Essay / Blog

Fasting from Facebook II

One other thing has surprised me as I’ve unplugged from Facebook, and that is the unsolicited accountability people have offered, at times nearing the neighborhood of righteous indignation. Let me explain.

I borrowed a friend’s big, mean black sign that says ‘Off Facebook for Lent’ and put it where my profile picture normally goes. I did not, however, turn off the feature that forwards my Twitters (yes, I do that, too, though only recently) to FB as status updates. So, while I have stayed off, Twitter hasn’t.

More than once in the last 10 days or so, friends have mentioned, usually jokingly, sometimes with the hint of a harangue my suspiciously lively status on FB. When I logged in today (Sunday is a feast day, after all!), there were a number of comments on my various statuses about the fishy character of my stated Lenten commitment.

To be honest, this has annoyed me. Not overly, and not always. And no, if you were one of those folks, this is not a post intended to skewer you! Furthermore, I suppose this is partly a function of what are normally fairly private decisions being necessarily made public. There’s a curious thing going on here with reference to whatever public/private distinction we’d like to make. I have a lot of FB friends, which in itself is utterly insignificant. What is significant, though, is that 782 people – and the 7000ish people in the Biola FB network know my Lenten doings. And all of a sudden, a number of them have mentioned – in a fairly public, and only faux-private context like my FB wall, or in conversation when I see them – my perceived inconstancy. I don’t know whether to marvel at the potential for real connection and vigorous accountability or to appeal with frustration to the need to re-affirm the distinction between public and private. (‘Mr. Gorbachev, re-build that wall!’)

I’ll keep thinking about this. The blinding pace of technology calls our assumptions about relationships and the rules that order them into question. I suppose one basic point in all this, though, is about the basic requirements of honesty. After all, I could have chosen a much more radical Lenten fast (coffee, say), posted it in a note on FB, and told each and every person who asked (in a fittingly pious, but also nicely off-handed manner) that yes, it was a hard and difficult road but that, yes, I was abstaining from the evils of the coffee bean. And, this could all be a lie. Fact is, if you and I are only FB friends – that is, if we aren’t really friends (sorry, FB fanatics…) – then you won’t know if I’ve lied to you or not. I suppose, then, this is a basic point about honesty and also one about the context of relationship. After all, one way to help me be honest is for you to know me enough – my voice, my habits, my areas of weakness, moments of stress and unbridled joy – to know when I’m lying to you. But that would mean we’d have to spend some time in the same room…

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