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My One and Only Week on Facebook

Last week, on a whim, I signed up for a Facebook account. I had no friends and no idea what I was doing. So I asked for advice and begged for friends. I got both. A bunch of people--everyone from students at my church, to a very helpful atheist professional blogger, to Christian uber-blogger Tim Challies--took the time to thoughtfully answer my questions. I learned a lot and got a kick out of many of the humorous answers. And if all that weren't enough, many of you "friended" me.

For the past seven days I've really enjoyed Facebook. It is a lot fun and a great way to connect with people. I now understand why it's so incredibly popular. But today I decided to bring my Facebook career to an abrupt end. I'm weird, huh? But here are some of the reasons I'm calling it quits...

First, I just don't have enough self-control not to check my page constantly. In one week I saw what many of you warned me about: it's addictive. I found myself tempted to update my "status" every five minutes. "Joshua Harris is walking across his office. Joshua Harris sitting in his office chair. Joshua Harris is wasting valuable time describing what he is doing."

This year I'm starting work on a new book and when I'm writing I am looking for any excuse not to write. When I'm supposed to be writing I am so easily sidetracked. I want to clear my inbox, weed the garden, answer emails that I've already answered, trim my nails...you name it, I am looking for distraction. If I had the temptation to check my Facebook during a writing project, I'd be a goner. The book would never get written.

But even if I weren't writing a book, I don't need another reason for staring at a computer screen. I'm constantly needing to evaluate is how much time I spend emailing, browsing and blogging. Now obviously a lot of that activity is good, useful work. But sometimes it can be a time-waster. I think God's been helping me improve at knowing when to unplug from cyberville and connect with the real, rich world of reality--playing with my kids, talking to my wife, taking a walk. Throwing Facebook in the mix of my online options is just a little too much for me right now.

The other reason I feel right about making my time with Facebook just a visit is a little harder to explain. How do I put this? I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit. Does that make any sense? Without any help from the internet I'm inclined to give way too much time to evaluating myself, thinking about myself and wondering what other people think of me. If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness. I need to worry more about what God is thinking of me. I need to be preoccupied with what he's written in his word, not what somebody just wrote on my "wall."

And, finally, I need to read more. There are so many good books I want to read and so little time. If I added up the few minutes here and there that I spent checking Facebook this past week it wouldn't be an insignificant amount of time. I'd rather give that time to reading.

Anyway, all of the above is totally personal and is in no way an indictment on other Facebookers. This is just where I'm at right now. Who knows...I might be back when the kids are grown and the book is written and I have more self-control. Okay, it might be awhile.

To all the people who so very kindly "friended" me I'm so sorry to have wasted your time. I hope we can still be friends in the real world.

Thanks for letting me visit.

Update: One year after writing this post I decided to give Facebook another try. Why? Because I learned that by turning off all alerts I can better keep it under control. And also because I plan to collect ten million friends and then demand that they pray for me every day while I write my book (grin). Seriously, I hope to use Facebook as another way to connect with people about my new book and, Lord willing, the conference tour to support the book in 2010.

Comments (41)

All the best for your new book!

You've just done another thing that means I really respect you! Lots of people have this problem but just don't want to give it up. Thanks Josh, for being my 'friend' but thanks even more for deciding that Facebook is just not worth it.
I'll be praying for you as you write your new book.

I applaud your decision. May God bless you and all that He is doing through you!

josh, you've nailed it. self-forgetfulness is more difficult when facebook is so accessible. i've had to discipline myself to check it once or twice a day. imagine a status that said something like "so-and-so is...concerned about what God thinks of him."

Bravo! Very wise.

Thanks for your humble thoughtfulness Josh.
I know I was challenged by what you and Kenneth had to say about facebook and it has helped to evaluate my motives. (Am I getting on because I want to see if anyone has said anything to me? or Am I getting on to use it to communicate with others)

Should you decide to come back, here's the Facebook group for Sovereign Grace: http://facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204539310 -- There's over a thousand people in it, and it's great for networking :)

It's also an EXCELLENT tool for evangelism! Just a thought :)

Love, in Christ,
B²

P.S. What's the new book on?

