a thing as information overload, however. Do you know of that “must see” article? It’ll be lost in the News Feed Abyss before you know it. Then, two minutes later, you’re wondering, “What was that article I wanted to read about again?” That’s ADD! It also seems to me that we have become so accustomed to using the system for this purpose, that we forget about other mediums of idea exchange, namely, being with people in person. Or, as we now say, “being present.” So, if I want to influence people in the world of ideas, I think it’s best for me to do that face-to-face. “Face” Book may do that, but the cons outweigh the pros, in my opinion. And, my inner peace is at an even, steady pace, while my anxiety and comparison of myself to others are at an all-time low. I’m happier. I’m more focused. I’m not skittish, but can look people in the eye and pay attention. I’m not checking my phone all the time, straining my neck and staring down “at the ground.” All of that is pretty good, is it not? Perhaps you too will take the plunge.