By Judy Vidakovich
Today is my 9th Faceversary. Really? Facebook sent me a lovely video to celebrate our nine years together. I joined Facebook nine years ago today, and FB wanted to tell me “Happy Faceversary!”
I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time now—an article about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. When I saw the Faceversary video today, I was both surprised and disgusted. My first two thoughts— “Aw, you remembered!” “Ugh, you keep track of that?” Apparently, FB wants to be in relationship with me. I even tried to share the video with a friend to prove a point about FB, and FB won’t let me share the video. It’s just between FB and me. Aw! Ugh!
At the beginning of 2017, I took a spiritual renewal leave for the first time in pastoral ministry. I decided as part of that experience, I would fast from Facebook. In preparation for the fast, I announced on FB that I’d be off for a month. There was a prayer concern I had been following closely on FB at that time (one of our colleagues and his wife had a hospitalized newborn who was struggling). Before starting my FB fast, I looked at some of their posts to see what other colleagues had commented. Then I contacted two of “mutual friends” and requested they keep me posted on the situation by texting me prayer updates.
Prayer concerns and friendships with clergy are the reasons I joined FB. A clergy friend was seriously ill, and I kept calling her husband to ask for updates. I apologized for bothering him. He suggested I get on FB to see her medical updates because it was hard for him to keep each individual informed. That’s the day I joined FB.
The Sunday after I joined FB, a young parishioner who had already friended me gave me a warning. As she shook my hand, she leaned in and said, “Be careful on Facebook. It’s addictive.” I laughed, but after a few weeks, I understood what she meant. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never been on FB, but basically social media feeds our egos.
On my best days, I use FB to stay connected to people, reach out to those in need, see pictures of my grandchildren, and use it as a ministry tool. On my worst days, I feel pleased when I see how many “likes” or comments I got on one of my posts. Dare I say sometimes those “likes” and other emoji reactions give me a rush, or the absence makes me feel disappointed, wondering why no one liked what I said. But I never realized how much I reacted to it all until I went on my month-long fast.
The first few days were hard—really hard. The temptation was so great, that I deleted the app from my phone. That was very helpful since I rarely checked FB on the desktop computer. After a few days, I began to feel some freedom—the payoff for the fast. My husband would occasionally say did you see this or that? referring to something he’d seen on FB. It took us a few days to stop that habit, and thereafter, he was very supportive, only showing me a picture of one of our grandsons if I wanted to see it. (Of course, I did.)
When the month was almost over, I began thinking about the end of my FB fast. Did I want to continue? Did I want to delete my FB account? Or were there some changes I could make as to how I used FB? I settled on the last option and began to think about the boundaries I would set for myself regarding FB. One of my decisions was to not put the app back on my phone, getting on FB only on the desktop computer. That was a good decision. I’d like to tell you I’ve kept my resolve and still follow all the boundaries I set for myself 15 months ago. I eventually put the app back on my phone, but I put it in a folder on the fourth screen. Swipe, swipe, swipe, open folder, open app means that I’m more intentional about getting on FB; it’s not just one tap away.
I’m back to using FB, but not as much as I was. Though some days I do use it too much. Some of the things I hate most about FB are: political/social debates, personal arguments, pictures of Jesus with a warning that true Christians will pass this on, and all the pictures of cats! But the things that bother me the most about FB are how it plays to our desire for attention, our people-pleasing tendencies, our voyeuristic nature, and the ease with which we can be inauthentic. Part of that inauthenticity is how easy it is to write things on FB that we would never say in person.