Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Facebook Exit"

After reading a very impressive book called The Church of Facebook, I decided to deactivate my account indefinitely. The book did not encourage this, but I deemed it the most edifying thing to do.

I had been fairly active in Facebook for several months. My two previous forays were much shorter. My philosophy of Facebook was to publicize my speaking events, link to important articles, and give some social criticism and biblical exhortation. I was very thin on personal updates and trivia, although I did post not a few wise cracks on other people's posts--maybe too many.

So why did I pull the plug and leave my 277 "friends" behind? First, the signal to noise ratio was not too good. Some of this may have been my fault, since I adopted an "anybody can be my friend policy." I opted for quantity over quality in order to get my message out. I seldom asked anyone to be a "friend," but if I did, it was someone I knew. However, I refused few "friend requests." Given all the "friends," clutter accumulated quickly. Second, I did waste some time looking at others photographs. One person had over 700! Don't worry, I didn't look at many of them. What does that say about our image obsessed culture? Third, I could not escape the bimbo uprisings at the upper left of the pages--babes who were "looking for me." This got tiresome, especially in light of what Jesus says about such things (Matthew 5:27-32). Fourth, my email was flooded with Facebook responses. I suppose I could have opted out of this feature without shutting down the whole thing.

What am I missing in my Facebook-free afterlife? If people really want to contact me, there are myriad of other ways to do so. However, Facebook seems to be becoming the medium of choice for quick communication. Email is already old hat for teens and early twenty-somethings, I hear. It was sometimes enjoyable to find an old friend and contact him or her, but how deep can one go on Facebook? Those with whom I rekindled a friendship should be willing to interact with me in other media, I hope. My 277 are now left bereft of my endless links and preachments, but they may still consult this august and non-award-winning blog.

All in all, I am extremely aware of the need to make the most of our limited time on earth, to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, and to seek first the Kingdom of God. Desipe my philosophy of Facebook engagement, and my general refusal to chatter or post photographs of myself in cute poses (if that is possible), Facebook seemed to be something of an obstacle to more important pursuits. Instead of reading endless updates, I could be reading the Bible or praying or reading a good book or writing articles for publication in real bound volumes!

Selah.

14 comments:

Robert Velarde said...

I use Facebook, but turn off images and Flash in my browser, which cuts down considerably on ridiculous distractions. I try to consistently post edifying and thought-provoking quotes and content, but do indeed see it as something of an uphill battle given some of the absurd status updates I've come across.

The few times I have attempted to enter into any sort of extended rational discourse on Facebook, the medium has not lent itself well to such interactions, probably because that was not ever intended to be its function. It does seem to, by its very nature, foster the transient and superficial over the enduring and deep.

Nevertheless, I do see my activity on Facebook as something of a ministry opportunity, but grant that it's not for everyone and can indeed become too much of a distraction rather than ministry.

Doug Groothuis said...

RV: If I could figure out how to turn off images, I might go back.

Abschaum said...

Doug:

I have had pretty good luck closing the ads by clicking on the "X" at the corner - Facebook asks why I don't want to see it, and I mark "Offensive," and the offensive ads eventually seemed to stop appearing, in favor of other useless (but inoffensive) ads.

I also use FireFox add-ons like AdBlock and NoScript to good effect throughout the Internet. NoScript is especially powerful.

Doug Groothuis said...

I marked "offensive" hundreds of times, but the bimbo kept appearing. I don't know how to use those other features you mentioned, though, sadly.

pgepps said...

I have been thinking about this. However, at present I have been able to keep up vital conversations with scattered people who would have been hard to connect in other media--though email continues to be more efficient. I *generally* only friend people who I have some long personal association with, though there are by now probably quite a few of my almost 500 friends who are distant relations and friends of old friends. I may "purge" someday, but thus far my very active interaction with current friends (many of whom I see frequently) has not been harmed by the presence of other, not as frequent, interlocutors. I have also adopted a "cloud of witnesses" approach, so to speak, by making sure family and church connections are around--thus putting many of my secular friendships cheek-to-cheek with my Christian relationships, with I hope good effect.

But it is a time-suck, and I respect your decision. I resisted getting involved with FB for a long time on just such grounds.

The advertising is a concern.

Abschaum said...

Firefox has a number of powerful ad-blocking add-ons, just go to:

Menu Bar -> Tools -> Add-ons -> Get Add-ons -> search for one of the above programs. Firefox makes it easy to install them.

