The Things that Make for Peace: Getting Off Facebook
I’m using my blog posts this year to explore a question that emerged from my encounter with Luke 19:42 last year: What are the things that make for peace? You can find the rest of the series here.
This year on Ash Wednesday, I walked down the hall to my wife’s office (we’re both on the ministry staff here). I handed her my laptop with a window opened to the Facebook login page. I said—while very politely thrusting my laptop in front of hers without so much as a greeting—“Would you please change my password to something I don’t know and not tell me what it is until Easter?” After a few finger taps on the old keyboard, she handed my laptop back to me. And I was off Facebook for the season of Lent.
I had observed the season of Lent before, and have found living into the rhythms of the Christian calendar to be a helpful way to focus my spiritual life. However, this past year, I hadn’t given much thought to how I was going to prepare myself for Easter. Consequently, Ash Wednesday rolled around and I was unprepared. What I knew that morning was that Facebook was driving me nuts, I was spending too much time on there, and I desperately wanted to devote my time and energy to other things.
In Richard Foster’s teachings on simplicity, he councils to “reject anything that is producing an addiction in you…. Simplicity is freedom, not slavery. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.” This is good advice. It’s also a lot trickier than it sounds.
I can’t say for sure that I was addicted to Facebook, but I do know that I was not relating to it in a healthy way. I also know it wasn’t delivering on what I thought I was using it for—staying connected to people I love, a platform for “listening” to members of my church, and for finding news and being exposed to new ideas.
The reason I know it wasn’t delivering on what I thought I was using it for is, because once I logged off, I started doing better at each of those things. I started making more phone calls to loved ones, especially those I hadn’t talked to in a while. I took fewer shortcuts in my communication with church members, and I really had to listen whenever we talked. (To be fair, my wife was still on Facebook through this season, so I still got the really juicy updates from her—although it was nothing I wouldn’t have found out some other way.) I set a voracious pace for reading books that I don’t think I’ve come close to since I was in elementary school, and I subscribed to some email news digests that keep me better informed about world and local news.
The other thing I picked up while getting off Facebook was praying more. Like most people, one of the reasons I don’t pray is because “I don’t have time for it.” This is, of course, a ludicrous excuse. As Annie Dillard puts it succinctly, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If I’m spending my life following Jesus and don’t have time in my days for prayer, am I really spending my life following Jesus? However, if I’m honest, lack of time is my excuse more often than I like to admit. How much time was I making for scrolling Facebook? I never crunched the numbers (on account of the fear of crippling shame), but let’s just say I found I had more than enough time for prayer.
I got my Facebook password back after Easter. I still log in occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. I can’t tell you for sure that you need to log off Facebook for a while or forever (I’m still toying with the idea of cancelling my account altogether). What I can tell you is that I did, and for me, it was something that made for peace.
P.S. If you are discovering the things that make for peace in your life, ministry, and community and have a story you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear it.