I had been off Facebook for 24 hours.
“Joy, you may have missed some popular status updates.”
I always find it amusing how websites and companies with automated email systems address their emails with first names. Are we on a first name basis, Facebook? I don’t quite think so.
“You have notifications waiting!”
Well, yes. Probably. Thanks for the heads up, Captain Obvious.
“So-and-so, your friend’s mom, and that random kid from highschool have posted pictures you may want to see.”
Okay, so it didn’t call them that, but you get the gist.
I have given up Facebook for lent. Truth be told, though, I have been looking for a reason to give it up for some time. Lately, life seems to parade by with highspeed internet persistence. Oxford, my last semester in College, my last months in California… They march on to the beat of a drummer I cannot persuade to slow down. But in this marching season, I want to take in, to give out, and to embrace this time. I want to practice being fully present to the path before my feet, the people before my face, and the God so patiently and persistently present to me.
That’s why I gave up Facebook.
Lent, you know, is not meant to engender spartan-like demonstrations of self control. That smacks of Matthew 23: “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men… because you fasted facebook and sugar and your favorite TV show (*note. this is not in the actual text, in case you were wondering*)… but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
No, that is not the purpose of Lent. Rather, Lent is about loving. My pastor this week, said something similar to this:
“Lent is about love. It is about loving God and loving our neighbors. It is about removing that which distracts or detracts from our ability to love. To fast those things is to remove the barrier to love.”
“You’re missing out! The rest of the world is doing exciting things, and you don’t know about it!”
I think that was the message Facebook conveyed in their appealing email. With its broad net, and wide web, we fear that if we withdraw from the constant engagement, we may be forgotten or we may miss out. In a strange way, it even seems to suggest that if we really wanted to be engaged with people and love them, we wouldn’t withdraw our presence from the online community.
I think, however, that is why Facebook is not helping me love. Rather than fully and truly engaging with the people in front of me and around me, I feel a strange obligation to my 1,100 friends. Instead of personally writing to a friend, asking them how they are and getting a real answer because its not on display for all to see, I settle on liking their status. Instead of sitting in the stillness and sometimes loneliness of my days waiting for the Lover of my soul to speak to me, I rush to fill the empty hours with roar of voices found on the internet. At least then I am not alone.
I do not think Facebook is evil; I think it is a tool. It connects people, ideas, communities. However, I think it also creates a world of constant alternatives: if we are bored, lonely, pressured, angry, sad, procrastinating, Facebook offers us an outlet of distraction. It is a constant promise of “more!” It is a promise of something else.
That is why I have given it up.
I want this moment, these people, this struggle, this silence, this place to be enough. I want to love by choice, not by default.
Taking away Facebook even for this week has made me realize something. I have been missing out. I’ve been missing out on silence, contemplation, and listening.
Coming back to school has been, in many ways, a bit underwhelming. I live off campus, my job requires very few hours actually working on campus, and everything seems easy compared to Oxford. I have had many hours to myself. maaaaannnnnnnnnyyy. I love time to myself, but, if you know me, you know that I am an extravert and love being with people. So, I looked for anything to fill the moments.
Going off Facebook made me look the empty spaces in my life in face, made me sit with them, made me read more, and ponder constantly. In these short days, I have already felt the Lord working out questions and struggles that have been in my heart for a long, long time. I believe much of it is simply because I have been still and accepted these quiet moments as precious. It is not immediate.. I still have to settle my mind into a different rhythm, but the tune is already changing, and I like it.
I have been missing out. But not on the “popular status updates.” I have been missing out on the quiet lessons of God’s love and the deep satisfaction of writing and receiving a long letter with someone’s real handwriting.
Ah, what a delight it is to reach back into the richness of the present.