So Long, Facebook

A few weeks ago, I decided to withdraw from interaction on Facebook.

I did not delete my profile entirely, or completely disengage, but I decided to withdraw from anything deeper than base-level “social” interaction–cute photos of my kids, questions about popular culture, etc.  The decision was prompted by a long-distance friend hastily “un-friending” me after a brief exchange. The “conversation” was about negligent (in my opinion) parents who seem oblivious to their children’s lack of social skills–specifically, children who bully younger kids. After a few comments were exchanged back and forth between me, her, and a few of my other “friends,” she wrote me a message saying she was deleting me. She said she didn’t like the way my Facebook persona made her feel about me and thought it best to save whatever was left of her opinion of me. To her credit, I really, really like this friend and I think she was probably correct, in a way. And she did try to make it clear that she still likes me and thought the picture Facebook was painting of me was wrong. But, what happened with this friend solidified what I’d been thinking for a few months–I need to say “goodbye” to Facebook.

See, this is not the first time I’ve been “un-friended” for the way I expressed myself online.

A while back, and old acquaintance from high school deleted me after I posted a blog where I challenged American ideas of gender inequality, when compared with the severity of abuses committed against women worldwide.

A few months ago, another acquaintance (a friend of a friend, basically), deleted me after an exchange between me and few of my friends in which I joked about how my kids were going to be homeschooled. Other friends chimed-in, some of them homeschooled themselves and others very anti-homseschooling, and the conversation steered toward joking about how all kids end up as “freaks,” regardless of where they live or how they’re educated. She was offended by something that was said, commented harshly, then deleted me. I tried to contact this person to make amends, let her know she probably misinterpreted something that was said, and apologize for offending her, but she had blocked messages from me.

I’m sure these aren’t the only three people who have deleted me. And, in a way, it’s not a big deal. But, to me, it is a big deal. And that’s why I can’t do it anymore.

Why?

1. Social media is inherently disingenuous. We can all look good online. All we need is a few shiny photos, some clever quips about our day, a quote or two to say what we cannot, and we are suddenly desirable to the public. My guess is that most people are not nearly as impressive or interesting in real life as they are online–me included.

2. Facebook is not an intellectual medium. No matter what the topic, it’s impossible to have a truly intellectual (and beneficial) conversation on Facebook. The medium is simply wrong for it. Everything moves too quickly, people post too hastily, and many people chime into conversations that they have no business being a part of. Nearly every Facebook “conversation” I’ve been a part of has been derailed by someone who has no idea what is actually going on. These interactions are frustrating–emotionally and intellectually.

3. Internet relationships are not “real.” Yes, it is fun to connect with people online, to see their cute kids, their nice house, and to know what books they are reading. But, Facebook “friends” are not friends. Online relationships are relationships of convenience and comfort. We log on when we want, read what we want, engage when it’s desirable, and turn off those we’d rather not listen to. We have no responsibility to our online friends, and no commitment to respect or mutual benefit. It’s all the fun with none of the work. And this is exemplified by the fact that we can simply “delete” those who they don’t want to bother with anymore. Heck, I’m guilty of it, too.

Which brings me to the reason I finally had to draw the line:

4. Facebook makes me sad. A few weeks ago, when that friend sent me the message to warn me that I was being deleted, it crushed me. And that “friend of a friend” who deleted me a few months ago? I can barely be in the same room as her now. Why? Because I like them. And I want to be their friends–their actual friends. But, something I believe or something I say or the way I say it makes them so intolerant of me that they would rather turn me off–delete me–than engage in a constructive way to understand me. What it says to me is, basically, “I don’t mind looking at pictures of your kids, but I don’t want to know what you actually think about anything important.”

And this is the point:

Facebook is a joke. It’s disingenuous, anti-intellectual, and fake. But I already understood that. I made a bunch of “friends” and tried to use Facebook to socialize in a way that’s most natural and most important to me–to engage with people I like, about ideas. Other people might want to talk about books or movies or sports. I don’t care about those things. I care about ideas. And, so, I talk about ideas. But, when you talk about ideas, some people get really uncomfortable.

I understood the limitations of Facebook. And I understood that the people I engaged with online were important and valuable, even if they were different from me. This is why, on any given day, my Facebook feed covers everything from politics to parenting, religion to atheism, urbanism to professional sports. In the past, I have deleted people because I don’t actually know them or because we never interact, but I have never deleted someone because they liked the wrong football team or Presidential candidate–no matter what they said or how they said it.

I would like to think that anyone who knows me in real life is not surprised that I have strong opinions about things, or that I make friends with people who have strong opinions about things. And I would like to think that most people understand that strong opinions are only a part of the story and that a quip or quotation from a person cannot give you a comprehensive understanding of how they really feel about something.

In the world of Facebook “friends,” you can have strong opinions about the guy who cut you off in traffic, the referee in the football game, or the amount of/lack of snow on the ground but not about things that actually matter like faith or the goverment or family life.

