Monday, February 6, 2017

How Facebook Became God

Click. Read. Like. Scroll. Comment. Repeat.

Simple actions with great power. Power to encourage, power to wound, power given and power taken.

And power, when wielded loosely and unwittingly, can be a terrible thing.

Two weeks ago, I had a frank moment of revelation that life couldn't continue on as it was. I felt exhausted, angry, frustrated and powerless. And I felt it all the time.

I was addicted to clicking on my browser, to watching Facebook load, to seeing the number of notifications pop up in the right corner. To knowing there were things to read, videos to watch, photographs to see, stands to take.

Addicted to the god on my screen.

You see, we can make god a lot of things. It can be the thing we care about the most in our lives, like making money or our families or our belongings. It can be the ideas or opinions we hold dearest, like politics or religion or our philosophy of parenting. It can be what we spend all our time and energy working towards or thinking about, like money, career, even happiness. It can be what we depend on the most for affirmation and identity. And it can be to whom or what we relinquish all our power.

Facebook, my friends, can be a dangerous place. Because on Facebook, all of those possibilities, all of those things we look for in or assign to our god can be found.

And when we give it too much time, we give it exponentially more power. The power to make us feel (though elusively and vaguely) connected. To feel good, to feel right about something and surround ourselves with only people who agree. We give it the power to affirm our identity or to plummet us to a point of despair. We give it the power to control our emotions, our thoughts, even the direction our day might take. We give it the power to keep us mired in what's on screen instead of what surrounds us.

This affects the very core of who we are, who we were created to be.

As a Christian, I believe I am created in the image of God. Made beautiful in his sight, brought into relationship with Him through the life, death and resurrection of His son Jesus and invited into abundant life through His Spirit. A life that is submitted ultimately to the power of God but that lives in the power that He then gives me, power to deal with all that life has, fighting with joy, hope and the knowledge that I am never alone.

When Facebook is god, this all changes. I see the ugly in myself and others more acutely. I feel the pull and destruction of comparison, rather than the deep challenge and joy of honest encouragement in real relationships. I am blown here and there all day long by anger and frustration and petty humor and confusion and the need to be affirmed by "likes" and comments. And it doesn't end when I shut the screen. It translates into real life in quicker cynicism, deeper sadness, chronic distractedness, shorter attention spans and fewer true relationships.

That, my friends, is not abundant life. It is the life of someone who has paid homage to the wrong god.

I have been off of Facebook for a little over a week now. At that point of revelation I knew I had to stop. That all the rage and chaos I was feeling inside was a result of a bad decision I was making over and over and over again in the vain hope of feeling less lonely, more connected, more aware and informed. Every time I opened my computer I was looking for something I really could not possibly find there.

Purpose. Life. Joy. Friendship.

Those first few days I felt lost, almost adrift. Like something had died or been taken away from me. As a stay at home parent, sometimes Facebook was my only means of communicating with other human adults during the day and I missed it. I longed for that feeling of being with people, even though that feeling of connectedness was just an illusion.

Sometimes we are so used to the poor version of something that we will cling to it believing it is full of riches.

I knew, though, from truly worshiping my first love, the God of the Universe, that those were not really riches. So I waited.

And soon things changed. I knew this was a moment straight from God. A gift in the midst of a chaotic season of life to take stock. To pray. To make some decisions. To invite some close friends into prayer and dreaming and hoping for what life can be.

When there was a calm moment of a child playing independently, I cleaned up the kitchen or sat for a moment and prayed for him, instead of quickly trying to get online.

When there was a child waking up from a nap, I didn't feel annoyed or interrupted because I had to shut my computer in the middle of completing a thought on a political post.

When the house was quiet, I pulled out my guitar or my journal or a book. I walked outside and dug in the dirt. Or wrote a letter.

I smiled more.

I made it to the gym and didn't wonder the whole time if there were things I was "missing" in being offline.

I initiated more dance parties around the house.

I spent more time with actual adult human beings.

I said yes to some really, really good things, both in my personal daily rhythms and in my community.

I complained less.

I hoped more.

I began to long for time with Jesus in a way I hadn't in awhile.

And in all of it, I stood up straighter. I felt less burdened, less distracted, more tuned in to what was immediately around me.

Was life perfect? Of course not. It can't be. I had a stomach bug, a toddler was working on molars, life in all its noise and grit went on. But it went on with my head held a little higher. With my hope fastened more surely on God, not Facebook.

Getting off Facebook wasn't a cure-all. It was one step, one big step for me, in saying no to a major, destructive distraction so that I could say yes to the many more beautiful opportunities I was no longer seeing.

And let me make something clear. I don't think it is Facebook's fault. I chose to be on it all the time. I kept turning to it again and again even as I felt myself changing. I gave it the power it held over me.

Some of you are thinking it sounds crazy. That something so silly could not hold so much power.

But let's not kid ourselves...whether it is Facebook or career or romance or any number of things or ideas or people, we all have that innate tendency to look to something or someone to define us, to fulfill us. We search for it in small ways or in big ways, but we are always looking. And the way I see it, life is one long journey in figuring out how to keep my eyes fixed on God, not on the things of this world. One never-ending decision to wake up and choose peace, choose joy, choose hope and love.

To choose God.

And any time I start to choose something else first, all of me suffers. I learned it 30 years ago as a young Christian and again a hundred times since.

Each time it sticks a little longer and grows a little deeper, by the grace of God.

So, I am taking it one sweet, slower, facebook-free, God-seeking moment at a time right now. And loving it.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I am so glad God is patient enough to teach me this over and over and over again...