Confronting Hard Truths About Facebook and Myself

Anyone who has been reading my blog over the last couple of years knows that I battle being addicted to Facebook. Yes, addicted. I think a lot of people are addicted, but we don’t like to admit it, myself included. Social media is a part of the post-modern experience. At face value it is indeed a good. It allows us to connect worldwide in real-time and to reconnect with people from our past. It is a blessing to see how people we knew decades before are doing at this point in their lives. All of this is good, but I think we  need to be honest with ourselves about a few things.

We live in a lonely culture.

We are able to connect in real-time, and yet, we are more lonely now than ever before. We can spend hours engaged in discussions, arguments, or reading news feeds, but feel completely and utterly disconnected. A computer screen does not provide the needed interaction of authentic relationship with a person who is present to us fully. We can get a million “Likes” to something and it will not put a dent in that loneliness or sense of isolation. In reality, deep down, we realize that our Facebook friends are more of a type of acquaintance than true friendship. Our Facebook friends may offer us prayers and kind thoughts during difficult times, but only a few of them will walk into the darkness with us. This is, of course, human  nature. We avoid suffering at all costs. As painful as it is, we have to acknowledge that we are in a sort of shadow relationship with our Facebook friends. We are social beings by nature. We need community, but authentic community in which we interact with people in person and engage in relationships with those people.

We have stopped listening to one another.

Listening is something we all struggle to do in our interactions. In our pride, we want to have an immediate response at the ready before considering all of the information being presented. We already have our ideas, preconceived notions, and biases at the ready. We also desire to protect ourselves from any perceived attack, even if it is meant merely as a charitable reminder or correction. We all seem to do this in both social media and in our daily relationships.

The problem with this lack of listening in social media is that it is dividing us even more with each passing day. When we begin a discussion with someone–whether a friend or a stranger–we do not meet on even ground. There is no mutual understanding or defining of terms. I have discovered that discussions go much more smoothly if they are entered into with an understanding of mutual respect and a clear defining of terms to be used. If we enter into a conversation in social media with someone without these two principles in place, the conversation will devolve very quickly. It then turns into a group of people ganging up on one person or one person ranting and raving at the others or a whole host of other problematic situations will occur. Ad hominems, presumptions, misunderstandings, and irrationality inevitably take over the whole conversation.

Facebook and the like allow us to talk, and talk, and talk. We have a platform and we use it. It is hard to admit to ourselves that in reality, nobody cares, or if they do, it is not that much. A passing “Like”, emoji, or thumbs up does not equate to genuine concern or interest. Typically we “Like” and move on to “Like” a dozen more things before shutting off social media for a few minutes and then reaching for our phone again or laptop.

We do not appeal to prudence.

The Queen of the Virtues is prudence. She is the most important of the cardinal virtues for all of the other cardinal virtues flow from her. Prudence means truly discerning how to respond in a situation. Think of prudence in relation to wisdom. For a Catholic, this includes considering God’s will or proper responses in a given situation. We cannot be just if we are not prudent. True justice is founded on prudence and charity. We cannot be truly courageous if we are not prudent, because we may get ourselves killed in the process. We cannot be temperate if we do not first understand prudent choices, because the Passions would like nothing more than to have free run of our lives. Prudence is the crucial habit that needs to be learned in virtuous living and in going deeper into the spiritual life.

Social media is almost the anti-thesis of prudence. We say whatever comes to mind without any appeal to prudence. Yes, we are all works in progress, including myself. We are all sinners, but that is not a get out of jail free card or an excuse. We know better, so we acknowledge our weakness, but we don’t justify it. I often lack prudence and it always gets me into trouble. As Catholics, we do not have a right to do and say whatever we want. We are obliged–through the gift of the supernatural virtues–to learn the habit of prudence. Not every comment on Facebook we disagree with needs to be responded to. I am talking to myself here too. I am a work in progress, so please keep in mind this is not some kind of morally superior lecture. I am right there in the gutters with everyone else. These are merely insights I have gained from my own broken, and at times, sinful use of social media. Not every thought that comes to our heads needs to go out into cyberspace. We do have an obligation to consider how our thoughts and actions will impact the people around us.

Does social media help me on the path to holiness?

