Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
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Deactivated: A Pilgrim Way of Leaving Facebook
Before I launch into my reasons for leaving, I want to make a few things clear. First, I begrudge no one their enjoyment of Facebook. In fact, for the first two years I was home with our gaggle of pickles, and my superhero husband was slaving away at three jobs while working on his comps and dissertation, Facebook allowed me to intellectually engage with other adults in a way that kept me from going, if you’ll pardon the expression, bat crap crazy. Second, I am not now nor will I ever be holier than thou. This is laughable. A real knee-slapper. Third, I don’t think technology is “evil.” I think technology is (for the most part) morally neutral. It can be used for grave evil. It can also be used for the glory of God.
OK, all that being said, I really did deactivate my Facebook page. Let me tell you, it feels AWESOME. As a pilgrim on her journey to sanctification (a journey wrought with more than its fair share of moral failures and spiritual shortcomings), this seems like the right path for me. It might not be the path for you. That’s perfectly fine. But, if you (like me) find Facebook to be a stumbling block on your pilgrim way to God, here are some thoughts on why “deactivating” may be beneficial:
Quality over quantity
Before I deactivated my account, I had more than 300 Facebook “friends.” Many of these folks are friendly acquaintances from high school, college, grad school, and jobs I once had. These people, as swell as they may be, are not my friends. Not in the beautiful philosophical sense of the word, anyway. At this time in my life I’d like to focus on quality rather than quantity. If leaving Facebook causes a friendship to languish and die, well then perhaps Facebook was acting as friendship life support. If a friendship is vital, if it is based on mutual care and respect, if it’s worth the effort of dialing the phone to check on the “status” of a friend, then it will survive. And it will thrive, deepen, and grow.
Learning to share
We have an almost 3-year-old at our house to whom I have referred in previous posts as “The Puppy.” We are (with varying degrees of success) practicing sharing. Sharing is hard. Like super hard. And deciding what to share and not share on social networking sites can also be difficult. What should we share with family? Friends? Acquaintances? Corporations? Do the things we share on Facebook betray the intimacy inherent to family life? For me, leaving Facebook is about a desire to share less with a large number of people (because, let’s be real, you’re not interested in what we had for dinner last night) and share more (and more profoundly) with the people I meet face-to-face on a daily basis.
The (VERY) near occasion of sin
Alright, this is the part of the post where I make an uncomfortable confession. I am very prone to the sin of being judgmental. Jesus said (really explicitly) not to do that. I try. I fail. A lot. The thing is that for me Facebook is full of opportunities to let this nasty little sin run wild. There are opportunities to make judgments on the political and theological leanings of those you “friend.” We judge each other’s family life, fashion choices, taste in music, and social activities. The Church teaches us that we need to avoid the near occasion of sin. Plainly put, don’t put yourself in a situation that entices you to sin. Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. So plucking out Facebook from my life is an attempt to remove something that causes me to sin.
Front line of the “Mommy Wars”
If you are a parent, you’ve probably witnessed the boasting, bragging, shaming, and one-upmanship that plagues the way we interact with each other on Facebook. Our own Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft wrote some very insightful words on this topic. Parenting is not a contest. It’s a vocation. Comparing ourselves with other parents and comparing our kids with other people’s kids is toxic. Facebook is often used to perpetuate this chaos. I’m sure we’ve all seen heated debates on vaccination, brag posts about little “Sally” who taught herself to read French existentialist philosophy at the tender age of 2, and the posts we all have perpetrated that make us seem way more organized, pious, and industrious than we really are. So, here’s my plan, and I invite you to join me: Think of a few older relatives or friends who are good parents and trustworthy confidants. Put their numbers in your cell phone. Use as needed. And, alternately, only give parenting advice if it is solicited. Make it kind. Make it affirming. Make it rare.
Let’s do the time suck again
Oh, Rocky Horror, you bring back so many memories of my high school (read: lifelong) dorkiness. Anyway, I found that (despite my best efforts) Facebook was a real time suck, meaning that I’d sign in just to see how Cousin So and So did on her big exam and two hours, three YouYube videos, one recipe for grass-fed marshmallows, and six photo albums later, I had completely blown through the kids quiet time and had accomplished jack squat of the nearly five million things that really needed to get done. OK, another confession: I have awful time management skills. I have gotten a lot better. But I still have a long way to go. I find that Facebook distracts me from the people I love most and the tasks that demonstrate this love by providing for their comfort and well-being. Letting go of Facebook represents for me an attempt to be more attentive and present to them. They are infinitely worth it.
If you think that deactivating your Facebook account might help you along your pilgrim way to God, go for it! You can even give it a trial run for Lent (Hint: Ash Wednesday is March 5). If you find Facebook spiritually edifying — awesome. I am by no means completely leaving the world of social networking — not yet, at least. You can follow me on Twitter @caitlinkkim where I share my Convert-sation posts and the aforementioned superhero moral theologian’s opining on the ethical issues of the day. Nothing more. Nothing less.