I was driving along minding my own business at the beginning of this year with a knot in my stomach. I did all that my coach had taught me and began to meditate/pray/reflect into this simple question (something a bit new for me. A shoulder shrug and never a second thought has been my style), the question; “Where did this anxiety come from?”
I came up with a list; a lack sleep, a fight I’d had with my wife, and then it struck me, I was in the middle of one of those discussions on Facebook that involve me against another with combative ideas on a topic (this one being environmentalism), and in between comments I would go about wondering, “What will he say in response to my last comment, what will I say in response to that last comment?” And, the bigger question that came to mind in my car that day…”Who is ‘HE‘ ?”
“He”…well I am just not sure who he is. I know he got to be a ‘friend’ on Facebook somehow. Normally I abide by a rule that I have had to have met a person face to face before agreeing to be friends. But somehow this stranger to me (sorry if you are reading this stranger/friend and we are old mates, I just can’t place you!) But this person ‘had me’. He had control of my emotions to the point of a knot in my stomach and anxiety in my emotions, he was taking up hours of my day, at least week. Did I enjoy the ‘banter’? I’m not sure I did, not with him, well maybe sometimes. It was respectful. it was mutual, we even stuck up for each other when someone else dug the knife in with comments, but I was never going turn this guy over to my way of thinking nor he, me. It felt, in a way, a kind of violence, a grenade slinging from our Facebook trenches.
So I quit.
Not just that conversation. Nor that friendship on Facebook. I quit (At least for a few months) Facebook all together. It felt like a good thing to do, it felt like it had a kind of hold on me. Not just with this guy, hours were spent surfing, watching endless animals falling off couches, people smashing into walls on their bikes, along with an ever growing “Watch Later” list of interesting teaching videos from people who seem to have more time than me to watch ‘deep teaching’…which in turn gave me anxiety around my inadequacies of not being ‘deep’ enough our not managing my time like ‘others’ who seem to be able to watch endless teaching videos or …. ok…I know – I’ve got work to do 🙂
Two weeks ago was Easter Sunday, my marker point for re-downloading The App. I did it with minimal fanfare, in fact it took me a few days before downloading it onto my devices. I jumped on, made about six posts in 15 minutes and read a little, but it felt like I was not that keen, an addiction broken?
A few days later I sat down with a few minutes to spare and there it was, a post from THAT guy. Immediately I felt the vertigo of falling into a void of antagonism and argument, of oppositional hand grenades…
I de-friended him.
I felt empowered. I started surfing again. I surfed around for an hour, I read articles, a watched dogs falling off couches…I was back!
So what had changed?
I (re?)discovered that I can be drawn endlessly into idol time wasting. Facebook makes that easy. But so does Twitter and so does Instagram. When I went off Facebook my use of these other two programs went through the roof! I process publicly. With or without technology, I use people to help me discover what I really believe. I love a big wide community like Facebook with all it’s diversity of humanity (at least my handful of ‘friends’ is pretty diverse). I love ‘putting it out there’ and seeing what happens. Yes, sometimes I ‘bait’ (just ask my mother!), sometimes I suffer the anxiety of tense interactions. But If I can manage that anxiety, if I can keep my interaction to people I am in relationship with, at least to people I remember meeting and engaging with at some point, then I am content. People ask, why can’t you use ‘real’ face to face people to have these conversations with? My answer is; these ARE real people, they live in all places over the world, Facebook does not make them any less real than a telephone did when Mr Bell gave us that gift.
For every “yes” there is an equal and opposite “No”.
In terms of time wasting…I am the master of my own destiny! I am disciplined in many ares of my life, why not exercise some here? For ever hour I spend on Facebook, it’s an hour taken from something else, or someONE else. I choose.
I discovered there are people all over the place I disagree with on Facebook. Do I need to cut everyone of them off? We used to sing a song in Church; “All over the world are people just like us worshipping Jesus.” What a travesty. I am sure the writer didn’t intend it to mean that all over the world white middle-class evangelical Christians were gathering at the exclusion of LGBTQI, Aboriginal, Refugees, smelly homeless people…but that seems to be what it looks like! I don’t want to de-friend everyone I don’t look like, disagree with or everyone who disagrees with me and have a bland coloured Facebook community. Heck…that’s how many of us do church! I have de-friended a few people over the years, maybe 3 or 4 for various reasons, but in general, I think I like the diversity, I think I NEED the diversity.
Yes, I get misunderstood and judged by some as I do others. I have had many a face to face conversations explaining, apologising, and undoing knots created by my comments on Facebook (sorry friends!!) but I process publicly, I lack some discernment, I and have less at risk in my career (meaning…I don’t lead a church or bible college!! 🙂 ) I love to stimulate discussion and see people stimulated to think, argue and be challenged as I love the same back at me.
You may not see me on Facebook as much (right away), I find I am engaging with less obsessive passion and interest right now, maybe not a bad thing.
Will I fast from Facebook again? No doubt. We all need a cleanse, a detox to remind our systems of just who is running this show…NO I’m NOT a control freak 🙂 But that could be a post for another day…