All of these insights come down to the main question that I must ask myself as someone who is clearly addicted to Facebook. This is the same question we must all ask ourselves in every moment of the day. Will this X, Y, or Z help me attain holiness? Some people are masters of properly ordering social media and they are able to use it for God’s purposes. I know that I am not one of those people. God has made it plain to me, and yet, in my shame and weakness I persist. Internet usage is a constant in my regular Confessions. Unequivocally Facebook does not help me on the path to holiness. It is a hindrance. It makes me think too much about myself and my own thoughts, which are not nearly as exciting as they seem in my head or in black letters glowing on my computer screen. Nobody cares! I am going to tell myself this again: NOBODY CARES! There I said it. What a relief!

I think that far too many Catholics do not understand that our mission is holiness. The meaning of our lives is to become a saint. That is not a goal reserved for a lofty few. It is the end for which all of us are created. If we approach our daily living from this standpoint we would begin, by God’s grace, to order our lives to that purpose. I know this truth, but there are times I fall into habits that take me away from that mission. Facebook takes me away from my vocation and the mission. I have asked God to make me a saint and that means relinquishing my will to His will. He has asked me to cease and desist Facebook. I will not progress, and I may back slip, if I do not take heed.

Facebook can become a near occasion of sin.

Facebook is a near occasion of sin for me because of the incessant outrage. The constant need to be angry or upset about something, anything. The onslaught of news and division can be downright overwhelming. This is a distraction aimed at keeping us from focusing on Christ and the mission of bringing the world to Him. The world has been a horrifying, bloodthirsty, and violent place since the Fall. The Bible and human history are filled with humanity’s evil, stupidity, arrogance, blindness, and depravity. We have been wounded by the Fall and we live in a world that struggles with sin. We still wait for the Second Coming of Our Lord at any moment. That is one of the main purposes of Advent. To remind us to wake up! Christ will come again and we do not know the hour, so be alert!

Spending hours upon hours dwelling on the Fallen world is not good for me and I would argue it is not good for anyone. I worry about some of my Facebook friends. I see their loneliness. I know their loneliness. I see their pain and struggles. They may not realize that I see them.We reach out for human interaction for someone to “see” us and our pain, but Facebook does not provide the needed compassion and charity. My Facebook friends cannot truly see my grief and pain. The tears I shed on a nearly daily basis as I grieve my lost babies and struggle to accept my infertility do not appear in my newsfeed. A crying emoji wouldn’t quite do justice to my struggles. They do not sense the ache I feel at all of their children and pregnancy announcements. Not because I am envious, although I have my moments, but because I am a mother who wants to love more children.

I know deep down most–not all–of my Facebook friends do not truly see me, understand me, or love me as a friend is meant to love. I think this is something we all need to acknowledge and accept. This is understandable. We are no longer in the same place in our lives or geographically. Facebook allows for facades and the pretense of everything is dandy and fine. Nobody wants a “downer” to share what it is really like in periods of intense grief. It is an illusion and that is precisely why so many people are lonely and feel empty in a world of immediate connection.

I struggle like a lot of people to use Facebook properly. I have not mastered prudence enough to be temperate in my Facebook usage. Another sign that I am stumbling up the path with everyone else. Have you considered your own social media interactions and usage? Is it a hindrance or a good for you on the path to deeper communion with Christ? I think we all need to pray for God to help us develop the habit of considering every element in our lives through our eschatological purpose, which is to be a saint, so that we can enter into full communion with the Blessed Trinity at the end of our lives.

Holiness: What Really Helped Me Leave Facebook, Again

I will admit that after I wrote about leaving Facebook again, I struggled to deactivate. That is until God knocked me upside the head. This is the “letter” I wrote to my Facebook friends, many of whom have been very important to me at various times in my life.

To My Dear Facebook Friends,
 
I just had one of those jaw dropping (to me) moments of clear prodding from God. They don’t happen often, so He’s clearly trying to get my attention. During Mass I was contemplating all of the distractions in my life and how I had allowed Facebook to really distract me again. I was thinking about the things I need to do to help Michaela, my husband, and me on the path to holiness, especially in light of this Sunday’s Gospel reading which focuses on eschatology. I then thought about how I wanted to do prayers and read to Michaela this evening (yes my mind wandered a bit…I am a work in progress. 😉 when we got home. The book that came to mind is a children’s book called The Weight of One Mass. I bought it at a Catholic bookstore in MT when I was visiting this past summer. I really enjoy it, but it is not one Michaela usually picks. We haven’t read it in months and I chose it every time we’ve read it. We got home and after dinner I told her to go pick a book for us to read together. I kid you not, she walked out with The Weight of One Mass. Okay, Lord. I hear you. It’s time to pull the plug on Facebook and other distractions in order to focus on holiness.
 