However, Facebook makes it more difficult to block their ads using these programs. The best way I have found to block the Facebook ads is to right-click on the offensive image (in Firefox), and select "Block all images from creative.ak.fbcdn.net." This seems to get rid of all the images, leaving only a small text residue.

Hope this helps.

Tom Gilson said...

I kept hearing how terribly important Facebook was for networking and communication, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. So I actually sat down with a social-networking consultant and asked her why I should bother with it at all.

She told me, "There are two kinds of Facebook users: those who make content and those who read it." I'm sure there are gradations between the two, but I've decided to stick with one end of the continuum and not to spend time reading it. As for writing content, there's a way to get Facebook to echo excerpts of what I write on my blog, so I don't even have to go to Facebook to accomplish that.

That means I'm not playing the usual games there (and I don't mean just the Facebook application games), and some people wonder why I'm ignoring their updates. I glance at my Facebook home page from time to time, just in case; but I haven't found any need to spend more than a minute or two a day reading it.

So admittedly and unashamedly I am using Facebook as another delivery channel for my blog, and not much more than that. I guess I'm not participating the way a good Facebook user would do, but if I thought being on Facebook meant I had to keep up with even half of what everybody wrote, I would come to the same conclusion you did: I would pull out completely.

I assume you've seen the reports, by the way, indicating that Facebook use is associated with significantly lower grades in college.

A final note, echoing Abschaum: if you use Firefox as your browser, there is ad-blocking software you can attach to it as an extension. Knowing how much you like advertising in general, I think it's something you might want to use, if you aren't already.

Robert Velarde said...

To turn off browser images if you are using Internet Explorer go to Tools -> Internet Options, then select "Advanced" on the tabs. Scroll down and look in the "Multimedia" area to uncheck "Show Pictures," then click "OK."

To turn off browser images if you are using Firefox go to Tools -> Options, then select the "Content" option at the top of the window and uncheck "Load Images Automatically," then click on "OK."

To turn off Flash ads I use Flashblock on Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/433

Becky Vartabedian said...

DRG: Thanks for your thoughts here. I appreciate your insight about the "signal to noise" ratio on facebook. It's easy for this to get out of balance, especially when we opt for having non-Aristotelian friends in our space. :)

Soulcraft - East of Eden said...

Doug - this does indeed work, with Robert's suggestion. However, one problem...with the images off, you can't get a word verification to show on blog entries. There must be another trick to make it easier.
Perhaps you know Robert??

Jesse Wisnewski said...

Personally, I've just used Facebook as a means of connecting with others quickly. As said by Robert above, Facebook does not lend itself well to any sort of depth in communication, but then again, are many that use it often looking for such a thing?

For me, I find it's funny that you wrote about this since I just finished writing a post on "Facebook Christianity," which is more or less a stab at Cultural Christianity (http://reformedandreforming.org/2009/11/26/facebook-christianity/)

Thanks for the blog and I have enjoyed your books.

Which reminds me, I believe you may know a Professor of mine, Dr. Alan Myatt at Gordon Conwell.

Abschaum said...

I have experimented a bit, and the ability to block Facebook ads is intrinsic to Firefox, without any add-ons.

Using Firefox, just right-click on the ad graphic and select "Block all images from creative.ak.fbcdn.net." This seems to eliminate all future ad graphics from appearing, without affecting any other Facebook graphics.

The text of the ad does not seem "blockable," but the ads are much less obtrusive without the graphics.

If you ever want to restore the blocked graphics, go to:
Tools > Options > Content: Load Images: Exceptions. Deselect the image source and close the window. The ad graphics will be restored.

Fletcher said...

I appreciate this post Doug because I overuse Facebook and I really can't explain why? I am an extrovert, but that isn't a worthy rationalizatio for why I go to Facebook more than once every day and read everyone's posts. It turns out to be largely a waste of time. I try to balance my posts between provocative and "light" (the more meaningless ones, humor, things my 3 year old says, pictures) because I have found that if all I post is "heavy" content I get so much contention that I can't keep up with it and I don't want to turn people away from my page. This idea comes from the belief that I may reach someone for Christ through Facebook. I am now thinking that is naive, but then again, you never know who is reading.

I am going to make an effort to cut back on Facebook though. One thing worth noting, is that it takes me about 1 second to post a picture or a video to Facebook using my iPhone, so the posts aren't a time suck at all, it's more the reading of all of the irrelevant postings.

Thanks again for being a curmudgeon. Don't stop.

Mike said...

You could have always just not logged in anymore! Personally, I was always interested in the stuff you posted, and reading people's replies.