Note from Brad Jersak: A friend of mine--someone I saw as a master in effectively using Facebook for 'gospeling,' moderating productive discussions and building bridges--walked away from that social media venue. When I asked why, he wrote the following and gave permission for me to share it. I find it disturbing, not only because it seems true, but because it is a worrisome analysis of the broader culture in which "we live, move and have our being" stands at this moment. It feels like more than an invitation to exit social media with the author, but stands as a call to repent of the social constructs that Facebook amplifies.
WHY DID I DELETE MY FACEBOOK ACCOUNT?
Why did I delete my Facebook account? There are lots of reasons. I’ve been contemplating this for a while. Hosting conversations is damn hard work, especially when people are joining in at so many different angles. In one respect, I’m just tired.
But there’s more …
I think we can all sense this. There are strong forces at work around us, political powers that are vying for control in the interests of immediate, all-encompassing change—a quasi-Marxist ultra-woke squaring off against a quasi-Fascist alt-right in an ever-widening culture war.
Facebook lends itself to a conflict like this. The medium itself trains us out of particularity, complexity and nuance and constantly guides us to think and live in terms of collective identities and affinities, often defined along moral-ethical lines. It also amplifies the dialectic of opposites, making it seem normative in a totalizing way.
And there's this pressure to behave accordingly …
I appreciate the encouragement I've received from people concerning my Facebook "presence". To be honest, I don’t care much about my "presence" on social media ... I'm interested in what can happen between people when they seek to be attentive and thoughtful while learning to care for one another. I’ve wanted to help humanize the medium a little, to explore the complexity of experience and invite nuance and empathy across lines that divide.
For many—increasingly it seems—this kind of approach is worse than taking the wrong side. It’s a self-protective strategy that relativizes the truth and neutralizes progress.
That makes me sad.
To be clear, I don’t think Facebook is *necessarily* more problematic than other ways of relating.
Relating is difficult no matter the channels ...
Face-to-face is certainly different in richness and complexity, but I have no illusions of it being easier to do well. It’s just ... different.
I think Facebook holds out lots of interesting possibilities for truthing-in-love ... I’m just not sure people are all that interested to explore those possibilities in earnest.
What makes Facebook problematic is not the digital technology per se, but the way people are inclined to engage it. We make moves that hinder relationship rather than help it. Worse, we revel in them.
Of course, we often do that face-to-face too ... It’s just that the effects aren’t ramified to the same extent. They’re less contagious.
Another way to say it: A platform like Facebook heightens social responsibility in some ways while alleviating it in others. The problem is that we’re shirking responsibility precisely where the medium requires it of us.