Fasting From Facebook
I feel liberated today. I deactivated my Facebook account -- perhaps only temporarily; time will tell. With Christmas only a week away, however, I decided to focus my mind on the real world instead of the social networking virtual world where everybody and his brother is your "friend" and people often forget the rules of civility and common courtesy. I plan to stay off Facebook at least through the Christmas season to celebrate the birth of Jesus and enjoy real and deep face-to-face friendships instead of the faux, flip "friendships" of Facebook.
Once before I dumped my account when I got sick of the drama and narcissism and only went back after I decided to create a Les Femmes page. Since the Facebook world is so large, it's a good place to disseminate news and to offer counter cultural ideas and comments. But it's also an easy environment for gossips and snipers. I've seen too many relationships damaged through Facebook to be easy with it. My oldest child calls Facebook a tool of the devil, a tongue-in-cheek comment since she is a user, but I know what she means. People seem to lose their inhibitions and will publicly post nasty things they would be unlikely to say to someone "face to face." Perhaps that is inevitable in a world where people spill their guts everywhere with no apparent guard over their thoughts or tongues.
Personally, I see Facebook as a tool which can be used (like a hammer) for a legitimate purpose (like building a house) or for a wrong purpose (like clobbering someone). As a mom and gramma, I love keeping up with the day-to-day events of my children who live far away and with extended family we seldom see. Facebook can be valuable and legitmate tool in that respect. But I've also seen Facebook used as a weapon to pound someone into the dirt and humiliate them by doing it in front of the Facebook world.
I know someone reading this will say, "Physician, heal thyself." I'm often accused of being mean and evil for speaking the truth about issues like homosexuality and abortion. But there's a big difference between discussing issues -- either privately or publicly -- and taking someone to task publicly over something that is a prudential matter. The only time I publicly criticize someone is when he or she commits a public scandal. A Catholic pro-abortion politician, like Nancy Pelosi, must be confronted in public to minimize the likelihood that her public actions will lead others into sin. If, on the other hand, I don't like someone's tone, or think they are sharing more than is prudent, or I don't like a personality defect they exhibit, that's a matter for private discussion. And I might add, that private discussion is useless unless the person being corrected knows they are truly loved by the person making the correction. The older I get, the more I realize that the only people I can impact in that way are the ones closest to my heart. And, let's face it, how many of those people exist in anyone's life?
St. Francis de Sales is the patron of authors, journalists, and writers. Everyone on Facebook fits into the "writer" category so it would behoove us all to consider St. Francis' philosophy. He said we should always be most critical of our own actions and most charitable about the actions of others. Imagine how different Facebook would be if people took that admonition to heart.
Spero columnist Mary Ann Kreitzer is a member of the Catholic Media Coalition and writes at LesFemmesTheTruth.