I have been very active in social media these last few years. I look upon my time spent engaging people in this forum as an extension of my ministry and the work that I do in my parish. I have met some wonderful people on Facebook and Twitter and have had some really meaningful conversations. I have reconnected with family and friends from my past. It has been a wonderful means of communication.
However, I came to the conclusion that the list of “friends” I have on Facebook was getting out of control and I needed to make some changes, so I decided to cull the list and remove some people. Part of the reason for this decision is that I was missing posts from family members and was therefore out of the loop on things going on in my own family. I have a rather large extended family located all over the country and this is how we communicate with one another.
This was not an easy decision to make, but most of the Facebook friends I have never met or even corresponded with, so it was not that difficult. So I started through my list and removing people. Almost immediately I started to get messages – “why have you defriended me”, “what have I done wrong”, etc., and I have had one tell me that I was unchristian for doing this. This is exactly why I started this process. I have little or no patience for drama, and the level of drama in social media has gotten way out of hand.
So I continue to reduce my list and I continue to get nasty messages asking why I have dropped people. But I am sticking to my guns and reducing the list and therefore reducing the drama in my life.
I did not come to this decision lightly, I never come to a decision lightly, by the way, and I spent time thinking and praying about it. Now I know it sounds silly to pray about whether or not to cut friends from your social media lists, but I pray about all the decisions I make – it is what I do. But I came to this decision partly from some events in my own life these past few weeks.
Two members of my extended family died from cancer. As a priest I preside at many funerals, and funerals are difficult no matter who the person is, but when it is a member of your family it is that much more difficult. Seeing your family in pain, and not really having any answers for them or even a way to fix it, is difficult for someone whose entire job it is to have answers. But spending time with my family around these two events brought me to the decision that I needed to focus my time better and not get caught up in the drama.
A few weeks back I wrote a column called “Live Like You Were Dying.” The column was based around what we would do if we only had a few short weeks left in our lives – who would we spend that time with and what would we do. I am not saying I only have a short time left, but if we all live like we do the world might be a better place. For some, drama in their lives is important to them. For me it is not, and I would like to reduce the amount that I have now.
Worrying about things you have no control over is very counterproductive and requires vast amount of energy that could best be used on so many other things and helping to make other people’s lives better. There are so many real problems in this world – wars, poverty, hunger, etc. – that need our attention. I do not have time for the manufactured drama.
I do believe that there is a value to social media. Like I said, I have reconnected with family and friends that I had lost contact with over the years. Connecting with guys that I spent time with in the Army and shared those moments that only they understand is, for me, time well spent. Talking with people about issues of theology or church history or even spending time listening and maybe helping out where I can, these are all valuable uses of my time. But engaging in silly arguments over politics or other nonsense is just that, nonsense, and I no longer have the stomach for it.
We are given only so many days to be on this earth and each one of them is a precious gift. I believe we are called to live our lives in the best possible way we can before our time ends. When the book is written on our lives, what do we want our legacy to be?