There’s a lot of turmoil and anger in social media right now. The world is Fallen and full of suffering. It has always been this way and will continue to be so until the Parousia (Second Coming). The only way we transform the temporal order and fulfill our ontological and eschatological end is holiness. We can argue, battle it out, demonize one another, scream, rant, rave, plot our vengeance, and stomp our feet, but it accomplishes nothing. People are so charged, angry, and blinded right now that reasoned pleas for civil discussion are ignored and vilified. People have quite literally lost their minds.
 
Evangelization in the post-modern era poses unique difficulties. As I pointed out earlier today, we are no longer evangelizing peoples who worship gods outside of themselves, such as elements of nature. Today’s gods are ourselves. We are in a battle against billions of people who think they themselves are god. That truth is set by the individual; dependent entirely on their feelings and emotions, not reason and rational thinking. This leaves us to the whims of our neighbors beholden to their desire to be worshiped no matter what they do. This is dangerous and destructive. Remember this years from now when this thinking fails in tremendous and tragic ways. This is the dictatorship of relativism and the impacts of nihilism on our culture. We are seeing it on full display now.
 
How do we reach people who worship themselves? Something Christians all need to ponder very seriously. The mission is the same no matter who is in power or what happens in the future. We are called to be saints, even if our family, friends, neighbors, etc. give us over to be fed to the lions. We live our faith in truth, charity, and hope. Holiness is infectious. If we fulfill our mission and work to become holy saints, then others will be attracted to the joy, peace, and love of God within us. Once we encounter the Living God, truly encounter Him, the moral issues fall into place because we see as God sees rather than how *we* want to see. It makes little sense to many now, but the Cross is hope. Sacrifice is freedom. I had to walk in tremendous darkness before I could fully see it and I am still only beginning to get the paradox. In reality we can only grasp in faith at paradox, but we still have a deep understanding through the eyes of faith.
 
I write about holiness and the call to sainthood a lot, even though I fail daily. But our parish priest’s Homily was exactly on this topic tonight. Too many “coincidences” not to be the Holy Spirit prodding me to relinquish my grip on my distractions. I need to focus on personal holiness and my family. I will check in again at some point, but sparingly. I will continue to pray for all of you. Good-bye for the present. Take good care of yourselves. Pax Christi.
 
Love,
Constance

The Peace in Leaving Facebook Behind

I have written multiple blog posts about my increased understanding that I needed to give up Facebook. I only rarely used Twitter and saw it as an overwhelming amount of information with absolutely no real human connection. It is a place to vent political ideology in 140 characters, and that largely includes Catholic writers too. Facebook was another animal. I deactivated my account and gave the password controls to my husband 2.5 months ago. I had given it up for months at a time, but always ended up getting sucked back in for some reason, so I told my husband to change the password and that I was done. I was addicted to Facebook. My overly empathetic personality pulled me too close to the train-wreck and I had to walk away.

A lot of people will say to use it in moderation, but I am not one of those people who can use it in moderation. In the beginning I would do pretty well, but before long I was sucked into conversations I didn’t need to be involved in like telling Pope bashers to knock it off and got to Confession. I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am pretty isolated for most of the week. I saw Facebook as adult interaction, but in reality it wasn’t any deep connection and it was not making me a better person. Facebook was an impediment for me on the path to holiness. My husband didn’t like me on Facebook, my daughter didn’t like me on Facebook, and I didn’t like me on Facebook.

Facebook in itself is a good. There are great gifts in technology and the material world which are goods; that does not mean they are good for everyone. Some of us have inclinations towards addictions with certain things whether it be food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, or social media. If we cannot control that addiction then we need to cut it out. If something is not helping us on the path to holiness, then we need to cut it out. It is not a condemnation of Facebook, instead it is an acknowledgement of my own personal weaknesses.

