My Facebook Exit had been a long time coming. The platform had started to make me uneasy a couple of years ago and not just because of the censoring or the privacy issues or the propagandizing or the politics or the ads popping up every time I had a conversation about buying something near my phone. I had grown bothered by the whole concept of an online reality. The relationships gave a feeling of closeness without any actual substance. The discussions gave a feeling of interchange without any actual dialogue. The virtue signaling gave a feeling of making the world a better place but did nothing to actually make the world a better place.
I started to realize:
- Nobody on there actually knows me and I don’t actually know any of them. We only know carefully crafted snippets about each other via funny quips about our day and photos that only get posted if we don’t look too fat in them.
- Nobody cares about my opinion. This was particularly hard for me to get since I am an opinionated person and, personally, love my opinion.
- I am not going to change anyone’s mind on social media because—see #2. I could have all the eloquence of Clarence Darrow but it would be bupkis in online discussion.
- Typing long diatribes about the world’s ills doesn’t really do anything to rectify the world’s ills.
- I did not like the junkie-esque feeling that welled up within me everytime I posted something and waited for people to recognize my acumen with likes and comments.
- It was all just so… fake.
So when the censorship started up in November, I was primed to join the Exit. When I deactivated my account, I was like Neo waking up in The Matrix, only with more clothes on. I was in a new reality. Actual reality. There was sunshine and birds singing and nobody telling me to “educate yourself” or putting hand clap emojis in between all of their words.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my Facebook Exit:
- I’m far more comfortable with in-person relating, which is saying a lot because I’m an introvert. In person, we can each see each other as a human being and we are, therefore, kind to each other. We can see the facial expressions, mannerisms, hear the tone of voice—all things that help avoid misunderstanding. And best of all, we can see each other’s smiles and hear each other’s laughter instead of just seeing some sterilized smiley face in a comment.
- There are other ways to communicate with your spouse outside of posting memes on their wall. For instance, you can text them memes. Or go really old school and email them memes.
- I have an astounding amount of freed-up time now that I don’t have a feed to scroll through, which is good because it turns out I kind of have a busy life on account of the kids and the house I recently discovered having left the Matrix.
- I have much more peace now that I’m not spending a fraction of each day scrolling through a feed that is filled with panicky news stories about the latest thing that is going to kill me or smug political posts.
- I’m still pretty sure nobody cares about my opinion, but they’ll fake interest if they work for tips.
- Hugs from kids and tail wags from four-legged kids are far more satisfying than likes or comments.
- Surprisingly, actually participating in rectifying the world’s ills gives more than just a pretentious feeling of accomplishment. It gives the actual accomplishment. Actual accomplishment is highly underrated in our current culture.
Social media is social without being personal. Users connect, but there’s no connection. It’s a created and carefully curated reality, but it’s not reality-reality.
What the makers of the Matrix got wrong is that we don’t wake up plugged into the Matrix. We voluntarily plug ourselves into it. We don’t need an ephemeral liberator like Morpheus to give us the red pill. The red pill is as simple as deactivating and deleting accounts, putting our phones down for a while, rejoining reality-reality and making social interaction personal again. I believe this to be especially true in the case of evangelical efforts which need to get back to personal because, as Peter Maurin said, love is personal and Christ is love.
The dystopia is not outside the Matrix, it is the Matrix. The dystopia is inside our smart phones that offer us virtually everything we think we want but nothing of what we need. They make us numb, inhuman and loveless.
How do I live in the real world again? you ask. I’m still grappling with this myself but I’m starting small:
- Don’t pick your phone up at stoplights. Instead, roll down your window and give some money to the homeless guy panhandling that you normally ignore. Ask him his name. Tell him you’re going to pray for him. Ask him to pray for you too.*
- Visit the friend you’re so fond of on Facebook. If you like their online persona so much, imagine how much you’ll like the whole person.
- Maybe send your mother a letter through snail mail instead of a text. Nobody gets snail mail anymore. She’ll love it and it may make her forget the guilt trip she had planned for you.
- Go outside with your kids or your dog. It turns out, when not on our phone, we have all these other senses to engage aside from our sense of vision and sense of outrage. In fact, the more time you spend outside of your phone, the more your sense of outrage will shrivel up and disappear.
- Read a good book. Try some literature, which I know sounds boring, but it’s not. When you don’t have to read it as an assignment, it’s actually pretty awesome. Start with The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. It’ll give you a healthy revulsion for phoniness and pretension. And 1984 by George Orwell might be a good chaser.
- Pray and read a good study Bible. It will fill the spiritual void left behind by not sharing all those “Share and type an AMEN if you love Jesus” memes.
Take the red pill. Wake up. Live your life instead of posting about living life. Unless you’re a blogger.
*An idea I heard from Matt Fradd and loved.