I just want to thank you, Josh for your response post to me. I am so thankful that I printed it out before you left Facebook. It was/is an encouragement for me to press on. Your words were/are a treasure that I am adding to all my "wrestlings with God" in this pursuit of making HIM my all in all. I am listening to your sermon "Is He Enough" right now and it is revealing much of the discontentment in my heart. I want to live out Psalm 27:8 - When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee, "Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek." I want to remember always "the destiny He rescued me from." I want to get lost in the love story of God capturing my heart! I will "hang in there." Thank you for that encouragement! My parents wanted me to tell you how thankful they are for you too...They are thankful for the grace God has bestowed on you and the wisdom He has granted you "beyond your years." They say, "Glory be to our Great God!" :) We are praying for you as you write your new book!

I just want to thank you, Josh for your response post to me. I am so thankful that I printed it out before you left Facebook. It was/is an encouragement for me to press on. Your words were/are a treasure that I am adding to all my "wrestlings with God" in this pursuit of making HIM my all in all. I am listening to your sermon "Is He Enough" right now and it is revealing much of the discontentment in my heart. I want to live out Psalm 27:8 - When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee, "Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek." I want to remember always "the destiny He rescued me from." I want to get lost in the love story of God capturing my heart! I will "hang in there." Thank you for that encouragement! My parents wanted me to tell you how thankful they are for you too...They are thankful for the grace God has bestowed on you and the wisdom He has granted you "beyond your years." They say, "Glory be to our Great God!" :) We are praying for you as you write your new book!

Thanks Josh. You have inspired me to discuss Facebook and our motivations at my next family meeting with the kids.

Thanks Josh,

Much of what you said is very helpful. Facebook does take up time that could be used more wisely elsewhere. However, for someone in a college who is involved in ministry on campus, it has become a great way to get connected to individuals and invite them out to events for the sake of sharing the Gospel. Until i'm out of college, i'll probably still use Facebook for that purpose and then delete my account. Everything you mentioned is something I want to guard against. Thanks for your thoughts!

Being a bit lost when it comes to online networking, I managed a Facebook account for about five minutes. I know a lot of people, though, who get obsessed and don't recognize it's a problem. I'm very impressed that you are removing the temptation.

"I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit." I think you hit the nail on the head.

I posted this on Justin Taylor's blog, but thought I should repost it here too:

"I generally haven't been a fan of social networking sites (myspace in particular). However, I have found Facebook to be a good way to keep in touch with a large group of friends. There isn't a whole lot to do there and that's what I like about it. I hardly find it egocentric to read about what my friends are doing, struggling with and asking prayer for. My blog is a much worse place for me to obsess about myself :). If I want to get a quick overview of what's going on in my friends' lives (not just local ones, but ones around the country), Facebook is a good way to do that efficiently.

And yes, I actually have real-life interaction with those people!

So, I guess my concern is that (especially in Sovereign Grace circles) what Josh Harris said is sometimes put on par with a papal edict.

Of course, not in any official sense of the word, LOL - but in the Christian "peer pressure" sense.

I can just see the parents telling their kids to stay off Facebook because "Josh Harris said so." (Which he didn't!). Sigh....if that's the case, they really, really, really missed to the boat.

Teach your kids discernment and to follow Christ, not to follow the crowd - either the "Christian" or secular. Find the motives of why your kids (or adult friends) are on Facebook and start from there.

