- Facebook creates the illusion of community, but it just that- an illusion. It is false community because it is contrived and ghettoized; it isn’t real because I get to control it and only have to see/be seen and interact in ways that I “allow.” I typically choose to follow those personalities and news sources or interests that reinforce my worldview. Likewise, I become “friends” with folks on Facebook that I know or am acquainted with or maybe want to know, but at all times I’m in charge. I may be, and in fact am, FB “friends” with folks from my childhood, for example, who are very different from me (now) ideologically, politically, and so on, but I can control what they see of what I post, and what I see of what they post, etc. Hence, this interaction is in no way “natural.” I get to be the arbiter of what I know and see about the other. That’s not community. That’s pretense in regard to what I let others see about me, and the worst kind of contrivance in regard to what I choose to see/know about others. Moreover, chances are my FB “friends” are engaging in the same kind of pretense in regard to how they present themselves on FB as well. Again, that’s not community. By way of contrast, real community that’s rooted in a place comes with the good and the bad, with ideas and facts that both reinforce my worldview and challenge it. More importantly perhaps, folks still see my public self, but I can exert far less control and hopefully will exert far less effort at trying to manage their perceptions of me.
- Not only does FB create false community, it distracts me from opportunities to be a part of the real thing. I spend far too much time voyeuristically watching the online contrived selves of my “friends,” and not nearly enough time making real friends, or simply loving my family, who are right in front of me. I “peek” at FB on my phone as I’m walking through parking lots, thereby risking life and limb, or while in the car (as a passenger, hopefully), etc. It’s a major time-waster, and I have far too much to do as it is.
- Perhaps most importantly, not only does FB create false, contrived community and distract me from the chance to build the real thing, I believe it actually harms relationship. It harms community. When I post something political or theological that others disagree with and they comment about it, or when I comment to express my disagreement with the political or other posts of my “friends,” in almost every case that interaction ends badly. To my knowledge I’ve never convinced a conservative fundagelical to love their neighbor by supporting higher taxes on the 1% so that the social safety net for the “least of these” could be strengthened (see what I did there?). Likewise, I find the statements of my conservative fundagelical “friends” infuriating, and our online arguments accomplish nothing.
- Finally, FB reinforces my vanity. My automatic posts about every run or links to my blog are all too often little more than an attempt on my part to generate page hits or elicit comments, and this can serve to link my self-worth to those blog readers or FB comments in an obviously unhealthy way. Sure, for the fitness related posts there’s a measure of accountability that might be offered, but it seldom happens and the negative motives on my part I suspect far outweigh any good that might come. Moreover, desperate for attention and approval though I may be, quite simply it’s time for me to grow up.
I won’t be giving up an online presence altogether, of course. I’ll maintain this blog, and will strive as always to do so more consistently, and I’ll probably stay on Twitter too (I’m @robfredbuck), as I still want to be informed about some things, however ghettoized my choice of sources may be, and Twitter like FB can be a good means for doing so, if used well. Who knows, I may even tweet the occasional inflammatory political thought every now and then.