Fr. Dale Matson
Unless you are a hermit, friends are a big part of your life. When I initially joined Facebook, I had about 10 friends there. Over time more people wanted to be my friend. One person who I didn’t know wanted to befriend me and was upset that I turned him down. Is Facebook a place to make friends or meet friends or both? I was also bothered by people who did not have a photograph of themselves for their avatar. Some had none while others used a group or pets.
As time went on, more people asked to be my friend. Some were people who wanted to make a professional relationship a personal one. I felt like personal boundaries were being crossed. In fact the idea of intrusion began to come up more and more. I was invited to join causes, play games or buy farm animals. There is a kind of social coercion to this similar to being invited to a party by a friend only to find that it is for Amway.
There was another issue that was eating away at me. I was continually being exposed to the remarks of friends of friends and some of these remarks were downright uncivil. It was like being at a stop light alongside of a car with open windows blasting Hyper Bass Gansta Rap. There are also shorthand codes like LOL or ROFL or OMG. I would rather learn Greek.
People were using Facebook to private mail me. Well, why not just email me? There is one less step. People were asking me to conduct business on Facebook including sending attachments. Again, Outlook is vastly superior.
Part of this is that while I am gregarious, I am also an introvert. When I went over 100 friends, I said to myself, “This seems like a lot of people.” Of the 100, I think I only asked about 5 people to be my friends. How did this get so out of control? It was like someone living in Fresno finding himself on Interstate 5 in Los Angeles during rush hour where it is always rush hour.
There is something virtual and unreal about Facebook relationships. Even with a telephone, there is a sensual quality about the presence of another person. There is a kind of parallel play on Facebook too. Are people talking to one another or alongside of one another? The activities of daily living are shared as if it mattered that Joe went to the store. I don’t even write the mundane things in my personal journal that people post to Facebook.
There is “look at me” narcissism to Facebook that was growing in me too. I was sharing more information than I should and sharing more often than I should. There was no corrective feedback about this that would have come from a friend in a conversation over a shared meal. There was a kind of good dying to leaving Facebook.
“Abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” Aristotle