Facebook apparently can’t go more than twenty-four hours without me needing to “check in.” Tuesday evening, and ahead of Ash Wednesday, I logged out of my Facebook and Twitter accounts. For those keeping track at home (and reading this from a link to those two social media platforms), I decided to “publicize” the blog posts by keeping the accounts attached to WordPress. What I found comical about Facebook’s algorithm is that within twenty-four hours of logging out I received an email that a “friend” had update a profile and that I needed to check it out. The person is important to me in my field of study, but we are not close friends (he has ignored direct emails from me, so I know we are not close). Facebook keeps tabs on my browsing its page, and when I am not there for one day, it needs me to come back. Though I have never had a girlfriend do this to me, Facebook appears to be a bit like a stalking ex. Why haven’t you called me? When are we going out again?
Within forty-eight hours, I got an email that said I had activity on my timeline that needed my attention. No, Facebook, I don’t need to look at all those nice things folks clicked or wrote to me. If I thought the email from the site was intended to show how my friend groups dealt with their lives and shared cute pics of cats, dogs, and children, then I might log back in to see the news. But it doesn’t want me there for my friends. Facebook needs me there for its revenue. The advertisers bet on my presence and Facebook, along with its shareholders, gets the money. The reason for the Lenten fast from social media is that I need time to register why I do certain things. Enjoying my friends’ posts about children and travels or knowing about someone’s grief, those are the reasons I joined Facebook. I did not join for the ads. They are there so I can enjoy my friends’ posts, but they clutter my life (and as we learned more than a year ago, they shape our opinions of the world).
Last year, I passively accepted that these messages would appear in my inbox and I dutifully returned after Easter. This year, I may be taking a more active stance. I don’t need Facebook, even as I enjoy it (and Twitter is a complete waste of time for me). Finding that balance is a reflective journey. This year I realized I should be pissed that Facebook wants me back because it makes them more money. For all of our talk about being a religious nation, we should probably start to admit the religion is about money.