Facebook – by far America’s biggest time-suck and acceptable addiction – is something I’m giving up for Advent this year. As an advocate for increased use of social media strategy and tactics within the church this decision might seem counterproductive, but, for me it’s necessary and critical to my mental health. Here are my reasons:
1. Facebook is a Distraction
Have you ever caught yourself sitting in a quiet room with your spouse, significant other or friend both scouring Facebook for the latest updates, check-ins and comments from your Facebook friends? I have, and more times than I’d like to admit. We are the most connected, yet, least engaged generation in history. Being silent or still is almost painful and virtually impossible these days. In a season where the anticipation of Christ’s birth should be first and foremost on my mind I’ve managed to drown it out with (among other things) the noise created by a social network. It distracts me from Christ. It distracts me from my wife. It distracts me from my little girl. It distracts me from friends and family standing there in flesh and blood ready to create new memories.
2. Facebook is an Addiction…Literally
The American Society of Addiction Medicine begins their definition of addiction by describing it as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” Over half of Facebook users visit Facebook at least once per day. According to this article, “… therapists say they’re seeing more and more people who’ve crossed the line from social networking to social dysfunction.” Facebook offers you a brain reward. I’ll go as far as to say that when using Facebook your brain emits endorphins – those little feel good neurotransmitters that make life pretty great for a while. The aforementioned article provides five signs that Facebook has become an addiction:
- You lose sleep over Facebook
- You spend more than an hour/day on Facebook
- You become obsessed with old loves
- You ignore work in favor of Facebook
- The thought of getting off Facebook leaves you in a cold sweat
I’ve come up with a habit I affectionately call the “Facebook tick”. The setting is where I’m either idle or in a room with people I’m not eager to engage with. In one fluid and automatic hand motion I pull my phone out of my pocket, unlock and tap on Facebook. It’s my comfort zone, my escape, my addiction and excuse to disengage from reality at any given moment.
Facebook can take priority over the most important and real things in my life while simultaneously creating a false sense of reality which my brain responds positively to. This brings me to point number three.
3. Facebook Creates a False Sense of Reality
On Facebook I’m not only the best version of myself, I’m also interpreting other’s lives as more fantastic than my own. My tendency has been to feel the need to post photos, updates and check-ins to either compete with or counter the often depressing false-reality perpetuated by the Facebook reality distortion field that my life isn’t as exciting or rewarding as my peers. In essence, Facebook gives me the opportunity to prove to myself and those around me that I’m living life and doing it a little better than you, thank you very much.
I can allow other’s updates on Facebook to tap into those deep recesses of my brain where insecurity & worthlessness live and feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, self pity and discontenment in my life. This is of course a false sense of reality and in complete conflict with what not only God says about me but how my wife, daughter, friends and family feel about me. If I were to go back and look at my Facebook post frequency my guess is that it was highest when I was feeling the most discouraged and needed to convince myself and others that I really did have an interesting life.
Indulging in this false sense of reality is counterproductive to my pursuit of what’s in front of me and utterly destructive to my relationship with Christ.
4. Facebook Celebrates Me
Our culture is already a category 5 rapid of self-satisfaction without millions being handed a platform where the spotlight is always on us. Facebook celebrates me – my thoughts, my quips, my updates, my check-ins, my connections, my relationships and my need for affirmation (i.e. “Like”). With Scripture delicately stating that it’s not about me, Facebook is screaming that it is. When I’m celebrating myself there’s little-to-no time to celebrate anything or anyone else which is why, in this Advent season, I feel justified in turning my spotlight off.
The above things are true of me, but I recognize that they may not be true of everyone. Ultimately, my goal is to remove things that prevent me from recognizing and celebrating the coming of Christ. For you it might be something else … like Netflix, your iPhone, shopping, or Lolcats. Here’s my challenge to you – identify it. Find those distractions and make an explicit commitment in the comments below to remove them for the entire month of December. Feel and embrace the anxiety when your brain begins jonesing for these things.
I’ll end with this – about 3 months ago my iPhone was stolen. At first it caused a sense of anxiety in me to feel so disconnected but after about a week I began to embrace my new normal and I actually noticed my health improve, anxiety drop to an all-time low and my sleep patterns change. For a little while I was less connected than I had ever been, and it was amazing. Of course that all went out the window when I bought a new iPhone, but, for a brief moment I felt free. My focus had shifted. It was almost as if I’d been walking with my head down and for a brief moment was able to look up and have a moment of clarity.