by Leila Grandemange
Have you ever contemplated leaving facebook?
If you have, you’re not alone. Apparently deactivating facebook it’s a widely searched internet topic. But why leave???
That’s a very good question, and one I’d been contemplating for almost a year. So here’s my story, about why I left facebook, and why I came back. Maybe something I’ve experienced will help you decide what road to take.
Leaving facebook was actually a struggle . . .
I wondered if I’d miss out on exciting news and events, fun photos from family and friends, or if I’d miss those awesomely friendly Birthday reminders . . . I’d probably forget my own Birthday if it wasn’t for Facebook! Nevertheless, something within my spirit was pulling me away from Facebook, and I had to find out why.
Before I tell my story however, I’d like to give a brief history of Facebook for those who are not too familiar with it in order to place my experience in context.
Facebook was created by Mark Zukerberg in 2004 in his college dorm with roommates Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. It was built to accomplish a social mission— “to make the world more open and connected.” I’m not sure its founders realized at the time the huge impact their invention would have on the world and how people interact. Today, Facebook is the largest social network in the world—last update in 2016 showing 1.65 billion monthly active users! Every 15 minutes Facebook is also adding 7,246 people, or 8 per second. Given these stats, it’s no wonder so many people feel almost obliged to join in order to stay connected with their friends and the world around them. Social networking tools such as Facebook have clearly demonstrated their potential as powerful communication and collaboration tools (both with positive and negative effects) in the social, political, and educational arenas of life. Being aware of the positives and the pitfalls can help us to avoid lots of heartache.
This brings me to my first point— why I eventually left.
One of the pitfalls for me was time management.
According to analysts from Needham, Facebook’s billions of active users around the world spend an average of 20+ minutes per day on FB liking, commenting, and scrolling through updates.
Mark Zuckerberg states that the US consumer spends about 40 minutes per day! If you add that up over the years, that’s a lot of time spent doing . . . well, I’m not sure what. Anyway, I got to thinking about time, and how precious it is. We say we will only spend 5 minutes on Facebook and then we get caught up in a thread of comments, a funny post, or an interesting link that catches our eye like the bait on the end of a fishing rod and before we know it those minutes have magically turned from 5, to 15, to 30, and then an hour has passed and the dinner is not prepared, the ironing is still waiting in a pile, and that much-needed walk with our dog will just have to wait another day. Oh, and most importantly, somehow we didn’t catch the signals of a child wanting to talk about a rough school day, and missed a wonderful opportunity to encourage those we love the most—our family!
A few years ago, while my kids were still at home, we were at the table eating dinner as one happy family. Sadly, there were also a few unwelcome guests—our Iphones—and we looked to them each time the ding sound went off to announce an incoming message. We were connected with the “world”, but not with our own family . Thankfully, it wasn’t always like that. My daughter came home from Bible Study one day and shared that the leader asked all the kids to place their phones in the center of the table at the start of the meeting so that they could give each other their undivided attention while they shared. What a brilliant idea I thought! Soon after we also adopted a similar protocol, and even though we didn’t create a center piece at the table with our phones, we each made a conscious decision to disconnect with the “world” and reconnect with those present. Now the kids are grown and living on their own. If only I could press the rewind button and redo those precious missed opportunities . . . but we all live and learn, praise God!
A more recent event that caused me to reflect further on how I spent my time, was the tragic passing of a loved one. . .
It was Thanksgiving of 2015, my beautiful young sister-in-law Myriam and her companion came for a visit. She’d been battling cancer for many years, and this was the first time I’d seen her in ages. I was immediately struck by her genuine smile and gracious words. She never seemed to complain either, and always expressed her gratitude . . . even for the smallest things. She was also tuned in to her surroundings, and like an angel she’d fly in at a moment’s notice to lend a helping hand if needed. As we interacted during their stay, I never saw her checking her phone—distracted by Facebook or any other social media, not even her emails. She was “present” in all our interactions and conversations . . . she made eye contact, listened attentively, and somehow her presence made me feel very special. I was very intrigued by her unique outlook on life and ability to stay positive given her battle with cancer. So I decided to get her input on whether I should stay on Facebook or deactivate my account explaining that I’d been feeling a bit overwhelmed by some aspects of it. I can’t recall her exact words, but she said something to the effect that time becomes even more precious when you’re dealing with cancer. Suddenly how one uses their seconds, minutes, and days really matters, and everything takes on new meaning and perspective. She then asked me why I used Facebook? I stopped and thought . . . and thought . . . then I said, “I’m not really sure . . . but I do enjoy sharing God’s love through Facebook, and keeping in touch with friends. I also enjoy seeing photos of loved ones, as well as their adorable pets. But there are also many things on Facebook that I don’t enjoy such as unnecessary images that pop up in my news feed and careless words . . . and I’m especially saddened when I hear about folks fussing and fighting.” Then she asked me, “Do you really need Facebook in your life? Does it make you happier?” Again, I had to stop and question . . . which led to studying the whole social media phenomena and its effects on society. I eventually came to the conclusion that during that season of my life, Facebook was not enhancing it . . . and so I left. Sadly, our beloved Myriam passed away the next month leaving us all with a huge hole in our heart.
