Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life After Facebook

My last two posts here and here were glimpses into my personal struggle with social media/web addiction and how I was just barely hanging on.  So this last spring, after many many months of milling over if it was possible to cut the cord, I took one last deep breath and deleted my Facebook account.  Of course before I said goodbye, I downloaded all of my Facebook data and history (they give you the option to do that) which was eye-opening in itself.  They kept track of every "Like" and comment and Status Update and article read and link that had I clicked, EVER.  Essentially it was my life in a nutshell (or zip file to be exact).

If it sounds like ending it all was easy, it wasn't. When I got the long-awaited courage to deactivate my account, Facebook made me take a mandatory survey to answer why I'm leaving.  Some of the options were: "It's temporary, I'll be back" (which if you hover over that option, a pop up answers, "Okay see you soon"), or "I'm spending too much time on Facebook" (which baits something like, "Did you know you can select how much you see in your News Feed, excuse excuse excuse"), and "I'm having privacy issues" (to which they reel, "You can personalize who sees your information by following this rabbit trail to your settings").  You get the idea.  They don't make it easy to just say goodbye.  When I gave the answer, "I'm leaving for good," Facebook kept their foot in the door by telling me that if I ever want to come back, they keep ALL of my information and all I have to do is sign in and everything will appear like I never left.  How comforting.

But that's not all.  When I finally got to the deactivation page, I was met bold-face with the Profile Pictures of my dearest friends and family, no kidding.  And it said, "Are you sure you want to leave?  BFF from high school, and one of your bridesmaids, and your aunt, and your friend on the east coast you haven't spoken to in six years but whose every picture you like and comment on will miss you!"  How painful is that?

But alas,  I'm gone.  Dead to the Facebook world, like I never even existed.

So this begs the question: does life exist after Facebook?


It's funny though, when friends ask me how things are going post-FB, they lower their voice almost like they're talking about the no-longer-living: "So, how have you been doing since <lower tender tone> you're no longer on Facebook?


It was a few days after I lept off the Facebook cliff that I saw how great the ground is below.  First, my own dad texted me, "I can't find you on Facebook are you okay?"  And then a dear soul-sister in California texted, "I went to write on your wall and you were are you birdie?" Which began a sweet text catch-up that no one saw on my "Wall" or in their "Newsfeed".  Then, you know that friend I hadn't talked to in six years but whose every picture I "liked" and commented on?  She texted me, "Hi Tracy! I hope this is still your phone number, I hope everyone is doing well I was just thinking about you guys and noticed you are no longer on FB and thought of dropping you a little note!"  Which began a personal interaction with this sweet old friend that we hadn't had since we moved over six years ago.  You ask, "but didn't you comment on all her pictures?"  Of course I did, but did we interact personally?  Nope; you feel real personal connection in the afterlife.

My favorite experience in this afterlife so far was when I met up with a friend for coffee after a good couple of months without seeing her.  I knew she had been on a mission trip to Thailand, and when she referenced something from the trip, I looked puzzled because I didn't know about it.  She said, "Well didn't you read my post-trip update on Facebook?"  I answered, "No, I must have missed that...tell me about it."  Then she and I sipped coffee and walked the lake while she told me stories and things about her trip that probably wouldn't have made Facebook, or if they did, didn't come with her eye contact and voice ebbing and flowing with the story that I had the privilege of experiencing.  Sure, I could have read her update and clicked the "like" button so she knew I approved, but instead I listened to her and responded with laughter, and "oh no" and "that's awesome" and with nods and grins and my own questions to dig deeper into what's going on in her life.  It was a gift, and life-giving.

Fear of diminishing friendships and not knowing what was going on in the lives of my 836 Facebook friends was what kept me on for so long.  I shuddered to think of all that I'd miss from the social groups I'm a part of, not to mention, I was afraid of missing all of the great articles and blogs and funny comic strips and vacation pictures that were shared.  The fear clinched me: "I learn so much from those blogs and comments and links, and I'm so connected to what's going on--what would happen if I closed that window to the world?"

A window of real, fresh air was opened. And I don't miss a thing.

Of course, I miss interacting with my cousins and family and close friends (thankfully some of whom I still see on my much more manageable Instagram: @tracyfrue).  I do miss a few baby announcements and funny animal videos that everyone is talking about.  But when I say I don't miss a thing, I don't miss the multitude of trivial distractions that overcrowded those few genuine interactions.  That's why I left, and how I'll navigate social media in the future is left to be determined.  But at this point I don't expect a Facebook resurrection...I'm in a much better place now.

As heavenly as that sounds, to my dismay, I am still very much trying to untangle myself from the sticky trap of the world-wide-web, and just the habit of screen-gazing in general. My hope is that my heart will be helped so that my usage of media is more redemptive than destructive.  I'd be pushing the metaphor to call this a purgatory, but right now I'm seeking the pages of good books and arduous prayers to help me out of this life in-between.  

Dying to Facebook may not be the prescription for everyone's social-suction malady, but I'm so thankful to have ended the life I maintained on Facebook in hopes that I can revel in the angelic faces around me (Heaven help me). 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Facing Facebook
I've been sitting on a couple of blog posts like eggs, and I think it's about time they hatched.  I'm just a little chicken to share because they aren't cute and fluffy.  Like my last blog, I've debated sharing my heart on this subject just as much as I debated leaving Facebook.  It's complicated.  And it's my own personal conviction not a universal prescription.  So with that said, I'm using my blog as a journal of my own experience in hopes that I'm not the only one who's thoughts on the matter have been incubating awhile...

I think the first admission that I spent too much time on Facebook was made about three years ago over coffee with some girlfriends.  I felt the trouble then--maybe it was from staying up late, or thinking too much about other people's lives, or maybe just hand cramps from thumbing the news feed on my phone.  But however my problem came to the surface, it would rise, and then diminish, or be dismissed, or laughingly excused. I'd even subtly ask for prayer about it, knowing that there is something spiritually unhealthy at the heart of my habit.  Unlike looking at pornography or drinking too much alcohol, media binging is an "acceptable addiction" and consequently help is hard to come by. So for these several years, no matter how many times I signed out, or took a break, or deleted the app from my phone, or tried my darndest to manage my habit, I kept reaping the rotten fruit of this social-media addiction.  There was grumpiness from staying up late, guilt for being so distracted that I neglected important things, relational problems because I always had a phone in my face with a need check my Facebook or update my status.  The status wasn't good.

But still, the longer I stared at the lowercase "f" the less I could see my way out of it.  Mostly because Facebook isn't the root of all evil; social media is not a sin.  Scrolling a news feed is, for the most part, morally neutral.  In fact, a lot of good can come from Facebook, and that's what kept me sitting in that hot tub.  Surely I read a lot of good articles and links from the things friends shared, and did my share of sharing good, too.  And what harm is there in posting pictures of my darling children?  Or that funny thing that will make everyone laugh?  Or the viral deep-thinking article that all my friends "liked"?  But it seems like other friends could dip in for a few moments and move on, I couldn't. You know there's a limit to how long one should sit in a nice warm hot tub, and I over-stayed my limit, often.  It wasn't good for my heart no matter how many of my friends were having a fine time in there. Unlike others, my addictive personality doesn't help me do things in moderation...I had to get out.

So as hard as it was to leave the place where most of my dear family and friends were congregating and sharing life, for the sake of my own well-being, I faced the "deactivate" button, and clicked.

What happened in that tunnel of light on my computer screen will be described in a blog to follow...