This week, I deleted a Facebook account with nearly 900 “friends” that I had used for various purposes over the last ten years. A few months ago, learning of the intent of Elon Musk to purchase Twitter, I also deleted my (barely used) Twitter account. If you were one of those people on my friend list, this is an apology to you. I did not dump you as a friend. I do not hate you. You may be wondering why I did this.
I have several reasons for withdrawing.
- Facebook is an unreliable form of passive communication. People assume I see something posted and neglect to notify me or the church of important situations like hospitalization or death of a loved one. By leaving the platform, more reliable channels will be chosen.
- I am a creative and thoughtful person. My productivity needs to be directed into my professional and personal goals. Facebook and Twitter are a waste not only of time, but of work. For personal use (rather than mere advertising), these platforms provide a free content resource to super-wealthy fascists who own and profit from this creativity. Facebook is monopolistic information exploitation. Most people work for it without compensation. I owe oligarchs, fascists, and authoritarians nothing except my resistance and boycott.
- These platforms have no moral, ethical, or physical boundaries. They erode privacy and place otherwise healthy individuals in direct psychological and spiritual contact with exhibitionists and trolls, personality disorders, fake accounts, con artists, artificially intelligent bots, and toxic propaganda. There are no gates on the hell of Facebook and Twitter.
- The platforms can become addictive and distractive. We see how they diminish actual social intercourse, endanger motorists, and event prevent an appropriate first response to an emergency (streaming and posting it rather than calling for help).
- Posting anything personal invites negative feedback. Post something fun, successful, or appealing, and risk enflaming jealousy. Post something insightful or original, and risk plagiarism. Post something beautiful, attractive, and sensuous, and risk feeding an obsession. Post something truthful or prophetic, and risk retribution.
- Casually browsing lifestyle and other content posted by others puts us in the position of “invisible” viewer while offering others the chance to do the same. Voyeurism is a breakdown not only of privacy, but a deprivation of the spiritual discipline of solitude. Personally, I need solitude and silence to detox from the lewdness, self-indulgence, irreverence, idolatry, antagonism, bootlicking, violence, absurdity and bigotry that are so prevalent in our society. While the conflicts and dramas produced by such vices are entertaining in fiction, they are demoralizing when encountered in the real world. Facebook robs me of peace, lowers my opinion of people, and returns me to the High School paradox of being isolated and alienated within a large crowd. That is a place I never want to be.
- I work as an ordained minister within an established, historic Christian denomination that requires all of its clergy to pass psychological examinations prior to being certified as candidates. One would think having such a policy would create a very healthy, safe, work environment. On several occasions over the last ten years, however, powerful clergy engaged in social media monitoring have called or texted with anger, threats, and insults in reaction to some expression of social or political advocacy that I had shared on Facebook. In each instance, I removed the post (consistent with a policy I practiced removing any offending post). Once, the online invitation to a prayer vigil at my church was enough to trigger a clergy “colleague” into a public defamatory thread telling the pastor I invited why he should not associate with me. Perhaps the worst was being texted by a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry that he was sick of my “hypocrite bullshit.”
These risks are very real and are not alleviated by privacy settings. A woman I barely know recently told me she follows me on Facebook through someone else who copies her everything I post. Imagine leaving your family album in a truck stop restroom for anyone to read.
True friends and parishioners can find me very easily. As a pastor of a humble downtown congregation, I am a very accessible public figure with a significant online media profile. Most of the time, no appointment is needed to visit with me. I love people. I want to keep loving people.
While my church will continue to advertise and share worship links on Facebook, I personally don’t need or benefit from either Facebook or Twitter.