I retired from Facebook two weeks ago. According to the social media giant’s instructions, it would be two weeks before my presence would be removed from their domain permanently. Two weeks would be today.
I have been on Facebook for more than ten years. My reasons for participating were two-fold: I wanted to keep up with my children, who at that time were in college in the US while I was living in Kenya; secondly I wanted to have a platform from which to communicate to my supporters, the ones who through their prayers and financial support, made it possible for me to be a missionary in East Africa.
But things changed. My children are now married and pursing lives of their own and are not regular Facebook users. And especially recently I noticed that few of my supporters actually follow what I do or say on Facebook.
But mainly I have grown weary of this ephemeral advertising behemoth and its incessant efforts to draw me in further and further into its labyrinth of interactions.
I was weary of being ‘friends’ with nearly 1300 people, most of whom I did not actually know.
I was weary of the ‘targeted advertising’, which meant in practice that every 5th post I looked at was advertising something that looked remarkably similar to the running shoes I had just shopped for elsewhere. I found this creepy and disturbing.
I was weary of the politicization of posts, and the lack of charitableness that apparently goes hand in hand with strong views in my country. The same for social issues. It was increasingly dismaying to have the depth of dialogue reduced to sheet-of-paper thinness, before the board was upended by ‘outrage’ and the all-discussion-ending labeling of this person or that as a bigot or worse, as if that decided anything.
I grew weary of the snark and cruelty and irresponsibility with words. So many ‘friends’ so quick to judge, and without recourse to context, intention or clarification. Heaven forbid we become guilty of thinking the best of someone; thinking the worst of someone is so much more satisfying, and it puts him/her in their place and makes me feel superior. I was weary of snark because I found myself drawn into the game as well. And when I found myself every day baited into an opportunity to put someone down with too-clever-by-half words, it was just another indication that the time had come to walk away. I don’t want to be that kind of person.
Facebook was, for me, a kind of mirror into the human condition. It’s a fascinating mirror, a seductive mirror. But the reality it pretends to reflect is even more compelling. I finally felt the mirror with all its self-selected poses was distracting me from the actual reality around me. I spent a lot of time in that unreality, engaging with friends and ideas in the superficial kind of way several score words allow. But I think the cumulative effect has been to reduce my capacity and desire to focus – on people, on ideas, on needs. Much easier to send a quip to a ‘friend’ than to go see them, spend time with them, see in person what’s going on and help them figure out what to do. For all my ‘friends’, I think Facebook was actually robbing me of relationships. So rather than 1300 ‘friends’, I have just a handful of people I consider to be friends here in Kisumu. And it is a struggle to engage with them as people and not as a post on my ‘page’. But this is another of the reasons I have retired from Facebook. I don’t need the entertainment. I need the relationships. And Facebook was all about the former, at the expense of the latter, at least for me.
I’ll still keep writing for my blog Onesimus. But I won’t be getting as many readers, as I was able to post a link to new articles on my Facebook page and got a lot of traffic that way. But providing links to Onesimus, in the end, was not a sufficient reason to keep me clicking on my Fb icon multiple times a day. I’ve retired, removed myself, am no longer a player, opted out of The System. And I’m glad. And relieved to have disappeared.