As the Facebook meme used to say, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” But that appears to no longer be true. Since November of 2016, Facebook has made a number of changes to the algorithm to combat “fake news”, and to help you connect better with friends. Each time they do, the feed gets a little bit less interesting to me. Less of my friends lives come through my feed. Instead I am getting a steady stream of fear-inducing headlines – from left and right. Simultaneously, the level of discourse on FB has declined dramatically. Facebook has a vested interest in activating dopamine production. One of the ways to do that is by inciting rage.
Of course, you can’t yell on a computer, but I was certainly chastised with much vehemence four times yesterday, and my integrity was made suspect each time. There were arguments I tried to get out of, without success; a statistic I published followed by my fidelity to scripture being questioned (the data is what it is); and my favorite, the time I was attacked IN A PRIVATE MESSAGE TO MY WIFE BY SOMEONE I HAVE NOT MET.
The time has come to step away from Facebook. I’m not leaving entirely, because I have a fair number of members who use FB, and who enjoy reading my sermons, which I post here on the blog, and then link from the FB page. I will still do that. My blog posts will show up on FB. But for now, that’s about all I will be doing. I won’t be checking messenger on my phone. (I have never had messenger on my phone.) I won’t be scrolling the feed as much. I won’t be spending every instant of the day plugged into the the thoughts and aspirations of my 750 closest friends (only about 100 of which I have ever met). Facebook isn’t real life. It’s a diversion. But lately it’s become a distraction. And the level of discourse has now reached what I think are dangerous levels of paranoia and anger.
So, if you need to reach me, you can do it on the blog. Comment on a post, and I’ll be happy to respond. You can call or text if you have my number – which every member of my parish should have by now. You can email me through the synod’s church worker locator. You can send me a letter via USPS.
But Facebook will be rather hit and miss for me for a while. It may not last. As Mark Twain used to say, Quitting smoking is the easiest thing there is; I should know, I’ve done it a thousand times. I may be back before the end of the week. But I’m writing here to try and steel my resolve. I’ve been on FB for nine years. I’ve spent hundreds of hours scrolling. I don’t seem even slightly happier. That’s not a very good return on investment.
I may blog a bit more. I may take walks with the dog, or play the occasional game of chess with one of my kids. I may get back to work on Catechetics, which has been stalled in doctrinal review by circumstances outside of my control (Not for doctrine). It’s hard to say. I have already started designing a new Stained Glass window for my kitchen. And I would like to resume work on the “Isaiah” window for the church. With an extra 30-40 minutes a day, I can probably get at least some of those things half-done.
So, if you message me and I don’t answer, I’m not ignoring you. If you tag me and I don’t respond, I’m not trying to be rude. A lot of my friends are actively leaving FB, looking for a better social media platform. I’m not doing either of those things. I’m redirecting my energies entirely. We’ll see how it goes.