• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Facebook: Worse than a Waste of Time, but with Pix

Matt Labash and Sørina Higgins are mostly right: Facebook is a waste of time. And here are a few more reasons to hate it:

1. I keep my “friend” list to people I have actually met. That means I’m constantly risking annoying or offending nice people who have read my articles or books, or who have heard me speak, or who otherwise want to get to know me better. (See my website, please: It has lots more information than my Facebook profile.) But if I don’t keep my list to acquaintances, then I get deluged with information about people I don’t know doing things I don’t care about.

2. Even the people I do know seem to post all sorts of “status updates” that provide information about them doing things I don’t care about. So you’re tired: So what? So you’ve been up late working on a project: Maybe you should spend less time procrastinating by reading and writing on Facebook and get your freakin’ work done! So you’re celebrating some event in your life that you’re not specifying and I’d have to scroll back through dozens of other people’s postings to find it . . . ah, forget it. Sorry. Warmest congratulations on–whatever.

3. Many of my Facebook friends are very smart people. Not just a little bit smart, but graduate student smart. I know that partly because many of them are, or have been, my graduate students. Yet they so often sound so witless on Facebook that I wonder how they ever got accepted into Regent College and how I ever passed them in my courses. How can a medium of social linkage be a good thing when it provides us opportunity after opportunity to embarrass ourselves and develop contempt for each other? No, I prefer to recall these students in their intelligent mode, thoughtfully stroking their chins in class, slowly raising a hand to offer a well-phrased question or even a properly deferential inquiry as to whether I did, at least in this particular instance, know what the hell I was talking about.

4. I am too vulnerable to feelings of guilt for shirking what I suppose are social obligations. Someone wants me to join a cause about which I know little and care much, much less. Someone else wants me to be a “fan” of something uninteresting or weird or banal. (Become a “fan” of endangered species! Or good government! Or the Bible!) Still another “friend” sends me a goofy virtual gift, or pokes me (Do that again and I’ll break it off), or suggests someone else I should befriend (and now they somehow know that they have been nominated, and are breathlessly waiting to see if I’ll come through–or so I imagine). And, worst of all, someone I don’t like at all but with whom I have to make nice for professional or political reasons then asks me to be his or her Facebook friend. What I’d like to do is become their Facebook enemy and flame them. But instead I have to carefully weigh up expediency and honesty–and who wants to spend time doing that?

No, I’m no friend of yours, Facebook. You might have been a fun thing in your original form for 15-30-year-old singles who had lots of time on their hands and lots of loneliness to assuage. But you’re mostly a timesink, and my life is threatened by those at every turn already. I’d quit you right now, except…

…it is fun to see people’s photos. Astonishing, sometimes. And heartwarming especially to see those of beloved friends and relations far away.

So I’m staying on for that. But only that. Don’t ask me to become a “fan” of anything. Don’t ask me to participate in another pointless survey: “Find Out How Pathetic Is Your Judgment Regarding Wise Time Use by Taking This Easy Quiz!” And do not ever, ever poke me.

But photos? Always a pleasure. Keep posting them, friends!

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