Here are somethings that have happened since I have freed myself from the clutches of Facebook.

  1. I enjoy the moment.
    Yep, that’s right. I am more present in each moment throughout the day. I am more available when for my daughter and my husband. I no longer spend hours on my phone. I don’t think of clever status updates through out the day to garner as many likes as possible. I only take photographs I truly want to save as opposed to those I would put up throughout the day on FB. Once again, I am more present in my own life. True story!
  2. I no longer worship myself on Facebook.
    Now this does not mean that I no longer battle pride, I do, daily. Facebook has the real risk of sinful pride. We post pictures of our families, our articles, or things of interest and can run into the tendency of either knowing better than everyone else or thinking we are better than everyone else. “Likes” are an homage to pride. The more likes the better we think of our pictures or updates. It’s gotten so bad that we post pictures of our meals and way too many pictures of ourselves. Vanity is rearing its ugly head in multiple generations right now through social media! If we are really honest with ourselves, we will see how pride is infecting us through our use of social media. This does not mean that there aren’t people who use social media in humility, but for most of us sinful beings, pride is a real battle and danger in social media, that is, social media centered around ourselves.
  3. I am a lot less stressed out about the state of the world.
    Let’s face it, social media is a train-wreck we cannot seem to look away from. I have been watching the news since I was 8 years old. Yes, 8. I have always been in the know and up-to-date on current affairs. It was wreaking havoc on me, but I didn’t want to admit it. I am a very empathetic person. I get sucked into the evil of the world and it is compounded by own experiences as a relief worker during the 9-11 aftermath. Certain personalities cannot handle an onslaught of the evils of the world. My leaving social media does not mean I think we should put our heads in the sand. We should be aware of current affairs, but social media is obsessed and addicted to it. We should know about it and then get on with the business of evangelizing the world and serving others in charity and truth. Obsessing and talking about current events incessantly is not evangelizing or living the Christian mission. We have to get up from our computers and serve. I think for people who struggle with anxiety and depression massive social media use is very bad and exacerbates symptoms. I say this as a fellow depressive and anxiety sufferer.
  4. I have time for important things in my day.
    We are obsessed with our smartphones! Our smartphones are a major impediment and distraction in our day. As an experiment I suggest you write down every time you go on your phone to check social media. The number and amount of time you are on your phone, tablet, or computer will be stifling. That is time we could be spending with our kids, spouses, reading books to help us in the spiritual life or even just great books, we could be writing a novel, helping people in need, focusing on a hobby we enjoy, going for a walk to enjoy God’s creation, and praying more. There are so many better things we could be doing with our time. I do those things now that I am off of Facebook for good. We have to decide which good is greater and chances are social media is not the greater good in our lives.
  5. My life is quieter.
    I know this probably terrifies some people. It terrified me when I was contemplating the final deactivation. For the first few days it’s difficult. You might feel disconnected at first, but then you come to enjoy the quiet and lack of needless distraction. You will find more peace and focus. Is it the solution to all of your problems or mine? No, but it’s a step towards peace and real connection with God and other people.
  6. I can focus on the real relationships in my life.
    If we are truly honest with ourselves we will admit that social media is not authentic connection with other people. It is the illusion of real connection. In reality it does not require any of us to step into the real lives of our Facebook “friends”. We might pray for them and interact occasionally, but we are not sitting by hospital beds, bringing needed food, money, or items to them. We are not there to hug them or have a real conversation. We do not have to truly step into the Crosses of those friends. As Christians, this is an essential element of authentic friendship. There are countless people in our lives today who need our love and support. We meet people and have them in our lives for a while, but then we move on whether physically or developmentally. I am not the person I was in high school and I barely remember most people I went to high school with, or even served with in the Navy. I wish them well, but a superficial Facebook connection does little towards our real call to charity.

There are people who use social media in moderation. I applaud those people, but I think we should truly examine our consciences in light of our social media use. How often do pride, anger, envy, lust, etc. boil up inside of us as we use Facebook? Are we truly using it to connect with other people on a real level or using it as a distraction from our own pains, monotony, or loneliness? Is it helping us grow in holiness? Are we addicted to Facebook, honestly? How are the relationships in our lives, our spouse, children, etc.? Does Facebook impact those relationships in a negative way? Do we spend our evenings on our phone or tablet while our family members sit in the same room with us doing the same thing?