So, I’m withdrawing from ideological interaction on Facebook.

For a Thinker-Introvert like me (I’m an INTJ–look it up), this is a painful decision. It means that I cannot connect with people the way I appreciate most–by hearing what they think about things that are important. And it means that I cannot express myself in a way that is most honest.

Instead, I’ll give you a “like” every once and a while and leave it at that. Oh, and I might ask for a movie recommendation or show you a picture of my new shoes or something along those lines. Apart from that, I’ll be MIA for a while.

If you want to know what I actually think about something, you’ll simply have to ask–in private–or engage with me on my blog. I won’t be commenting on Facebook.

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7 thoughts on “So Long, Facebook

  1. You know, Liz, I will have to admit that there have been times that you have posted topics of conversation on Facebook that I struggled to see your view/opinion, simply because it was so different from mine. But you know, that is one of the reasons I value your friendship. You ARE so different from me in the way you think about many things, even the way your process things. (as you know…I’m a huge feeler.) But I think you have so many great things to say, to offer. I think you are witty and intelligent and such a great mom. I’m happy that you are engaged with the things that make us tick and question them. Most of us are happy to never rock the boat, never challenge the accepted wisdom. Sadly, Facebook is typically a place for us to wallow in the shallow and sometimes, that’s ok with me.) ( Real life is hard….I just want to see cute pictures and play Farmville…haha) But I am really gonna miss the way you shake it up 🙂 Most of us should probably get off our ass’ and have real person-to-person interactions, anyway….stop creating a life online and have a real one in the fresh air.

    I’m sorry people are so easily offened but please, don’t shut up.

  2. So glad you blogged about this, Liz! I’ll miss your IDEAS in my facebook feed, but I can certainly relate. I also enjoy genuine discussion with fellow thinkers (I’m an ESTJ), but as you eloquently said, have never found facebook to be a satisfying medium for good conversation. It is what it is… cute kids, keeping up with acquaintances that you otherwise would only see every 10 years at reunions, etc. But actually connecting with people? Not really.

    God designed us as relational beings, so don’t let anyone make you feel bad about desiring to connect with people in deep, meaningful ways!

    I’ll be sure to follow your blog since you’ll be absent from my newsfeed 🙂

  3. I love you, Liz. I have since the day I met you nearly 13 years ago. You are so valued to me…and I hate that anyone made you feel otherwise. You are spot on about Facebook…I rarely ever bring up things of importance, because some people just can’t handle it. We’ve become lazy with communication and relationships…people just don’t know how to do it anymore. It’s incredible how many people assume they know me because of how often I update my status…its a joke. I think its best to not put so much value in facebook….and know that your real friends, those who know and love you outside of social networks, are what matters. Great post. Keep writing. I will always want to hear what you have to say 🙂 love you BFF.

  4. i have been using facebook solely for happy and light interactions. i prefer to do my deeper debating/conversing in person… i’m not even very good on the phone… i prefer face-to-face, and that probably makes me old-fashioned, but i get so much from being in the presence of someone that it’s difficult for me to have productive conversations online. (and here i am trying to have one now!)

    what i mean is, i think your decision is a good one… not that it matters one iota what i think, but good on you for thinking it through and working out a solution.

  5. liz…i love you and feel the same way…which is why i gave up my facebook account…opened another just to have like 10 friends whose kids pics i want to see or hear about and hardly ever comment. you know me though…i am much more of a talker…so you will still be getting calls from me. however, i am sorry that you have been hurt and i totally believe that your thoughts need to be heard…in whatever form that might be…music, blogs, comments…whatever. we differ on some things…but you have a lot of wisdom to share my friend!
    LOVE YOU!

  6. I think you articulated this very thoroughly and appropriately, and I’m glad you’re coming to these conclusions for yourself. I wish we lived closer, I hate that the most meaningful relationships I am physically/mentally capable of having are online!!!!

  7. Liz,

    I just want to say that I love you as a dear friend and family and as my best friends best friend. I probably could babble on in encouragement to you over everything you’ve said, while I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said. I understand your point of view on this and I agree with your sentiment (although a lousy word for how succinctly you say anything & everything) about Facebook. I do believe there are benefits and ability to discuss topics of importance o Facebook and I’ve been ale to do so in some circles. I still overall agree that mostly it is very hard and almost always over Indulged with emotion to the demise of a topic.

    I won’t say anymore other than, you are truly a light in this world and everything I have read of yours… Everything. Is thought provoking, challenging, exhausting (in the best way), engaging and worth your efforts and anyone’s efforts with a usable brain. I respect your choice, but hope (and know) you will continue to challenge and interact with those who care about you in the ways God is pressing you and yoir family forward to learn, know & be an awesome impact in this world.

    Shine on.

    Always.
    ~Jon

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