There is this incredible scene in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings where Frodo offers Lady Galadriel the One Ring. His offer surprises her, and she imagines what she could accomplish with that kind of power:
In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair!
As she speaks she seems to grow in size and her voice becomes terrible and massive. But then, somehow, she refuses the Ring. Somehow, she turns away from all of that “potential.” She suddenly seems older, almost frail. But also relieved:
I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.
Choosing to diminish is perhaps one of the most counter-cultural things we might choose these days. Choosing to become less (or perhaps to remain who we truly are instead of seeking to be something greater) is the hard way of downward mobility Henri Nouwen talks about.
Why not put the things you know are important, things like your family or your community or your true calling, on the back burner while you take some time to make money, to grow your following, to build a career?
This is the question we are confronted with every day, and how we answer will determine the course of our lives.
* * * * *
We are, all of us, offered Rings of Power. We are all, from time to time, presented with things that, if we take them, promise to increase our platform, our influence, our own little kingdoms. But there is always a price.
Always a price.
Recently I’ve realized that, for me, one of those little tiny Rings of Power is Facebook. That might sound kind of funny to you. Innocent little Facebook? Maybe for you, Facebook is not a problem, but for me? Facebook whispers many promises, the kind that appeal to me and my own deep-seated issues.
“Look at how much they like you,” FB whispers.
“You’re a good writer – the likes are evidence of this.”
“Look how popular you are – so many friends and fans and followers.”
“I’ll help you sell books,” Facebook reasons. “How will you tell anyone your new book is out if I’m not around to help?”
“Publishers won’t be interested in your work if you’re not on Facebook,” Facebook says.
Facebook knows how to speak my language (as each of our own Rings of Power know how to do), and the reasons pile up on one side of the scale, daunting and beautiful and so weighty, so important.
On the other side of the scale, measured up against all of those appealing, valuable, rational reasons for staying on Facebook, are the weightless, powerless, plain-vanilla-kind-of-reasons. These reasons comes to me in a still, small voice, the kind of voice that is not overpowering in the least, the kind of voice I have found easy to ignore in the past. The voice whispers, “Your life is too noisy, your mind is too cluttered. You need to trust that I will make you everything you need to be, that I will give you good gifts. You need to trust that I will not forget about you.”
They sit on the other side of the scale, the weightless reasons, full of silence, simplicity, and trust.
* * * * *
One of the things I heard loud and clear during my 48 hours of silence a few weeks ago was this: “Withdraw from social media. Look for truth and love in the silence. Spend less time caring how many likes you get and more time breathing, more time listening.” I came back determined to do exactly that, but I am learning something about myself: I do not have the strength, right now, to turn away. (Even this moment, as I write, I am checking for likes on something I posted a few minutes ago.) I am not like my wife, who has a FB account she rarely checks. I’m addicted to what Facebook has to offer, and the only freedom for me is the freedom that comes in giving it up completely.
This voice, what it is asking me to do, it doesn’t make any sense. By all accounts, a writer such as me should be building a platform, not dismantling a section of it. I should be posting multiple times a day, using Facebook to grow my reach and my readership. I should use it to become friends with influential individuals. I should be targeting likes and shares and using Facebook to make my voice louder.
But I’ve learned something these last five or six years – when that still small voice speaks, even if what it says doesn’t seem to make any sense, listen. When it tells you to sell and move, do it. When it tells you to go on a cross-country adventure, listen. When it suggests you go on that overseas trip even though you’re in the middle of a tough time financially, go.
The problem with Facebook and social media is that, for most of us, it becomes the noise that blocks out the still, small voice. We forget how to listen. We become battered, driven by the noise around us, the noise that at first has so much to offer, the noise that speaks to the wounded parts of us. So we join in, we shout a little louder. We lose sight of the fact that suddenly all we’re doing is screaming to the world…about ourselves.
“Look at me! Look at me!” we plead, trying harder and harder to project our voice above the chaos. But the louder we shout, the smaller we become.
I’ve become so small. So silly. I’m sorry I haven’t been a better listener. I’m sorry I’ve added to the noise in your life.
* * * * *
I have to be honest: in my heart, I’m still not okay with diminishing. I still want to be famous and popular. Like Galadriel, I want my own little kingdom to be “stronger than the foundations of the earth.”
But I also know the relief that will come at the end of the week when I deactivate my FB and Twitter accounts. When I click those buttons and no longer have access to those particular addictions. In that moment, I will have passed a test. A small test, perhaps, but I will have chosen to diminish. I will have chosen to remain me.
Can it be that the meaning in my life has less to do with having thousands of “followers” than it does knowing the people who live in this small part of my own city? Can I somehow believe that the new creature I am destined to become might not be bigger or fancier or more popular, but smaller and kinder and simpler?
Simply me. Only me.