Yes, you can spend way too much time on Facebook, like anything. (I personally can get lost in Wikipedia :).). However, if that's where your life is, then you have a problem. Just my 2 cents.

cool. you can be my friend now.

that's really funny because i just closed my facebook account only after a few days of using it for some of the very same reasons! :)

Thanks for this post Josh. One thing you wrote above that I identify a lot with is having self-control when it comes to spending time on the internet/email. I've been talking with a few Christian brothers about this, and we noted how we all struggle with "cyberville" as a procrastination device. There are so many other edifying ways we can be using our time, yet we noticed how we spend most of our time at home in front of the computer screen. Any theological and/or practical thoughts on how to develop a Spirit-enabled, healthy self-control in this area? Gracias!

Hi Josh,

Just wondering why you would not post my previous comment on your post?

I wasn't spamming. My comments were sincere, meaningful and relevant.

Thanks,
Dennis

"I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit."

That is one honest hard core truth!

"If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness."

Thank you for putting it so blunt.

Grace and Peace

Thanks for visiting! If you ever come back, friend me!

Kudos to you. And since when did the number of friends in my network actually dictate how cool I am? If they were my real friends they'd pick up their phone and call me or *Gasp* get in their car and come and visit me.

I figured if you've got more friends on myspace or facebook than the ones you've actually seen face to face then there's something seriously wrong!

Good Point Josh!
I don't think I'm going to get rid of my Facebook but I think I'm definitely going to consider how much time I spend on there (it needs to be reduced a lot) I know what you mean when you said you just want to live on there. LOL

am really enlightened by ur post. will definitely rethink abt my facebook account.

God bless.

This is something that I struggle with too. I use it to see what my friends are up to, those who I don't see a lot. But it is a big time waster and I think I will try to limit the time I spend on there.

amen! I also signed up for facebook thinking it would help ministry in some way. What it actually did was take something very precious away from real life interaction with people. For that, and another personal reason I decided to ditch facebook and pray everytime I was tempted to go back on. Thanks Josh for standing up and speaking on this.

Josh,

I applaud your decision. I went through the whole Xanga thing a couple of years ago and I was allowing it to rob my time big time. I just didn't have the self discipline!

blessings! Sheila

I'm a really young musician about to self-do my first CD, and I've been considering getting some kind of thing in the genre of FaceBook (MySpace, Facebook, I don't know.) I've visited some of my friends' MySpaces and I've evaluated that it's not really effective to have to go through thousands of pages of ungodly garbage to get to a good Christian page, and, judging my by friends, it's pretty hard to stay Christian on MySpace anyway. I read above where someone said they ended up ditching facebook and praying eyerytime they were tempted to go back. So, since you've had the experience: how exactly is facebook? Is it full of the junk and garbage like MySpace or is it much more controlled? Do you think it would be worth it in my case? If it ends up going bad and I leave, I don't want to have to "pray everytime I'm tempted to go back on." Thanks!!!

Your article helps me see, in more detail, why my dad advised me not to join facebook. Thank you for your honesty. Good luck on your book.

Your article helps me see, in more detail, why my dad advised me not to join facebook. Thank you for your honesty. Good luck on your book.

That is exactly why I quit Facebook. My friends didn't get it! It was hard to explain, but now I know that it takes the spotlight off of God and puts it on me...a useless waste of light. Taking myself off of there has corrected my relationship with God and it's such a relief. Nice post!

I have been a Facebook (FB) account holder since last year. I got it shortly after having subscribed to MySpace the year before. Looking at the degeneration of MySpace and the continued cleanliness of FB, I decided to cancel MySpace and continue my networking through FB. While doing so, I have learned that there are differences between "friendship", "networking" and "community". A majority of my friends from both church and college alumni are FB subscribers. In addition to the community that my church and lead pastor, Matt Chandler, teaches about, and the incredible growth our particular congregation has and continues to experience, FB helps me to keep up with my brothers and sisters who I'm not able to see on Sundays due to our multiple worship services and geographical challenges.

As far as the electronic addiction, I curb it by only checking it once or twice a day, along with my email account. I only change my status once a day! Honestly, I doubt anyone is REALLY concerned about my minute-by-minute life!

Sorry to hear about your quitting FB but understand, nonetheless!

