By Laura Christine
This Felicitous Life
I deactivated my Facebook account two years ago. At first, the thought of getting off Facebook was terrifying. How could I stand being so disconnected from everyone? I hate feeling out of the loop.
But I knew Facebook was feeding too many of my baser instincts to judge, to compare myself to others, to pry into personal details that are none of my business. Worst of all, I was not fully appreciating my daughters’ sweet, fleeting childhood moments. Instead I was engrossing myself in the lives of people whom I did not care much about. How does Facebook do that to us?
I really don’t need to know everything going on in the lives of hundreds of people I barely know. It’s nice that a person I went to school with but haven’t talked to in ten years just had a baby. I’m misprioritizing, however, if I spend time reading about that instead of loving on my own babies, or instead of bringing a meal to a new mom who lives down the street.
Deactivating my account has been so freeing. I used to know a lot about people. Now I focus more on knowing people. People are my vocation right now—primarily my husband and children but also my extended family and close friends.
I miss out on thought-provoking articles and political discussions. I don’t think, however, that I am less informed about issues that really are important for me, at this stage in my life. My primary obligation is to my family. What I really need to know is how they are doing, what their needs are, how I can best take care of them.
As a citizen, I do have an obligation to stay informed about the state of the world around me; however, I don’t need to know in real time about bills debated on the Senate floor. I don’t need to know all the details about each new assault on religious liberty. I don’t need to know about each new dumb thing Joe Biden says. I certainly don’t need to know what opinion each of my three hundred Facebook friends holds on these topics. I read the Wall Street Journal; I read blogs and articles on the internet; I read lots of books.
That is enough.
At the same time, I’m considering getting back on. The extent of my disconnectedness struck me recently, when I found out that a close but far-off friend’s newborn baby had been hospitalized for three weeks. I hadn’t known all that time.
A few years ago, someone would have sent around an email asking for prayers. Now, one safely can assume that posting important personal news on Facebook will inform all the pertinent people.
It just won’t inform me.
I’ve heard an argument that goes something like this: “If someone really wants to be my friend, they’ll call or email me.” It’s true to a certain extent. But it’s not reasonable to expect someone in crisis to make that sort of special effort.
As Facebook becomes society’s primary means of communication, it becomes less reasonable for me to expect people to go out of their way to keep me in the loop. I miss out on photos of family members and close friends, photos of their kids, news about weddings, graduations, and babies. I can opt out of modern technology as much as I choose, but I can’t expect others to accommodate me. I have to choose the balance I want between connectedness and freedom.
I really don’t like to rail against modernity. Everyone is born into a particular, imperfect time and culture. As Christians we’re called to transform our society, but I don’t think that means we need to reject every part of it that is less than ideal. Technology and other trappings of our culture may be better or may be worse than what came before them. Essentially, however, they are neutral. We can choose how and whether to use them.
So while I enjoy being off of Facebook, it is not a matter of dogma for me. Right now my life is best away from it, but at some point the scales will tip in favor of getting back on. I’m just trying to savor the Facebook-free life while I can. . . . And if you need to reach me in the mean time, please do so the old-fashioned way and write me an email.
My name is Laura, and I’m a Catholic Christian, a mom, a lawyer, and a reader. I like to think Big Thoughts, and I like to laugh at life as much as possible.