Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession

We’ve certainly said a lot about Facebook already. See here, here, and here for some fine examples. In the […]

Jeff Hual / 2.5.14

We’ve certainly said a lot about Facebook already. See herehere, and here for some fine examples. In the past week, though, some of you will have no doubt encountered Time Magazine’s new “Facebook-time-wasted calculator” (they didn’t give it a sexy name, and that’s the best I could do). This app analyzes the activity on your Facebook account and returns an estimate as to how many days, weeks or, in some cases, months you have been “wasting” on Facebook. All of which, of course, assumes that we would all be doing something more productive with our time.

I know people who are leaving Facebook because of this calculator, appalled by the amount of time they perceive that they have wasted. And it raises the question, why are we so attached to Facebook?

No doubt much of our time spent on Facebook is related to time that would be wasted anyway: think of the doctors’ waiting rooms and school pick-up lines in which we inevitably twiddle with Facebook instead of staring into space. Such times don’t account for the bulk of our Facebook attachment, though. We use our smart phones to constantly check what’s happening in the lives of others, and to update our status, post pictures, check in, etc. Which is not to say that Facebook can’t or doesn’t serve constructive purposes in our lives–of course it can!–just that the astronomical amount of time these calculators divulge would seem to suggest that there’s something more compulsive going on.


Why do we care so incessantly about what others are doing, and why do we feel so driven to post so incessantly about our own lives? One answer is that Facebook, like so many things that come with the promise of making our lives better, has simply become another “ought” in our lives. We “ought” to be aware of what others are doing, and we “ought” to put what we are doing out there as well, and it “ought” to be interesting. We can’t resist measuring whether or not our lives are keeping up in a meaningful way with those around us. We want to be able to calculate where we stand, to tell ourselves we’re doing just fine in social popularity or the coolness of our life-experiences; or alternately, to realize where we’re lacking and resolve to do better. We want something quantifiable.

That’s a textbook example of what we mean when we speak of the Law. And because of our flawed, ladder-climbing human nature, unfortunately we tend to allow the Law to become the driving force behind just about everything we create. And yet, there’s a worse prognosis for our collective Facebook obsession.

We’re not addicted to Facebook in the damaging ways that alcoholics need their next drink or drug addicts their next fix. Or are we?

Anything that causes us to take our eyes off of what’s real, what matters, what makes us whole and worthy of love, is an idol. And that’s a very serious problem, because the thing that’s real, that matters, that makes us whole and worthy of love, is God. “Love to the loveless, love that they might lovely be,” as the Hymnist writes.

Now, I’m not saying that we have to shut down our Facebook accounts and all walk away. Or do we?

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7 responses to “Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Appreciate the sentiment about the way FB can make us feel we are not ‘enough’ in who we are and what we do, and has become another ‘ought’…. but I think this article misses many of the great things FB does… the 10 years movies which my friends have posted are beautiful reminders of what we’ve all been doing – and sharing about causes or articles (such as MBird…) we’ve found interesting is an important and convenient way of doing so. I find I have a much closer, more informal relationship with my nieces and nephews because of FB, and I have a better handle on what is going on in their lives. Sure, it can be a colossal waste of time – but then, the internet as a whole can be – most things can in fact. If I feel the need to ‘keep up’ with my friends to the extent that I feel bad about myself, maybe ‘all’ I need is a bit more grace? (Or fewer successful friends….)

    • Ian says:

      Praise God the Word became flesh and dwelt among us rather than relating to us through a Facebook account. Facebook was given through Moses; grace and truth came in Jesus Christ!

  2. Jeff Hual says:

    Rebecca, I’m with you on the love for keeping up with good friends. That’s the only reason I still have a FB account! I was not meaning to discount the good aspects that FB provides, but rather to highlight one possible outcome of our incessant use of social media.

    BTW, I love that people are Facebook liking this post. How ironic!

  3. Alison says:

    I live in a rural arra, and facebook has really been a positive thing in my life. Chatting with friends, reading great articles, participating in stimulating debates. Sure, you can waste timeo. It, but you can waste time doing anything. And I think it’s less bout comparison, and more about human contact.

    • Ian says:

      That’s precisely what I take issue with. Given FB is a simulacrum, is human contact taking place? By and large, I don’t think so.

  4. KellyV says:

    Interestingly enough, I just shut down my FB on Super Bowl Sunday because of how easy it is for me as a young mom to compare my children’s development to that of their peers. I also find it difficult that we are comparing our reality to posts being portrayed in a more shimmering light than how they may have actually happened. Our comparisons aren’t between our realities but between our reality and our friends “edited” version due to social media. Our pastor at Ada Bible is actually touching on this through his series on being satisfied. (He also has a great book out – Satisfied by Jeff Manion)

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