This morning I got up at 5am. My daughter started to cry for me at 457am, so I put her in the bed with my husband and then I got up for the day. I started coffee in the coffeepot and made a frittata for us to eat for breakfast. I then prayed Lauds, and continued work on my re-write of chapter one of my novel. I am taking it one chapter at a time. I also got on Facebook for a few minutes via my husband’s iPhone. He chided me, and he had every right to. Friday is supposed to be a fast from the Internet for me. Yesterday I had pulled out an article that I had printed off a few months ago and I set it in the living room to re-read. It is from Matthew Warner’s The Radical Life, The REAL Reason to Quit Facebook, and I sat down to read it again today.
You see, I contemplate deleting my Facebook account almost weekly. It is a major time suck for me and I am clearly addicted. I have given it up 3 Lents in a row and I end up right back where I started a few months later. Yesterday afternoon, I took my daughter to the library to let her get a couple of DVDs and to play with her. They have some educational toys that are perfect for working on letters and colors. I also brought the iPad. While we were there another girl started to play with Michaela. She must have been about 4 years old. I bounced between playing with them and the computer, but then I noticed the girl’s mother. She was sitting across the room, glued to her smartphone. Not even paying any attention to her daughter. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This is what Michaela sees from me almost every single day. I ached for this little girl, and I realized that I do not want to live my life this way anymore. I do not want that to be the most vivid memory my daughter has of me. I only get one shot at raising my daughter and she should not have to compete with a computer screen. I made a decision, it is time to delete my Facebook profile.
Here are my main reasons for deleting my Facebook account.
1. God, my husband, and my daughter. My husband and daughter are my vocation. They are the greatest gifts that God has given me and I have spent hours ignoring them while I pour over news stories, debates, pictures, etc. on Facebook. They suffer when I am distracted. They suffer when I get overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed about the Fallen world, because I have spent too much time dwelling on it. Instead of leading them to Christ, I am leading us all to sin. This is not the example my family needs. It is not what my family deserves. They should have my full attention and should not have to compete with a cyber-world. My daughter has literally climbed on to my lap to remind me that she is there, to my utter shame. My husband has tried to carry on conversations with me, while I have been glued to his iPhone. This is what I have become, and it is not pretty. Overcoming sin never is. God also has blessed me with a secondary vocation of Lay Dominican. I need to live out the Rule of St. Dominic, pray, study, and preach. I can’t do that while in a trance on Facebook.
2. Facebook leads me to sin. I struggle greatly with the virtue of Temperance and if there is one thing that keeps me from that virtue it is Facebook. I cannot limit my time. I start off doing well, but eventually I fall right back into my old patterns. This pulls me from my vocation and my path to holiness.
3. I am not the center of the universe. I couple months ago I read Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods. If you need a hard look at yourself and your false idols, then you need to read this book. Facebook, for a lot of people, is an homage to “ME”. Every thought, family event, picture, idea, has to go out into the world for approval. Anyone who clicks on Facebook dozens of times a day knows what I am taking about. How many people “liked” my comment? Or status? Or meme? Or did that “idiot” respond to my witty comeback? And the cycle continues at a dizzying pace. I am not that interesting. I am not that witty. And, yet, Facebook gives us a false sense of importance. If I am honest with myself, I am not on Facebook to keep in touch, I am on Facebook to get approval. How many sins does that cover?
4. Facebook creates more noise in my life. The Devil is cunning. Social media is a great invention, when used properly. But, since when have human beings been good at moderation? If we are constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other website, we are distracted from the world around us. We are not giving thanks to God. We are not praying. We are not taking care of our families, friends, neighbors, etc. In fact, the more I am on the computer, the more everything else falls apart. I have to fight and force myself to pray. I have to battle to play with my own child. I am so much more interesting than God, becomes an inadvertent mantra. Oh, yeah, brutal honesty.
5. Facebook does not take away loneliness. I am a stay-at-home-mom. I made this choice. It is where I belong, but I get lonely. I need intellectual stimulation that is more than watching Tangled or WordWorld for the 50th time. I love teaching my daughter, but she is two. Her attention span is only slightly longer than 5 minutes. When I get sucked into Facebook, it usually is because I am lonely. I am filling a void. That void has an awful lot to do with my Faith, as well as focusing on my family. I also am blessed with wonderful friends, who I never seem to call to get together. We all live 10 minutes from each other, but we talk on Facebook, so why get together? I need their physical companionship and conversation, not a computer screen. Facebook makes me a worse friend. So friends, expect me to call for lunch or coffee soon.
6. How many of the people on Facebook are still in our lives. The people I am friends with on Facebook meant a lot to me, most of them, years ago, even decades ago. We have all moved on. Our lives have changed. Do we really care that much about each other? I have three friends who have asked to see me when I have been in the same city as them: 3. That tells me that our friendship is at acquaintance stage these days. That is okay. That is how life works. People come into our lives for a short time and then we part ways. I have fond memories of all of them, I still pray for them, but let’s be honest, we are not really friends anymore. I am not being mean, just honest. The people I am friends with now will call, email, or see me. I am looking at you OLPH folks and Dominicans.
7. Privacy. This is becoming more and more of an issue. This is not high on my list, but it is on my husband’s and I respect that. I used to work in a national security position for the government, so I assume they monitor me. However, I am appalled by what my former employer is doing these days. Given the way things are going, social media could eventually be used against any of us. I am a devout Roman Catholic, Veteran, Lay Dominican (does that make me double Catholic????), who works in the pro-life movement, works with women in crisis pregnancies, and supports traditional marriage. Yeah……I think the real question is: Is there really any privacy online anymore? I highly doubt it.
8. Facebook takes away from my writing. When I spend too much time on Facebook, my writing and blogging suffers. I get distracted, so my novel and the few blog posts I write a week get pushed back. I really enjoy writing. Writing is more important to me than Facebook. If, by the grace of God, some day someone publishes my work, it will be because I stopped focusing on social media. I will still blog here and at CatholicMom.com, by the way.
I am sure there are people who use Facebook in moderation. They have a healthy respect and balance. That is wonderful. That is not me. It is time for me to be completely and painfully honest with myself. I am not proud of any of the things that I have done. I started Facebook in 2008, when I was looking at a career in politics. I should have deleted it when I left DC. I pray that if you struggle like I do, you will consider a fast, delete, or deactivate those social media websites that are taking you away from your vocation. Life is so unbelievably short. It was only yesterday, that I was holding my newborn baby in the hospital, and now she is speaking in complete sentences. God bless you and have a great weekend!
*Update: I have since abandoned my personal FB page. I have a FB page where I just post my writing and other authors I enjoy. It is quite freeing!