Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why I Got Off Facebook

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


Fr Van McCalister said...

My brother - I am of the same mind. While I am not ready to delete my Facebook account, I think I am just about at the point of creating two separate profiles: a public one for Church related conversations, and a personal one for my family. My primary purpose for being on Facebook is to have an efficient method to share thoughts and photos with my family and closest friends but that has become diluted by all of the secondary associations, with whom I would communicate differently than my family. I would have set up my Facebook account very differently had I seen the trajectory much earlier. The way it is now, Facebook forces you to share your personal family events with people you hardly know. It would be like printing out hundreds of packages of your family vacation and leaving them stacked up in the diocesan reception room to give to anyone who walks in. It isn't bad necessarily; just not appropriate.

Anonymous said...

It is possible within your FB account to create lists of different people, and to designate those lists to see or not see certain things by default. For instance, I have a "family" list, a "church friends" list and even a "farming friends" list for the people I only play farm games with. The latter group cannot see my photos or any of my normal posts, and by restricting game-related posts to that list, I also spare my regular friends the irritation of the game posts. It's a little bit of extra trouble, but like you Fr. Dale, I've wondered why I need 100 "friends" and this gives back a lot of control.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually invite "friends" unless I really, really want the relationship or feel God is calling me to (two of those). I'm not a gamer (thank God for "ignore Farmville"), nor have a need to promote myself. I've asked only a handful, and some have chosen to ignore me. I'm OK with that. I'm a caregiver so I don't post most of what's on my mind - and I think people would be most grateful for that!!!

I use FB as one of my outlets. I love to hear what people are really doing in life. I wish e-mail would do the same, but I get really tired of the pass-a-long and chain mail stuff even after asking not to get it.

I'm thinking about posting a "if you want to defriend me, here's your amnesty moment." Other than I might have offended in some way, I really don't care if someone has defriended me. If it wasn't for some of my friends, I'd be off of it, too.

Dale Matson said...

I understand the various reasons for why others remain. Perhaps the biggest reason why others remove themselves is a lack of trust or privacy. For me, it is more a matter of my own personality, which is introverted, not being a good fit for all of the overwhelming and varied topics confronting me. Many in my age group including relatives have been passed by the technology and can't even figure out how to log in. They have mastered email and I send them photographs this way. Unfortunately they are sometimes the ones who send the bulk emailing with viruses warning of viruses. God bless them all.

Dale Matson said...

I see that many newspapers now require a facebook account to comment on stories. I guess that will limit my responding.

Dale Matson said...

Hear is another reason to stay off facebook.

Dale Matson said...

Here is another. Apparently research is indicating our social interactions are limited to about 150 people.

Dale Matson said...

Even those who developed Social Media are turning against the platform and realize the addiction of the "attention economy"