Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"ardently anti-facebook" (part one)

Catie left a comment after the last post asking me to elaborate on why I am "ardently anti-Facebook". Catie is one of my dearest friends in the world, a sincere and gentle soul. Yet I refuse to be Facebook friends with her. Why is it that when my sweet friend Catie wonders about how old Kelly is doing, why - why - must I put her through all the bother of having to call or email? Why I can't I make her life - everyone's life - so much easier and just GET ON FACEBOOK?????

(**** disclaimer: Catie would never ask this demanding question or even think it ******)

Well, firstly, when I say that I am ardently anti-Facebook, it is not a blanket condemnation of the act of using Facebook. It means that I have come to realize that Facebook is very much not for me. However, I fully believe that Facebook is the primary place that the culture wars are being played out amongst those in their tweens, teens, twenties and even beyond. As Pope John Paul II so brilliantly stated, "If the Church holds back from the culture, the Gospel itself will fall silent." Christians must be on Facebook, giving the Gospel a voice and standing up for truth on these front lines of the culture war. But not every Christian is called to this front - there are plenty of other fronts in the war - too many - and we are each gifted uniquely and given different marching orders from the Commander-in-Chief. More on this in a moment.

I first discerned that Facebook was not for me because I couldn't handle all the rough language and blood on the front lines. I cancelled my Facebook account because I literally could not sign in without being assaulted by the profanity, crude language, vulgar posts, and abrasive status updates of my "friends" and my friends' friends. In 33 years, I have never become desensitized to profanity or potty language and both deeply bother me. I'd become upset by the deeply offensive, shockingly rude, aggressively disrespectful and utterly immature posts - otherwise polite people will freely write things on Facebook that they would never say in person. My relationships were damaged from reading harshly stated opinions about those things which I hold most sacred. Also I literally have OCD - other people could read these things perhaps and move on with their day. I cannot. I obsess. For days. I once forgot to feed my girls breakfast because I was so deeply disturbed by something I had read on Facebook. It was not until I gave the kids lunch that they informed me I had never fed them breakfast. That's a red flag. A big one.

Facebook also created too many awkward situations for me - unwanted friend requests, the process of "unfriending" and the subsequent attempt by others to be "refriended". How is one to protect one's privacy, make discerning choices about who should be kept in touch with via FB, and do so with sensitivity and charity? It seemed nearly impossible. Furthermore, FB does not actually in any way fulfill my social needs. I love Catie. Dearly. Yet I'm not terribly interested in what time Catie woke up or what Catie ate for breakfast. I want to know what Catie thought about while she ate breakfast; I want to know what is truly troubling her and what it giving her greatest joy lately. That's what makes me feel socially fulfilled. That's not usually the stuff of Facebook posts. Obviously. It wouldn't be appropriate on Facebook where all your friends and mere acquaintances can read it. (That sort of thing is much better reserved for your own personal blog where friends, acquaintances and complete strangers can access it.) When I was on Facebook, I had more "active" relationships, but overall, these interactions were increasingly shallow and meaningless and unsatisfying to me. Since leaving Facebook, I have less contact with others but it's much more meaningful, which is for me far more fulfilling. Also the people who only wanted to keep in touch with me if it was very easy have dropped me altogether - and that is actually a good thing, I think.

I still go on Facebook occasionally through Rich's account. We have given each other free access to each other's email and Facebook accounts as a protection to our marriage. I did see on Facebook how great a danger there could be of innocently friending an old classmate of the opposite gender and slowly creating something that threatens the marriage relationship. We are both protected by knowing the the other signs in to our accounts. I never go on FB to check on Richard, I generally go on because perhaps a friend is due with a baby and I check daily to see if the baby has born - or to see that first photo. (This behavior is known as "Facebook Stalking") Still, even with those good and innocent intentions, I find that I just end up wasting too much time once there. If the posts are not vulgar or offensive, they are often just plain insipid. It's easier for me not to have FB at all than to use it moderately and in a well-ordered fashion. Most people I know confess that they too struggle with using time on FB well.  Recently we were guests in a home and our host (or hostess) (a well-balanced, mature individual) kept the computer open and on throughout our entire visit - and kept checking repeatedly to see if others had posted in response to his (or her) recent post. That is just not healthy folks!

I think I've covered most of why Facebook was not "for me". But I still have much to say about the value of Facebook and why others should use it (and use it well) if they feel so drawn. I want to write about the culture wars and how that relates to Facebook. But my children have woken for the day and I need to make the prudent decision to get out from behind this screen and feed them breakfast. At some point in the next 24 hours, when the kids are all caught up on their meals, I intend to write part two -about the "pros" of Facebook. Stay tuned.


  1. Kelly,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I gave up Facebook for Lent this year because I noticed I was becoming ridiculously, immoderately enraged about things I read on Facebook. I think one of the dangers of Facebook (and the internet as a whole I guess) is that it distances you from the other person. So when they say or write something you disagree with, the person is no longer your friend with whom you disagree, but the "enemy."

    I am definitely guilty of wasting huge amounts of time online, although no more on Facebook than other websites, and I need to make an effort to be more present to "real life."

    On Facebook, I rarely post anything explicitly related to faith/religion/politics, not because I am ashamed or embarrassed, but because I watch what other people do, and see how I perceive it. There are many, many people I know whose Facebook postings would lead one to believe that being Catholic can be summed up by: don't use contraception, and don't have a homosexual relationship.

    I see their friends accuse them of being judgmental and hateful, and honestly, I don't blame them for that perception. If this makes up 99% of what you write, one can only assume that your faith is mainly about identifying what other people do wrong. I guess what I'm saying is that I view Facebook statuses about serious and complex topics as kind of like virtual bumper stickers; statements mainly made to irritate other people, with no real chance of authentic dialogue. Therefore, I prefer to use Facebook for, as you say, stalking pictures of people's children/weddings/etc. :)

  2. Thanks for the response, Kelly! For the record - I don't write about what I had for breakfast or when I wake up! (just to be clear!)

    1. ha ha! absolutely true Catie. If I recall, you were a very infrequent flier on Facebook! certainly never giving us hourly updates on your digestive habits. love you catie.