I remember when I first told my freshman year roommate that I was an athesist. He blinked twice. I don’t imagine he expected someone to say something like that at the Catholic college we both attended.
He was a product of Catholic schools his whole life, and I remember his casual shrug. Instead of being annoyed or upset, he was curious, and he asked why.
Over the course of many conversations, I found myself being gently persuaded — to admit that I didn’t understand a lot of the universe, and even to find that the things I didn’t understand were some of the most beautiful in life.
What he opened as a crack in my thinking led to more thinking and meditation. Later, in my late 20s, I’d join the Catholic Church. I came to the conclusion that having faith—in anything—was crucially important in the world.
You see, faith to me was like a superpower. It allowed for comfort in despair, and for perspective in joy. It was personal — as I think faith mostly is. It didn’t come from an organized religion, but upon inspection, I had to admit that I felt the presence of the divine in my life.
But most importantly, faith in a higher power allowed for me to have greater faith in others. As Kendrick Lamar said, “If God’s got us, then we gonna be alright.”
The same divinity that I felt, I was sure, was present in the lives of everyone. It’s why religion, though unique and variable, was also universal. It was one of the few things that appears in every region there was civilization. We not only crave understanding but we also feel a presence.
The stories and myths that we develop are varied, some of them are funny. Some of them are cruel. Some of them are destructive. Some of them are affirmations.
And this brings me to Facebook. Not only is Facebook destroying our stories, it’s also destroying our faith, in each other and in ourselves.
How else would you classify a young woman who feels like she’ll never find love, unless she gets surgery to remake her features? Or what about a person who stops talking to a friend because politics has become more important than connection? How about the verifiably completely false information that gets published and pushes armed men and federal agents onto the streets, because they believe they’re protecting American democracy?
Ironically, these are the exact opposite components of friendship that took me from an atheist to someone with religion. The nuance, understanding, kindness and compassion that friend showed me, even when he disagreed with my views — none of those exist on Facebook. It doesn’t bring people together, it ignites arguments and sends them apart.
What can we expect? Facebook was social media 1.0. And, let’s be honest: It sucks. The only thing that’s great about it is how many people are on it, and I’m hoping that the rest of them catch up.
It’s the leading instigator in destroying democracy (like India, Myanmar, Ethiopia, or the United Kingdom) ironically through the insistence on not regulating its own content. And, I have seen friends become more bitter, angry, resentful and dismissive of others’ ideas.
But, I’m far from purist. I’ll keep Messenger, cuz I have a group of friends who use it regularly, and I’m not going to “delete my account,” because, honestly, eyeroll. It’s all there forever anyway. I’m just going to stop using it.
And, I’m an optimist; there’s a day when I think Facebook could definitely figure itself out. If not, there could be a social media service that doesn’t suck and destroy democracy — one that actuall reignites our faith in other people. Right now, I’m believing more and more that that day will require political intervention.
Until then, I plan on unplugging, and I invite you to do the same.