Further Thoughts on Facebook

I wrote a post last week suggesting that, in its quest to capture our attention, it’s almost as if Facebook wants our worship.  I meant the post to be provocative, and at least for me, it was: the post has provoked some further thoughts, which I share below.

My Name is Andrew and I’m a User

I have a Facebook account and a Twitter account, I use YouTube, and I carry around an iPhone that enables me to be connected whenever I want.  It’s precisely because I’m a user that I’m concerned about what Cal Newport calls “Internet tools” (search engines, social media sites, online encyclopedias, etc.): I see their effects on my own life.   It is because I’ve seen what these tools are doing to me that I’m calling into question our naive and uncritical adoption of Internet tools.

Facebook Is Shorthand

For me, Facebook functions as shorthand for all the other Internet tools.  I don’t have anything against Facebook per se.

Social Media Is Different Than Television

One commenter wondered if I should have included television in my critique.  I don’t think television and Facebook are apples to apples, for several reasons:

  • Television goes in one direction only: I receive it.  Facebook, on the other hand, allows me to transmit messages to the world, and the very act of transmitting those messages in that medium promotes narcissism: it’s all about me.
  • Television isn’t one thing, but a grouping of many things: networks, advertisements, writers, actors, etc. Facebook is a for-profit monolith.  It’s ubiquity and power make it more dangerous than old media.

Social Media Promotes Narcissism

The very nature of the social media promotes narcissism, because they encourage me to make everything about me: my updates, my likes, my reactions.

Social Media Isolates

For all the talk about connectivity, I find that social media and the other Internet tools are more likely to isolate than connect us together.  The more time we spend looking down at our blinking smart phones, the less able we are to cultivate presence and mindfulness.

Social Media is the Enemy of Patience

Everything about Internet tools is about immediacy: immediate reactions, thoughts, and gratification of desires.  If I want something, I buy it on Amazon; if I have an opinion about a current event, I share it to the world.  This immediacy keeps us from developing the virtue of patience, and patience matters because the important things in life require that we wait.

Social Media Trains Me to Need Constant Stimulation

It is shameful how often I find myself in a line somewhere, only to pull out my iPhone.  The way Internet tools have trained us to need constant stimulation is what scares me the most about these tools.

Social Media is the Message

If the medium is the message, then it’s not the content of the various social media platforms that ought to worry us, but the very nature of these platforms themselves.  In other others, it could be the case that even if we eschew all the destructive and evil things on the Internet (pornography, terrorist death videos, etc.), these tools might still warp our minds and twist our wills.

At least, that’s what I’ve started to worry about.

 

 

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3 Reasons to Delete Facebook

It had been coming for a while, but this summer I finally decided I needed to delete social media from my iPhone to maintain my sanity.  Here’s why I deleted Facebook and Twitter, and here are 3 reasons why you should, too.

 

Why I Deleted Social Media from my iPhone

Over the past several years, I’d found that being connected online increased the worry and stress in my life.  It’s now been 3 months since I made my smart phone dumber by deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps, and here are 3 reasons I’m glad I did.

Reason #1: I Have Less Anger and Anxiety

Facebook and Twitter are overrun with keyboard cops and their self-righteous indignation, and the sad thing is that the self-righteous indignation of other people produced self-righteous indignation in me, directed at them.  Anger and self-righteousness come naturally to me: I don’t need social media’s help to feel superior to the people who feel superior.  Without a constant stream of social media outrage at my fingertips, I have less anger and more peace.

Facebook in particular also produces comparison in its users: you are constantly thinking, “I wish I had that or looked like that.”  Facebook too often caused me to break the 10th commandment (that’s the one about coveting, for all you biblical illiterates), and without Facebook on my phone I have less of the anxiety that materialism and jealousy and lust produce in my heart.

I’m not withdrawn from the world, nor am I naive: I read the paper and catch the news every day.  But, there is something about the way social media delivers information that caused me to feel a constant low level of anxiety.  Since deleting Facebook and Twitter from my phone, I experience much less anxiety and worry.

Reason #2: I Have More Focus

When Facebook and Twitter were a fingertip away, I found myself constantly checking and looking at those apps.  The irresistible allure of seeing what was happening made it very difficult for me to focus 0n the things that matter.  Since deleting social media from my iPhone, I find that I’m less distracted and more focused.

And when it comes to prayer there is no question: social media is the enemy.  Distracted and unfocused prayer is no prayer at all.

