My reasons for giving up Facebook this Lent

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This Lent, I gave up Facebook. I did not consciously decide to sacrifice social media for Lent- rather my decision to deactivate Facebook coincided with the beginning of Lent.

Those who disdain social media find support in a number of arguments to shun social media, such as a well-grounded fear of breach of security, feelings of isolation brought on when virtual world replaces the physical world and the discontentment which social media brings in our own personal and professional lives (when we see our peers posting their achievements and important life events online). In my case, what triggered it off was the overwhelming realisation that while Facebook might have solved the ‘access’ problem, it is not a place for forging real bonds; this probably fits in with the apt description of Facebook as a social ‘network’ with all the negative connotations that the term ‘networking’ denotes to me. Alongside deactivating my Facebook account, I also removed Facebook Messenger from my phone.

In retrospect, I think that there were many small events and experiences leading to this dramatic decision. Not long ago, I received the heart-breaking news that a friend of mine had passed away. I heard about his death through Facebook as mutual friends posted ‘Rest in Peace’ remembrance messages. What irks me about using Facebook to post condolence messages is the hypocrisy of the people posting those messages who would post about how much they were enjoying their life, when only a few hours ago they had posted how devastated they were at the loss of their friend.

In another disheartening experience, someone created a fake email account using my sister’s Facebook profile picture to send emails for job opportunities to college students in India. We got to know about this identity theft when a friend forwarded the fake email to my sister, asking her if it were indeed my sister who had sent that email.

The strongest push for deactivating my Facebook account came unexpectedly from my LL.M. course while studying Artificial Intelligence in one of the modules. It is indeed scary that we are blissfully unaware of the amount of information in the hands of Facebook and Google, leaving one to wonder, “Is the internet really free, or are we paying a price higher than is called for, for the sake of “connecting with people”?”

What is interesting is how my decision to leave Facebook has impacted my life. Surprisingly, nothing has changed in my life. There were some practical considerations, for instance, how would I communicate with the editors at The Cambridge Student, when all the commissions for various articles are posted in FB groups. I came around this problem by emailing my editor directly with my own ideas for pieces. There is always a fear that I am “missing out on opportunities”, but I realise that sometimes it is okay to miss certain opportunities because too many opportunities also risk distracting you from your main goals.

I also feel something akin to a spiritual cleansing where I am automatically saved from squandering my time online or facing a cognitive load of information (information which is of no relevance to my life) by being over-exposed to others’ lives online. I realise the need for us as humans to rediscover meaningful ways to communicate with each other- I don’t disbelieve Facebook’s power in making us only a click away from connecting with someone (it is almost magic!) but it is time to reconsider whether Facebook is the only way to strike up a conversation with someone.

Just today, I read about Cambridge graduate, Matthew Falder, now infamous as one of the most dangerous paedophiles the world has known. To me, social network is steadily becoming a bleak and dystopian world. Security and privacy concerns aside, I think social media is bringing out the worst in people where insensitive remarks are made without second thought, only because it is easy to hide behind a screen and bully others for their beliefs and opinions.

If giving up something for Lent leads to “purification and enlightenment”, my hope is that by giving up Facebook I am able to find inner peace (brought on by detoxifying oneself from an addiction), and form bonds with others which are deeper than those existing in the virtual world.

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