We are made for happiness, greatness, and holiness. If Facebook is not leading us to sainthood we need to decide if we can cut back or cut it out. I can honestly say that I don’t miss it at all and I can see the world around me much more clearly. I pray for the people I have known and those I connected with on Facebook through Catholic circles, but my vocation calls me to people placed right in front of me.  Remember the issue isn’t that Facebook is evil, it is about whether or not it is a greater good in our lives. Pax Christi.

I am not the only crazy Catholic writer to abandon Facebook. Check out Matthew Warner’s “radical” piece on leaving FB.

 

I Gave Up Facebook Again

Photo by Brandon Russell
Photo by Brandon Russell

I gave up Facebook, again. Anyone who has read my blog over the last couple of years knows that I have one of those personalities that struggles with temperance when it comes to Facebook. I like to read the news, watch the Church, and engage in discussions with people. What I have discovered over the course of the last few years is that most FB conversations are not discussion, they turn into fights that typically end with ad hominem attacks. For whatever strange reason, I get sucked in.

Facebook is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be used for great good. It has allowed people to stay connected well past the relationships of previous ages. We can stay informed in real-time and share a bit of ourselves on our tiny slice of the Internet. For someone who tends towards introvert in social settings, it is an opportunity to express myself without all of the awkwardness of idle small talk. It is also a great place to share writing projects, get feedback, and have people share your work. I am very thankful to the people who have shared my writing over the years. I want to be honest, though, in the hope that my weakness will help others. I have allowed my iPhone and Facebook to take over my life.

I have forgotten how to sit in stillness. I cannot even seem to sit for five minutes in the car without my phone when my husband runs in the store. At night, my husband sits and watches TV, I am on my phone or laptop, and our daughter is either vying for our attention or on her tablet that we got her for school use. I have become one of those mindless drones. I have forgotten how to live in the present.

I am ashamed admit this out loud. The only other people who are aware of it are my regular Confessor and my family. I am sure people have guessed who are friends with me on FB. They see my frequent posts and know that I have been sucked in. That I have chosen to use the distraction of Facebook to try to quiet the restlessness in my own heart. It became my go-to “distractor” (as my husband calls it) after my miscarriages and when the post-partum depression/anxiety was so bad. It became a way for me to engage in adult conversation when my husband was traveling for work. It started off as simply a way to connect, but then I allowed it to consume me.

I have seen people argue that we should not leave Facebook because we have an obligation to evangelize. I disagree. Perhaps God is calling me to evangelize in a different medium than social media? If I cannot use it in a temperate manner and I allow it to take time away from my family and my life, then it is no longer a good in my life.

I convinced myself that I needed it to be a writer. If I was going to get my work out there and find writing gigs then I need a social media presence. That is a lie. I am already a regular contributor for one of the largest Catholic websites available and the other sites that interest me are only looking for submissions, not my blog presence. I do not need Facebook to be a Catholic writer. I am already a Catholic writer.

How many of us struggle with our isolation or loneliness through an overabundance of social media? I suspect it in a few of my former Facebook friends who like me struggle with living in that moment. Mine stems from periods of existential dread and a battle with sloth. I realized the answer to my struggles in two very different experiences.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Archangels. It is a huge feast day in our home because our daughter is named after St. Michael. I went out of my way to make it a special celebration. We made cookies, cards to deliver to Catholic friends, and I made a nice traditional dinner. I was living the rhythms of the Church and sharing it with my daughter. I felt the most profound joy and peace. It reminded me of what kind of life I want to live and how I want to lead my daughter.

Today is the exact opposite. I woke up tired from my hormone issues and didn’t want to accomplish much. I spent the morning on my laptop while my daughter played and watched PBS. We did about an hour of school with her practicing her writing. I am a bit of a zombie today. I then got into an argument with someone on Facebook in which we were probably both a little right and then I got irritated with my daughter. After that moment I could see clearly, once again, what I was doing. I was wasting my time arguing with someone whom I do not even know in person. Yes, a fellow brother in Christ, but he was not the flesh and blood daughter standing in front of me.