I have a blog, Facebook and a MySpace account -- but I use it in moderation and just like everything in life you need to use your time wisely with it. There isn't anything wrong with Facebook, per se, just like there isn't anything wrong with reading blogs just like this, it's just good to be a wise steward of your time.

My advice to people out there is to use a timer -- it's a lot easier to curb your online time; etc.

God is so amazing thanks and i no a guy also named josh!

I agree with what you're saying, and it's all too true for me as well. I've had to take youtube (fasting from it and it's healing my bandwith that's for sure), myspace (no more viruses), and facebook out of my system because I was exalting myself way too much. But everyone was getting all disturbed with me saying, "You can't do that. You're cutting yourself away from us." So I found a perfect solution and just like you now I've filtered all my thoughts and "this is what I did this week and you should know about" through a blog. It's been great, and just like you said, now I have more time to read my Bible, and of course read your book "Sex is not the problem (Lust is)". Hope your days are being more productive and your book is getting written. Looking forward to seeing it on the shelfs. God bless, Andrea

Josh, I'm in 100% agreement with you! I found that for me, it adds to a feeling of self-consciousness, when as Christians, I believe we should rather try to 'lose ourselves' more for the sake of loving others and doing God's work.

I believe it can inflate the ego, while actually causing more insecurities even.

Also, I think facebook, myspace, etc, they all add to this lazy view of relationships, that you just need to inform others about what you are doing. Rather, relationships are all about the effort of connecting with others, not merely information, but also the tone and facial expressions, etc.

It's too bad that the convenience of technology can actually deflate the value of relationships by ironically making connection and information transfer easier.

I don't know what your book is about, but I've wondered where your mother, where your wife is? I'm a Christian (at least, striving to be a woman of faith) mother of six children and am the pro-active one in my family. The silence from the women behind the great men is killing me. Who are your wives and what do they do that helps you achieve the important things you do? Thanks!

Jael

I don't know what your book is about, but I've wondered where your mother, where your wife is? I'm a Christian (at least, striving to be a woman of faith) mother of six children and am the pro-active one in my family. The silence from the women behind the great men is killing me. Who are your wives and what do they do that helps you achieve the important things you do? Thanks!

Jael

I appreciate your self-discipline and tough choice in this matter, but for me, I am enjoying the fellowship and ministry opportunities in reconnecting with friends and family that I'd lost touch with. I do spend time on Facebook, but I also know when to turn it off to go read or do something else, so I don't feel that same conviction, but I know each person needs to monitor their computer time on an on-going basis. I'm so thankful that I joined Facebook and have deepened some relationships, and can keep up with others than I hadn't been able to before. Just yesterday, I saw where a friend wrote on another friend's wall and I started snooping on other mutual friend's walls, and putting 2 plus 2 together, realized that the first friend seems to be getting divorced. I wrote and have had an awesome opportunity to speak words of challenge and encouragement to this friend. So, I'm staying in Facebook for now and enjoying my ministry there.

Thanks for the confirmation... I've held off so far and was feeling the pressure to start Face Book. The plethora of good books is weighty. I wonder how Neil Postman would critique internet-based social networking.

Here's another reason I've kept away from facebook... I need to spend more time with my neighbors. Building relationships with neighbors takes time, casual conversations, invites to dinner, slow walks... the less I'm in front of my computer... the more time I'll have to be in my neighborhood.

@Clay,

How interesting, I had a similar thought about neighbors recently and I blogged about it here

Anyways, I might try facebook again, as Josh has. I had no idea you can turn off those alerts. But even still, I'm not sure if I have the self-control... so I'll stay off as long as I can for now.

I love your books, and you are doing a great job ministering to many people... but you are still on Facebook, and you have Fan Page to "connect with more people, because your regular profile only allowed you to have certain quantity of friends"... so its a good tool to connect with other people, and influence their lives with advice from the Word. Keep serving the Lord as you have, and using the tools that we have on hand to reach the Lost and encourage Christians to live out loud for the Lord!

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