Lately, I’ve been seeing my friends and colleagues delete their Facebook accounts. Their reasons usually have something to do with the way that company handles data and the negative influence the site has had on public discourse. And it certainly doesn’t help that Facebook seems unwilling or unable to create a trustworthy moderation team. Along with Twitter, it’s become a case study in how the needs of a company (drive engagement to make money) can be in conflict with the needs of the users.
But these are not the reasons I’m taking a break from those platforms. A few years ago, I uninstalled the Twitter and Facebook apps because I noticed they were distractions. Mobile notifications especially get in the way of real conversations. At my desk Twitter and Facebook serve as momentary distractions in the form of catching up with remote friends and family or discovering interesting reading material. They are faithful servants waiting on me.
Only, they aren’t so much any more. Too many times Twitter makes me angry. Too often Facebook feels shallow. I’ve taken to muting users (not you, of course), but then I get this weird feeling of loneliness. I decide to give up looking at the sites and then discover myself clicking over whenever I crave distraction. The first step to overcoming an addiction is to admit our powerlessness.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (ESV)
Imitating Jesus is the reason Christians observe Ash Wednesday and fasting for Lent. While I could stand to eat less rich food, a far bigger danger to my spiritual well-being is my reflex to fill downtime with distraction. So on Wednesday I’m going to logout of Twitter and Facebook until Easter. I might still post pictures via Instagram or links to articles I write on Medium or my blog. For that time, I intend to follow the lead of Timothy Keller:
Instead, I plan to train myself to pick up my Kindle filled with great books. Or take a walk around the block. Or bake some bread. Or do the exercises my chiropractor gave me to avoid shoulder pain. Or start listening to the Streetlights Bible recordings. Or read one of the hundreds of articles I’ve already saved on Instapaper. Or go old school and simply sit with my own thoughts.
And when Lent is over, I expect I’ll come back to social media. But maybe I’ll be less dependant on it to fill the void.