Ten reasons Facebook died for me last Friday

On Friday of last week, I deactivated my personal Facebook page. With the help of two twentysomethings who know what they are doing online, I am now only present on Facebook via my public figure page, which will be managed by a staff person. I will no longer be personally logging on or relating to people through Facebook. I have also shut down Facebook Messenger.

Write me a letter by longhand. Shoot me a text. Send me an email. Commission a carrier pigeon. Cuz you won't reach me by Facebook again. Ever.

That Facebook died for me last Friday is not coincidental. Facebook is at its very worst in times of intense social conflict and division. Earlier in the week I wrote an article for RNS on the killings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul. As usual, I posted a link on my personal Facebook page. I had the maximum of 5000 "friends." Then the comments began.

Most posts were civil and constructive, but some were, in my view, inflammatory and hurtful. I tried to intervene. I once again failed in my attempt to enforce what I understood to be Facebook civility. Once again I ultimately found it necessary to block someone, which is a relationship killer. I then hastily threw out a despairing and emotional comment that, in retrospect, was guaranteed to inflame and offend lots of people. Then my page lit up alternately with praise for my inflammatory comment and lots of hurt feelings from old friends. The next day I deactivated my personal Facebook page.

So there it is, what I hope will be my Final Facebook Failure. Embedded in my sad story are several reasons why I am abandoning personal Facebook engagement. Perhaps readers will find it relevant to their overall approach to social media. Because it's not just about Facebook -- it's our entire virtual world. Many people are struggling to figure out how to get on top of this technology and use it for more good than harm. (Consider Donald Trump. Or not.)

Top Ten Reasons for Abandoning Facebook (and Other Social Media):

  1. It is impossible to manage one's Facebook page so as to maintain civility.
  2. Virtual communications are more likely than face-to-face communications to create and inflame conflict.
  3. Facebook creates the illusion of a community of friends. Instead, at least for me it was a dual-use personal/professional tool that involved a random assortment of family, colleagues, real friends, acquaintances, fans, people I once knew, people I never knew, friends of friends, enemies, friends-of-enemies, and cray cray trolls. From now on, it's a fan page. That's it.
  4. Or, alternatively, Facebook thins down to an echo chamber of like-minded people, as others drop off or are blocked after angry exchanges, reinforcing one's own biases while systematically blowing up friendships.
  5. Facebook and other social media invite hasty, emotional communication rather than carefully considered reflections. You can delete a post, but it still lives on in memory or screen shot.
  6. You can do real damage to a community, a church, other individuals, a family, a friend, and yourself in just one hasty or foolish social media post.
  7. Facebook consumes time and emotional energy better spent elsewhere.
  8. Facebook is often a substitute for real action in the world. You think you've "taken a stand for justice/God/morality" when you have posted, but you haven't. You've just blown off steam and created a little homebrewed conflict.
  9. Facebook is too often a place where people get hurt and relationships go to die.
  10. Facebook is addictive.

Who says we all have to do what everyone else is doing? Declare your independence. Ask yourself whether your time on social media is doing you and others more good than harm.

Feel free to comment on my Facebook public figure page. I won't respond. I am not even allowed to log in anymore. Doctor's orders.

Comments

  1. I deleted my Facebook page some time ago for similar reasons.

    I had one friend who was the case study for me. In person, though we disagree, I love and respect him. He has grown in some amazing ways, is dedicated to scripture and to following Christ. When I see him in person, I am filled with respect and love. We pray together. We discuss loving others.

    On Facebook, however, when he responds to my ideas and I to his ideas, I find disdain and judgement seeping into my heart. Rather than being spurred on in love, I forget who he is as a person and reduce him to his (imo, poor) theology. I’m sure he sees me as a theological nut case as well.

    I’m not done with social medial, but certainly not going back to Facebook.

  2. I have many areas of disagreement with you, but on this I am in 100% accord. Good…and important…words we all need to consider very seriously.

  3. Congratulations. I have a similar experience, and I parted ways with fb a couple of years ago. The point about “illusion of community” is a tough one. I agree on the substance of your point: virtually mediated interaction with those on the margins of our social network hardly counts as a community experience.

    At the same time, though, many of my colleagues organize social events exclusively through fb, so there are some “real” effects of withdrawing oneself (like being out of the loop, and how the loop gets factored back into professional contexts like teams, partnerships, and so forth).

    We also can miss out on photos of actual friends, family, and their children who grow up so fast. And photography is a powerful medium for fostering relationships. But: that’s precisely the trap fb has created, and give them credit (I guess?) for that. They have created an atmosphere in which people are scared to leave. They feel as if they will be cut off from some kind of social lifeline. They’ll “miss out” on too much. And so it was not until I realized how I was *afraid* to disconnect from fb that I saw there was a serirous problem, that I was trapped, and then I cut the chord within a matter of days. Felt good, too. Still does.

  4. “It is impossible to manage one’s Facebook page so as to maintain civility.”

    For SOME people, apparently. Don’t assume we all can’t maintain basic social decorum.

    “Facebook creates the illusion of a community of friends.”

    Mixing personal and professional life is just plain dumb. It’s not the website’s fault you chose to combine the two on the website.