I’m starting to believe “me” might just be good enough.
* * * * *
Farewell, Facebook and Twitter. I say that with a little disappointment, a little sadness, a tinge of anxiety, and a huge sense of relief.
* * * * *
I’ll share this post through the weekend and then close my accounts. After that I’ll still be blogging about once a week and sending out an email newsletter a few times a month (you can subscribe to that in the upper right corner of this page). I’ve met so many wonderful friends through Facebook and Twitter over the last few years, and I hope we stay in touch. You can always contact me through the blog or email me at shawnsmucker(at)yahoo(dot)com.
32 Replies to “The Real Reason I’m Leaving Facebook and Twitter”
I liked this on fb. Such irony. Commendable action on your part. Listen to the silence, find the still, small voice.
I know. The irony, right? Thanks for always being so supportive, George. I’m glad I met your daughter in Sri Lanka so that our paths could cross.
Thank you for writing this encouragement. I decided a while ago that Facebook is a net negative. But the tiny positives that it gives are so, so hard to give up. I am constantly trying to figure out how to have the courage to walk away from it.
You’ve said it perfectly, Elizabeth, and I agree that the net is negative with just enough to keep you coming back. Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you think you should do.
How timely that I should read this immediately after my morning meditation on Psalm 84:1O-12
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
O Lord Almighty,
Blessed is the man who trusts in you.
May you have grace, strength and courage to love and serve our Lord with gladness and singleness of heart…
That’s a beautiful meditation. Thanks for sharing that.
I love this Psalm, and must tell you that when, at forty, I left a fascinating career helping America’s military and their families, to raise our daughter, I came home kicking and screaming. My job was a worthy one, and it was also self-gratifying. I had grown in many ways both personally and professionally. And yet, I obeyed. Forgive the comparison, but I felt a little like Abraham, “going, not knowing.” The days at home were difficult, despite how much I loved our daughter….days that were no longer filled with media interviews, working with well-known community leaders, or sitting down with four-star generals (not to mention my love for being with “my” 500 volunteers, writing, and public speaking. When I walked away, I cut all ties, and I have never regretted it. God graciously immediately “gave” me that Psalm, not too long after I left my career. I realized a day in His courts was better than a thousand outside. I’m so glad you shared that Psalm!
I was referred to this post via editor friend John Blase who posted it on FB – there are only a small handful of blogs I follow because like FB posts, they take me away from my own writing and reading time. But, when John suggests reading someone’s work, I usually do. I am glad I read yours. You have put into words something I have been struggling with since I returned from a writing sabbatical in France a few months ago. From “knowing” and trusting that still small voice to being addicted to “likes”, I am in this boat with you. I confess that before I attempted to comment here, I looked at your FB page, checked out your books on Amazon (and the reviews/ranks) AND checked your twitter acct. AAAACK! Altho I am laughing, I am embarrassed by this behavior and what it says about me and what I have become. I have raised two sons to believe we are all given a gift and our job is to figure out what that gift is and use it for the greater good – to give it back to the world. I also believe there is a plan for each of us and our greatest joy comes from the messy journey we take to fulfill that plan. I’m not sure FB is supposed to be holding hands with me on that journey. Thank you for the reminder.
I applaud your journey, Shawn. I see you are already an adventurer, a man with courage who dares to take roads most of us pretend we do not see. I look forward to reading about how it manifests in your work…
Margaret, social media is the currency of the day. I had to laugh when I read about you checking out my background because I’ve done the same thing. It’s how we measure and measure up. I’m not confident enough to make sweeping statements about Facebook, but I know the impact it has on my life, and I know I’ll be better off without it. I hope you can navigate those waters and make the right call, whatever that might be for you.
I understand why you’re doing this. So much noise, so many shiny things to take us away from what we’re supposed to be focusing on. I just signed up to receive new posts via email. It’s the writing that matters. If you decide to come back, you will do so without any judgement from me. I understand the love/hate relationship writers have with social media. My very best to you and your family.
Thanks, Katdish. For all your many kindnesses :)
Well done Shawn. Will miss your posts but I admire your decision.