Reason #3: I Have More Time

Everybody’s busy, but few people are productive.  I found that the constant scrolling and checking and commenting and retweeting that social media encourages meant that I was becoming more and more unproductive.  Since deleting Facebook and Twitter from my phone, I’ve found that I have more time to get things done.  (For example, I’ve read more books since deleting social media, and reading is an activity that gives me peace and helps me become a better leader and preacher.)

What Now?

I still have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but to access them I have to use my laptop, which means, because it takes more effort to login, I’m much less likely to mindlessly scroll through them.  Will I keep my phone social-media-free forever?  I don’t know.  But, I can honestly say making my smart phone dumber has probably made me smarter.

What about you?  Are you willing to try it?

Should a Pedophile Have Unsupervised Access to Your Child?

No healthy parents would ever allow their children to spend unsupervised time with a pedophile.  But, in essence, that’s exactly what millions of parents do when it comes to their children and the internet.  The internet brings into our houses dangers that our parents never had to worry about, dangers about which you and I had better be worried.  I am worried; for me, the challenge of raising a child in today’s sexualized culture is terrifying

Preying on Children By Any Means Available

On Monday, the front page of my local paper had a story about a former teacher who has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges.  It’s a very disturbing story; the teacher, who preyed on teenage boys, would send them pictures of naked women, claim to be a woman, and ask the boys to send him naked pictures of themselves in return.  The teacher would then blackmail those boys who sent him photos into sending him more photos, and worse.  From the Dallas Morning News:

Many of his victims for months and even years had no idea who did this to them, Johnson said. They were “constantly looking over their shoulder and paranoid,” she said. “To them, it was just a matter of time” until their photos would be revealed, she said.

Some parents noticed that their grades suffered and they lost interest in sports, she said.”

The teacher made contact with the boys through various “hook-up apps” on their smart phones.

I wish this were one isolated incident.  Unfortunately, we know that the dangers to children that the internet presents are ubiquitous.

3 Guarantees About Our Kids and Online Sexual Content

I guarantee you that if you have a boy of adolescent age and older, he is looking at internet pornography.  If you have never addressed the issue of pornography with your son or if you have not taken any steps to restrict his internet access (see below), I guarantee he is looking at pornography.  I think moms especially have a hard time acknowledging or admitting that their boys are furtively looking at pornography, but it is true.  (Of course, the sad truth is that many boys and girls much younger than adolescents are also exposed to pornography.  Young children are not safe from these dangers, and neither are our girls.)

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be an adolescent boy these days and have hardcore pornography available after a few short taps on a smart phone.  (Like most men of my age and older, I sincerely thank God that I grew up in the days before internet pornography.)  You may think, “Not my son–he’s not like that.”  You are being recklessly naive.

I guarantee you that there are bad people out there who will use whatever technology available to prey on children.  As soon as a new app is invented, someone somewhere is using it for evil purposes.

I guarantee you that if you don’t take steps to protect and educate your children, no one else will.  Our primary responsibility as parents is to keep our children safe.  But, in the cesspool that is our popular culture, how do we do this?

Parenting in a Sexualized Culture

We can’t get away from the filth of our culture–it’s everywhere.  What we can do, though, is take the necessary steps to protect our kids, and, more importantly, educate ourselves and our kids about these issues.

First: Install A Filter on Your Home Router ASAP.  At my house we use Open DNS.  Though there is a free version, I pay the nominal fee ($19.95 a year) for the enhanced features.  By no means does a filter mean that we don’t have to worry, but it is a necessary step.  There are lots of different options out there–pick one and implement it ASAP.

Second: Educate Yourself About Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.  I know absolutely nothing about how to parent in a sexualized culture, but there are people out there who have wisdom to share.  One such group is a Christian non-profit called pureHOPE.  Last year at my church, we hosted pureHope’s Dan Martin who taught a course on the topic of “Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.”  My wife attended Dan’s course and was both frightened by the reality of what we face as parents and at the same time encouraged by the wise, practical content that Dan shared.

At the very least, you should spend some time on the pureHOPE site and familiarize yourself with their content.  On top of that, I’d recommend seeing if your church or community group can bring out Dan or another one of the pureHOPE presenters to teach on this vital topic.  (I’m sure that there are other great ministries doing work like pureHOPE–I just reference them because I can personally attest to the wisdom they have to share.)

None of Us Would Ever Allow Our Children to Spend Time with Pedophiles

So, why do we allow our kids unfettered access to the Internet, and why are we so determined to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this stuff has nothing to do with our families?

It’s time for us to wake up and do the hard, necessary work of preparing ourselves and our children to navigate this sexualized culture.