On leaving Facebook, and other thoughts on distant empathy


We are human beings are obsessed with knowing “stuff” . Just look at all the books we have in store, things to do, cable channels for everything you can imagine, and the internet. We want to know. 
Check out the philosophy and religion section at Barnes and Noble and look at the books there and it is easy to see that everyone wants to sell you the answers to whatever you want to know. 

Television and internet are perfect for getting new to the masses. I bet you remember exactly where you were when the Twin Towers fell, or when hurricane Katrina hit. We all had the same experience, but most of us were not anywhere close to what happened. But because of the dispersion of information, we all felt the same thing.

Enter distant empathy. 
the idea that when we see a tragedy (or really anything that we can connect with) we give empathy to that thing. So, whether it is a natural disaster, or reading all your friends status updates, or watching the news, these stories and events take from out reserve of empathy. The problem is that we as humans were probably not meant to consume this much information and give away so much empathy. 

the result is scary when you lack empathy to actually give to people who are around you and part of your life. If you give it all distantly, little by little, then you don’t have it to give to those you actually love and care for. 

For me, Facebook is the ultimate source of distant empathy. You don’t need anyone to share anything with you, just look on their wall. That combination, plus the fact that I am a technology geek makes it a deadly combination. 

I am not suggesting that everyone get rid of their facebook, or any other site. There are great things that come from the ability to share things online. When my cousin Bradley passed away on September 3rd of this year, I was able to stream his service live for people to be a part of celebrating his life. Because of his caring bridge site, there are thousands of people who read his story from all over the country. Technology made it possible for 3,000 people to share in Bradley life celebration and story. 

I think being aware is half the battle. Understanding that the things you watch, the pictures you see, the information you read shapes you on every level is very important. I read a great quote in a book that said “shape your tools, or your tools will shape you”  

For me, facebook was too large to shape at the time being. I want to spend my time actually creating things that are of value and sharing them with others. I want to cultivate actual friendships, sit down and actually listen to people who are hurting and weep with them. I want to prepare for my marriage in May, and I want to spend time being still and knowing God. 

A digital cleanse was the path I needed to take. Maybe you need to do it as well. 
Or maybe you just need to put up some boundaries when it comes to virtual interaction. Maybe you need someone to change your password for a while and take a break. 

Will I reactivate my facebook account again? maybe. but for now I need a break from the noise.

I would love to have more face-to-face conversations with people. Let’s go get coffee and talk about life. 

About jameseaton

This is me...in blog form
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