Bye, bye, Facebook

“Oh, I have such an addictive personality, I can’t do Facebook.” It was an off-hand comment from a conference speaker, mentioned between bites of sandwich while we chatted over lunch. The conversation flowed away, but his remark planted a seed in my mind. If this man has to avoid Facebook, maybe I should, too.

Later at the conference, the seed cracked open and took root. Often at conferences, the attendees are overwhelmed with information. The final speaker wanted to help us avoid that what-do-I-do-now feeling, and asked us three questions to guide us on our separate ways. One, what is one thing I can do next? Two, what is one thing I can stop doing? Three, who do I need to take the next step with?

I stopped listening after question two. My mind was filled with only one word: Facebook. I need to stop doing Facebook.

Easier said that done, of course. I kept my account but stayed off the site for a while, then was lured back in by some innocuous desire. Now I’m back to where I was before. My brain is suffering the shakes again; all that clicking and blinking of this particular site makes my brain cells vibrate, sending my perilously closer to the edge. Whenever I’m on a social media site, I’m overloaded with stimuli, and it’s not just uncomfortable anymore, it’s painful.

Yes, I realize this sounds ridiculous, and for my literal-minded readers, I’ll add that I know my brain cells don’t really vibrate. But that’s how it feels.

A few weeks ago, I re-read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, focusing on his chapter on simplicity. He advises us to “reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.” My first thought? Facebook is an addiction for me.

I call it an “addiction,” though I’m not on the site as often as many people. I use this word because even when I’m not physically on there, it consumes my thoughts. I find myself mentally putting together updates that I don’t post, or dreading particular topics that I know will be discussed ad nauseam (think politics or boycotts or sensational news stories), or angered by the ignorance and hate that can be (and is) spread on a site of this nature, or fearing the repercussions if I share my opinions.

Facebook is on my mind all the time, even when I’m not in front of the computer. If this isn’t technically the definition of an “addiction”, forgive me—the precise word is somewhere at the center of obsession and god-figure and fear.

It’s absolutely ridiculous for a website to have this much power over my mind, and I can’t stand it. I’m deleting my profile and page soon, no matter what the consequences for my platform building and possibilities for publication. It’s not worth my while to have this addiction-producer in my life any longer.

Why are you making such a big deal out of this, Laura? someone will ask. Why not just be quiet about it? Here’s why: I know that there’s bound to be someone else in this position, addicted and wanting out, but fearful of taking that step. There’s also bound to be others who are addicted and haven’t realized that they can’t simply discipline it; no amount of willpower can control an addiction.

Richard Foster has this to say about defeating true addictions:

You cannot just decide to be free of it. But you can decide to open this corner of your life to the forgiving grace and healing power of God. You can decide to allow loving friends who know the ways of prayer to stand with you. You can decide to live simply one day at a time in quiet dependence upon God’s intervention. —The Celebration of Discipline, p 91

That’s my prayer: that my mind might find rest in God alone. And if it takes deleting my Facebook profile, then so be it.

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14 thoughts on “Bye, bye, Facebook

  1. I completely agree–that is an addiction as much as drugs, alcohol and tobacco are. And for you, just as harmful to your well being. I am a firm believer that we can conquer ANY addiction through prayer and giving it over to God. I did it three years ago when I finally kicked a 30 year addiction to cigarettes–through prayer and the strength that only comes from emptying myself of any “I just gotta have the will power” thoughts. Just come to the realization that you DON’T have the strength to do it without Him and ask Him to help. It works.

    I’ll stand with you, my friend. God bless and keep you.

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    1. Diane–Thanks for understanding! I just deactivated my account a few minutes ago, and I’m still a bit in shock! And I’m thrilled that you kicked your cigarette addiction. Reminds me of when I was struggling with bulimia. I’d managed to stay purge-free for over a year on my own will power, but the constant temptation to binge-purge was horrible. Totally consuming. I hit bottom and got some great Biblical counseling, and I credit the power of prayer that those consuming thoughts went away. 🙂

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  2. I understand how you feel and I’ve had all the symproms of addiction. But before I decide to sever for good, I’m going to try to discipline myself to spend less time on it. I find it valuable for keeping up with publishing, friends, and culture. Some of the politics and other things are annoying but I like knowing what’s going on, how people are thinking and finding new things to read. I like engaging with people I know in person and online. But I do spend far too much time on it. I guess it’s like my new TV.

    I’ll see you on your blog!

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    1. Theresa– The publishing aspect of it has been what’s holding me back from really getting off Facebook permanently. I’m so fearful of never getting published (or having potential publishers’ disapproval for not having a FB account) that I’ve made it this huge, huge thing; an idol, as Tim noted.

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  3. Some of what you describe sounds as much like idolatry as addiction. What do you think, Laura?

    Tim

    P.S. You’ve given me yet another opportunity to be glad I have never started a Facebook account!

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    1. Tim–I think you’re right! I’m so hooked on other people’s opinions of me that I made this a far bigger thing than it ever should’ve been. The line between addiction and idolatry has always been fuzzy to me. And yes, be very glad that you never started a FB account. I never thought this would happen to me!

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      1. Somewhat biggish news, Laura. I may not have a FB account, but as of today I have a blog (linked through my name above). The world as we know it may never be the same.

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  4. Laura,
    I agree with you that when something or someone (with the possible exception of God) begins to take over your life and rule your every thought, then its high time to reduce or remove that influence. I personally hate removing things from my life, but I have found it necessary on occasion to delete some game from my computer or remove some such from my daily interactions. Addiction is very probably a form of idolatry in its worst aspects and at best, an addiction (or obsession) is a weight keeping oneself from racing the course of life and faith at one’s most productive (Hebrews 12:1-2). Not only does Richard Foster have some wise words to speak on this matter, but so does Stephen Covey, who advocates removing those things that keep us from our goals in life. If Facebook is keeping you from your goals in life and is a focus of obsession/ addiction/ idolatry, then by all means remove it from your life.
    Enjoy your blogs and posts continually. Keep up the good work. All the best,

    Paul Lanier

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  5. I think we can be addicted to anything quite frankly. I’ve never been on FB and so don’t have an account. Like you, I am an aspiring author with a dream of getting published one day.

    I was put off FB after finding out that a girl at my uni was on it all the time; alarm bells rang for me. I sometimes go on the Yahoo! news forums and see the hatred and warped opinions left there. That’s enough. When we become addicted to something, and let’s face it many things can be addictive for all kinds of reasons and perhaps even for no seeming reason at all, we might have to ask why we are addicted. In your case, you are using it to network and further your writing career; for me, that sounds a pretty good reason to be on it. It’s not frivolous and you do have a purpose. The downside of course, is that it’s stressing you out; that isn’t good. You have done the right thing by getting rid of it all together.

    I love this post and I won’t offer any platitudes, just to say that many people do suffer from addictions. Use the time you save from FB to write more, and don’t worry about getting published; just write!

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  6. Putting some boundaries in place helped relieve my Facebook challenges. To start with, I only “friend” people I know personally. Then I allow only a select few friends or “Likes” to post in my news feed. This cut down on the chatter and time needed to check my news feed tremendously!

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    1. Good ideas for FB boundaries. I’m glad it works for you! For right now, for me, I have to be FB-free. My brain is feeling healthier without having a FB account to check at all.

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