Our culture tells us social media is wonderful and that it is okay to be on it all of the time. To be clear, I am not condemning social media. I am cautioning against its overuse, especially in the face of loneliness. It quickly becomes the way we see the world. We are constantly looking at our phones or computers instead of the people around us. There are plenty of people who use social media in a healthy manner, at this point I am just not one of those people. So this is me being honest. I am addicted to Facebook and I just gave it up again. This time I pray for the long run. I have gone months and months without it, but then I get back into it for whatever reason. This time I want to focus on the gifts of my husband and daughter and see where God leads me. I want to quiet that restlessness through the stillness of God. Giving up Facebook means that I can devote time to my family, studies, and write the books I want to write. So I am walking away from it. God bless.

The Fruits of Giving Up Facebook

Yesterday my daughter and I went for a drive because it was a beautiful autumn day.  The sky was bright blue and there was not a cloud in sight.  So we drove to see my husband at work.  He works about 25 minutes from our home.  When I got there my husband said that he already had noticed a change in my focus and attitude in the time that I have been away from Facebook.  He thanked me for finally walking away.

 
He is right.  I don’t think in Facebook terms anymore.  Instead I am more in the moment, I think clearer, I am less anxious, and my attention is more towards my husband and daughter.  I know that the world is a mess, but I am not spending hours staring at the train wreck on FB.  I have been more intentional about my prayers.  Let me tell you, I don’t know what I would do without the Dominican prayer obligations anymore.  They keep me alert to when, how, and where I should be praying.
 
Facebook has taken the focus away from sharing my life with people in a virtual world, to fully living right where God has put me.  I have everything that I have ever wanted: a husband and a beautiful daughter.  Why should I be so focused elsewhere that they suffer?  Why should my daughter see me glued to a computer or cell phone screen, rather than snuggling with her on the couch, or taking her for wagon rides around the neighborhood?  Why should I get sucked into a dizzying feed of bad news, when I could be outside in the sunshine?  Life flies by, as the Psalmist says ‘We are like grass that grows up in the morning and withers in the evening’.  
 
My decision to give up my personal Facebook account comes down to how I want to live my life.  I have a Facebook account to post my writing to only.  It is Holiness in Motherhood.  I am not even sure I will keep it.  We’ll see.  I can bury my nose in other people’s business, or I can live my days as I promised devoted to my husband and our family.  Everyone needs to keep in touch with loved ones and we need outlets, but the question I finally had to ask myself is whether I was letting technology control me.  The answer was not good.  I had allowed a tool to take over my life.
 
When I was working as an intern in Washington DC, I noticed just how much people are glued to their smartphones.  It was to the point where many people could not bring themselves to shut them off at church.  If I saw someone do this in Mass, I would not be able to keep my mouth shut.  I would have to remind them that we are in the Real Presence of Christ, their email can wait.  There are emergency personnel who may need their phones, but the vast majority of people should be leaving them in the car for Mass or family time.
 
Ask yourself something:  How many times have you sat with your family and every single one of you is either on the computer or a phone?  Yeah, that has happened in my home.  Let’s all sit together and ignore each other because everyone else is so much more interesting.  This is the message that I was sending to my husband, and on occasion, he sent that message to me as he kept his nose buried in email on his iPhone.
 
Look, I am not against technology.  Modern medical technology has kept me (and my daughter once) alive twice now, when in other time periods I would have died.  I am a fan of technology.  What I am not a fan of is addiction to technology, and when we allow ourselves to be ruled by our phones, computers, tablets, or whatever else may rule our lives, we pulled away from our vocation.
 
Do an experiment:  stay away from the Internet, your phone (other than essential calls), computer, TV, etc. for 24 hours.  Spend time with your family. It may be unpopular, but call a technology free 24 hour period, probably on a weekend.  Play a board game, go for a hike, eat dinner together, volunteer, go on a day-trip.  See what it does for your family and your own outlook.  We have to think in terms of our vocation.  Does spending copious amounts of time with our faces buried in a computer screen lead us to Christ?  If the answer is “no”, then we need to either cut back or cut out those things taking us away from Him and our families.

Why I am Giving Up Facebook

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.

Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.

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?

Nope.  I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.
Nope. I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.

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.

I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.
I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.

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.

It was great while it lasted.
It was great while it lasted.

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.

Facebook = low creative flow
Facebook = low creative flow

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!