But she left countless precious memories for so many people and a deeper awareness of the meaning of life— to live each precious moment to the fullest—undistracted, aware, present, and engaged—with those we love.
Her smile, peaceful spirit, happy countenance, and words of wisdom will live on in our hearts.
Dear friends, the founders of Facebook had an admirable goal—”to make the world more open and connected.” But they missed an important question that each one of us should reflect upon— More open to what . . . more connected to whom? The world is a mighty big place!
How do our connections ( people, information, images) make us feel? Are we happier after time spent on Facebook, or sense stress and anxiety?
Interestingly, a quick search on the internet reveals that a large portion of Facebook users feel less happy after their time spent interacting on Facebook. As a result, many are leaving and opting for a simpler lifestyle “disconnected” from social media. I can’t really blame them, and have tasted the sweetness of this simpler life while being “disconnected” from Facebook, TV, and even emails for a period. Being “open and connected” to the WORLD can be a dangerous concept if one is not careful. I would venture to say that none of us would leave our front door open to the world in real life. Why then would we leave ourselves vulnerable to the world via Facebook? Many people who join dive right into cyber space with little knowledge of how to secure their personal information or manage the settings to protect their privacy or peace of mind. And then there’s the news feed. You don’t even have to be on Facebook 30 seconds for an unwanted image to pass across your screen and sicken your heart. Learning how to manage the settings of your news feed and carefully considering who you “friend” on Facebook is also important. But again, all this is time-consuming, and most people either don’t know, don’t have the time, or maybe just don’t care. But the Bible offers us these wise words that we can apply to all our activities, including social media—
“Therefore be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise . . . then the God of peace will be with you.”(Philippians 4:8-9).
I don’t think the founders of Facebook intended for us to lose our peace and security. Nevertheless, it happens every day. This is just another of the pitfalls of life on Facebook.
So why come back to Facebook you may ask?
Well, to be honest, I’m still a bit hesitant, but I’ve missed my friends from afar . . . it’s true that Facebook does help us to stay in touch. This is especially nice if (like me) you have family spread all over the world! I’ve also missed posting daily or weekly inspirational thoughts, as well as reading uplifting posts by friends.
What I’ve realized while being away, disconnected if you will, is that Facebook is not the real culprit, it’s humanity. Facebook simply brings all of humanities qualities, both the good and not so good, to our door. Then we are given choices . . .
Do we really need to open our door to everyone or everything that comes knocking?
Do we really need to post everything that comes to mind?
Do we even really need to be on Facebook every day?
Facebook can be a distraction, much like any other distraction in life. The problem lies within us, not without. We simply need to make a mental priority list and then exercise self-control so that we keep it.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” —Psalm 90:12
Now that I have my priorities in order, with God’s help, I can return to Facebook and reconnect with family and friends and all the positive aspects of Facebook, as time permits of course. But before taking the plunge, I needed to ensure that I could navigate the waters and manage my time wisely in order to stay happily afloat. So I took my dilemma to Jesus—John 15:4 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
If I connect with Jesus first, through worship, the study of God’s Word, and prayer, before checking social media or emails, or rushing about my daily chores, He will show me how to use time wisely.
There are only so many minutes in a day, and there’s so much to do really— family and home to care for (cooking healthy meals, cleaning, errands . . .), the dogs to care for (grooming, exercising, training . . .), and even caring for myself—eating right, exercising, taking more time to pray and read God’s Word, building relationship near me, and even finishing that good book that’s been calling from the shelf. And of course there’s our “jobs”, whether that be a paying job, volunteer work, or a hobby. . . so much to do, and only so much time. What will we prioritize?
I truly believe that once we learn to manage our time, like stewards of a precious gift, we will be more hopeful and happy people. Ultimately, managing our time is about priorities and self-control. Setting priorities comes from knowing what’s truly important in our lives. And self-control (one of the fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23), comes as we mature in faith. Hallelujah!
I’ll leave you with a final image. . .
Facebook is like a house. Who you invite, what you discuss, and how much time you spend there is up to you. And if the whole experience has become slightly addictive, you may need to give yourself a little vacation, get out of the house, and reconnect with the “real” world, nature, your precious family, and with God.
I’ll never forget the time spent with my precious sister-in-law, undistracted by social media or phones. It was so refreshing. . .
None of us knows our last day on earth . . . but what if we lived life as if it was our last day?
How would we use our time on earth differently?
How would we use Facebook differently, or would we use it at all?
Facebook is actually rather insignificant in light of eternity. But, (IMHO) HOW we spend our time is VERY significant in light of eternity.
I’ve heard it said that time is money. I prefer to think that time is life . . . time well spent is a life well lived!
So live well my friends, whether you choose to be on social media or not. Life is so much more! May the joys of a simpler life be yours.
By Leila Grandemange
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Song—Life is Short, I Want To Live it Well, by Switchfoot
Thoughts to meditate—Inspirational verse from God’s Word