Facebook, How Do I Break Up With You?

by Alison Gerber

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I took a break from Facebook recently. No biggie: I did it to reclaim some desperately needed time before finals. And as expected, I found myself with just enough minutes in the day to get everything finished at last. But here’s what happened that I didn’t expect: to find myself, also, reclaiming my mind.

Maybe I’m a complete idiot, but I never really understood before those few Facebook-free weeks how much social media shapes the low-strata thoughts that traverse my mind each day. Sure, ideas like “pick up the kids! make afternoon snack! go to bathroom!” are controlled by my environment and the needs of those around me, but the other ideas, the ones that seem to drift in on the breeze…what about them?

Without Facebook they looked like this: “Wow, Winter can be beautiful”, “I really want to read more Origen”,”I should write a letter to that old friend of mine”,”I wonder what it would be like to be a six day creationist?”, “Jono really is an amazing Dad.”

But with Facebook they look like this: “Amy Schumer is a joke thief?”, “Chandler can’t remember 3 years of Friends because he was on drugs?”, “The campaign against Hilary Clinton is so sexist!”, “The campaign against menstruation is so sexist!”, “Why wasn’t I invited to that baby shower??”, “I wish I looked like that”, “I wish my marriage looked like that.”

(By the way, never in my life would I buy a gossip magazine. The thought repulses me! And yet every single day I see this information, and think about it, and even talk about it: only because of Facebook.)

Straight up: I am really concerned there is something in the world that controls my thinking in this way. I am really concerned there is something in the world that controls your thinking in this way, too. That every day we log on and are served a veritable platter of ideas, which are “tailored” to us by a corporation, from which we can pick and choose, sure, but only in the way one can pick and choose “healthy food” from a McDonalds menu. And it’s starting to be proven that our mental health is affected by these ideas that we “eat”. Facebook stimulates our comparisons between ourselves and others, and makes us depressed, increases risk of suicide, and doesn’t help our sense of isolation, either.

The obvious answer is: get off Facebook. Tell everyone to get off Facebook. But here’s my concern: if every thoughtful, reasonable person suddenly thinks it’s wrong to be on Facebook, then what does that mean for the stream of public consciousness that is the Facebook feed? Disclaimer: I’m not saying here that I’M a hugely impactful person on Facebook, but if every person who was disappeared suddenly from social media? It would mean taking those voices out of the system. The good voices. The voices that give life. I just don’t know: is this the kind of change I should advocate for?

In the “real world” I wouldn’t usually advocate for people separating themselves from culture into “safety” enclaves. But how does one possibly both feed life into the minds of the world around them, and also allow life to flow freely into their own?

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  (Romans 12:2)

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