    “Or, alternatively, Facebook thins down to an echo chamber of like-minded people”

    Didn’t you just write how you shut down your Facebook page to avoid contact by people who disagreed with you??

    “Facebook and other social media invite hasty, emotional communication rather than carefully considered reflections.”

    Self-discipline is needed. A personal problem, not the fault of a site.

    “Facebook is often a substitute for real action in the world.”

    Being an armchair activist is not the fault of any particular website. Even with no website access, you can be one of the people that thinks signing petitions and sending letters to politicians is the same as actually doing something.

    “Facebook is too often a place where people get hurt and relationships go to die.”

    See the first comment about not all people lacking decency, civility, and decorum.

    “Facebook is addictive.”

    See comment above about how a lack of self control is a personal problem.

    All I use the damn thing for is a communication tool to contact /actual/ friends (not just five thousand people who requested for whatever reason) and organize weekly meetups. Blame the user, not the tool.

  5. David, I love a lot of your stuff, but of course the irony here is that you are BLOGGING about why you are leaving Facebook. There are also very cogent arguments against all ten of your points.

  6. What I’ve found is that I keep Unfollowing people because I get tired of their rants, social stances, kids’ soccer games, grandchildren’s birthdays, ad nauseum. So that makes me wonder: Why am I on there at all?

  7. “It is impossible to manage one’s Facebook page so as to maintain civility.”
    I don’t really agree. My answer to this problem was to disengage from the constant discussions about controversy. My FB wall is an Opinion-Free Zone. I don’t comment on current events anymore. I mean, really, does the world need another dingus with an opinion? I just say funny stuff and share harmless pictures now. This has saved me a lot of woe.

  8. Reasonably well written and insightful, but as pointed out by others, there are similar problems associated with other social media including this one. Fast Eddie Theman aptly addresses many of your concerns and debunks a few of them. Perhaps Facebook for you David is merely a bridge too far. I personally avoid such sites as Facebook like the plague, so much of it is high calorie/low nutritional diabetic brain and eye candy.

  9. Brilliant (He uttered sarcastically while rolling his eyes).

  10. I decided to create separate pages for different topics. My wife focuses on FB fun stuff and family updates on her page. My FB page is mostly controversial. I consider it salt and light…. Both of those are catalysts for burning out decay, which hurts. FB is like a gun. You can shoot to warn, to harm, to alarm, or save the farm. It’s a voice. It’s communication; an extention of our persona. It’s influence and being influenced. It’s a great tool. Try retooling your FB account: One for business and the other for pleasure. If someone’s blocked it’s not your fault. It’s theirs. I unblock everyone periodically to give them another chance. After all, we all speak out rashly without thinking things through sometimes or even change our minds. I hope folks who get discouraged with FB, like David, will reconsider leaving.

  11. I dislike Facebook and it’s intense nosiness for the sake of making a buck. However, I use it to keep in contact with my extended family. Only. The biggest problem for Facebook users is falling into the trap of clicking and liking endless lists of people, places and things while also adding, adding and adding more and ever more “friends”, something Facebook encourages to build a more precise profile for targeted advertising.

    If in the future you choose to return to Facebook with a personal profile, just restrict it to your closest people, 30 or less is best. and ignore “friend” requests with a polite “it’s for family only” response if asked or confronted in person. Only Facebook says you must- …um, may have 5000 “friends”.

  12. On the one hand, to not have understood that the internet and social media sites can be a free-for-all is rather nieve. Remember: you want to run with the big dogs, you gotta go in the tall grass. Subject matter has nothing to do with that. Neither does the fact that you were likely, unrelentingly spamed and fiercely so because the new Nazis must shout down anything they object to. The New Think is seeking to dominate everything.
    On the other hand, to realize that you personally need a profilaxis between you and that world isnt a bad or undesirable or disqualifying realization. Neither is the decision to create one.
    Frankly, your readers appreciate your taking the time to explain your experience, reaction and decision.
    For that honesty and sharing, we thank you.

  13. I have a life. After reading this post on Facebook I’m glad for my life and have no plans for any Facebook membership.

  14. The problem isn’t with Facebook. The problem is we live in a society that wants to get away with saying the most offensive statements but people demonize you as the bad guy and attacking free speech if you point out they said something racist. You see this epitomized by our political leaders who get away with saying the most offensive things yet regularly attack the press for pointing out the facts and that they said something offensive. Facebook is a good tool for connecting with friends and sharing stuff about your real life but I don’t think it’s useful for talking about politics. So I just mostly post about real life stuff and I’ve removed the most offensive people on my Facebook friends list that I barely had any connection with to begin with. Friendships are much more important to me than winning an Internet argument and I hope I can change hearts and minds by setting a good example of how to treat others rather than by focusing on trying to win an Internet argument. When I saw an dear friend posting about Trump on Facebook, I almost thought about telling them off and getting into an argument with them about it. But my friendship with them was more important to me than winning that argument. So I thought I would be more effective by being a positive influence in their life and continuing to be a good friend to them. Having said that, it’s not much worse than the rest of the Internet as the Internet in general is not a good place to talk about politics, and we’ve all probably been guilty of doing the same things we complain about other peple doing on the Internet. But all the problems you mention about Facebook are problems you can find anywhere else in the Internet and I’m sure there’s probably been some of that in the comments section here.

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