All the best and love to you all x
Shawn, I don’t know you, but already I like you! So, if you will forgive me, I’m glad you haven’t quit FB quite yet. :-) I can’t tell you how much this has resonated with me on multiple levels. I was just lamenting yesterday to a dear friend (by phone), and this was a deep, dark admission, that FB has begun to consume my life. FACEBOOK? Who, I, who have resisted it since its inception? I can’t believe I am even publicly confessing that, because I never in my wildest dreams imagined getting on it, much less *enjoying* it. But a friend recently told me she thought that I would, because I am relational. I guess that is true. And I have started to relate to many people in my own little way and, interestingly, to discover family members with whom we never communicate (mostly extended and out of town family) that I haven’t seen in years. That has been a really lovely plus. But I am also attracted to dribble, or to controversial issues, where I want to weigh in (in part because I might disagree with someone’s take on truth, but also because there is a part of me that likes to prove points, logically). But I also am reading a buncha stuff that matters not one hill of beans . . . spending precious time, wasting time. Does that make any sense whatever? No. So I told my friend, I might need to really cut back on this. The only reason I “got on” the platform, was indeed to build a platform, after a number of years of absence from the publishing and speaking world. But frankly, I don’t really know what I am doing or how to garner all those “likes.” And the authors who encouraged me to do this, don’t seem to be reading what I write anyway. I am rambling on far too long here, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing your heart and for having the courage to do God’s bidding. After my last book was published, God told me to lay down my pen and also my speaking. This made ABSOLUTELY NO EARTHLY SENSE TO ME (especially since it was a ten-year dream in the making). But I obeyed….yes, with tears; yes, with questioning; yes, with angst; yes, with doubts; but WITH DETERMINATION AND THE SURE KNOWLEDGE THAT I WAS DOING THE RIGHT THING. I did that once many years ago with professional classical singing, also with much angst. And five years ago, God led me to sing in a Bach chorus. He resurrected that dream. Whether He does with the writing, I don’t know. But I am telling you, a stranger, my little life story here as a means of cheering you on to know that in the end you will not be sorry. If you please God, then you have pleased the only One you need to. I’ve signed up for your blog, and thank you for the invitation. My FB story (or end thereof) remains to be seen.
Thanks, Lynn. Some very encouraging stuff in there.
I will continue to be intentional about planning my SM time as God leads. This question is something I have pondered for awhile, and as with all else requires wisdom, discernment and clarity.All of our behaviors, choices and actions are lived out before a Holy God…whether acknowledged or not. In Him we live and move and have our being. Period. Wherever we share our lives, hearts and words requires vigilance and sensitivity…to the voice we claim to hear, the One we claim to follow. I get what you are saying. That is why I limit and monitor my SM time, with God’s help. One full week off minimum a month also is helpful. Either way, perspective for Christians is instrumental. Everything is not a message or a moment to be shared on SM. May God give ALL His children wisdom, discernment to heed His voice on SM and off. Period. God bless you in your choices.
Very,very wise, dearest Dawn.
I love this and found myself nodding in agreement all the way through this post.
And there can be other reasons to be on Facebook. It’s all about who is in charge. It can be about ministry. It can be about encouraging. I have friends on another continent that we keep in touch with by way of FB. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a time suck, but it does not have to be.
Yes, there are many wonderful reasons for being on Facebook.
In a month you won’t miss it. I promise. I did not have an account for 2 years, then I started a new one through a generic email account only to enter some Facebook giveaways and follow a few hobby related businesses that don’t have a presence on other channels. It’s just a resource now. I do not miss my real account I once had.
Thanks for the encouragement, Clint.
Personally I’ve found myself often questioning my lack of desire to engage on facebook and social media. It is as if I have to force it to happen… based on the current day “wisdom”, I’m missing out on promoting our book and the non-profit web site Lynn and I started. Seeing what so many others are doing on social media, at times, causes me to feel as if I’m “unmotivated” and “don’t get it” by not engaging frequently. But when I look at what is truly important to me on a daily basis, spending a lot of the time given to me on social media simply seems as if it is a betrayal to what is “important”. Recently in my quiet time that small voice seemed to be saying, “Write an occasional blog about the things this voice tells you to speak about. That is enough.” That is going to be the extent of my social media outreach: posting a blog when the spirit moves me and trusting it touches the life or lives it is meant to speak to. Thanks for sharing, there was a small lingering doubt about finally embracing such a limited role; which is the only reason I saw your post, I was on line doing the obligatory check on what is going on our there on facebook :-) You helped reaffirm this recent decision and reaffirmed it’s okay to focus on what is “important” in my life. God’s Peace!
I think listening is always a great place to start.
I get it, but it still makes me sad. Glad for the newsletter contact.
Thanks for hanging with me on this, Diana.
I get it too. Your writing matters, ironically so too does that of a handful of others who don’t do social media ad nauseum. Go & listen well
Thank you, Jo.
Shawn, thanks so much for this. It was so spot-on that I almost cried. Thank you too for your e-book….delighted to help you continue to do your work in the world.
You’re very kind, Margaret. I actually found it to be a rather emotional experience as well, though I’m not sure why. It certainly touched on some very deep-rooted parts of my soul.
This relieves my worry that I only tweet about once a week. I just can’t get into twitter. But I will always have a soft spot for Facebook where my high school sweetheart found me after 39 years. I believe your words, particularly the Galadriel reference, will help me be more mindful of what I’m doing in the Facebook Forest, so I don’t get lost there as often.
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