I have a friend whose face I have seen only in photographs. We have never been in the same room; we have never shaken hands; we have never spoken. Nonetheless, I have considered this person a friend for many years. We met (if that’s the right word) through a listserve of Episcopalians and Anglicans many years ago and continued our friendship when most of that group migrated to Facebook. A couple of months ago, I noticed that my friend had stopped posting to Facebook. I tried to contact them[1], but notes sent by Facebook Messenger were never answered and they never responded when “tagged” in Facebook posts; I could not post directly to my friend’s wall, or so Facebook informed me. Eventually, it appeared my friend’s Facebook account was either deactivated or deleted. I did not have a phone number or an email address for them, so I was left in the dark as to what had happened to my friend.

Not long after my friend’s “disappearance,” a video began circulating around the internet showing the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, stuttering and slurring her words. It was fake. It had been doctored and manipulated to make it appear that Ms. Pelosi was intoxicated . . . very intoxicated. It was quickly denounced as, and proven to be, false.

Facebook refused to bar it from further circulation on the medium. It relied, in part, on something called the Communication Decency Act of 1996, a section of which declares, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”[2] This law was meant to foster innovation by protecting social media platforms from the rules and regulations (and civil liabilities) faced by publishers. Facebook, however, is using the law not merely as a shield, but also as sword permitting it (and its users) to batter others, again and again, with demonstrably false and damaging content.

This is not the first time Facebook has made such a decision. A while back, there was a move to get material denying the Holocaust removed from the platform and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and majority shareholder of Facebook, declined to do so. I believed then that he was wrong, but – mea culpa! – I confess to the sin of Martin Niemöller: I wasn’t a Jew, so I did nothing.[3]

I’m not Nancy Pelosi, either. Nor a member of the House of Representatives. Nor a Democrat. But I am someone whose had enough of Facebook’s dishonesty. I decided to withdraw from the platform.

But I did not want my Facebook friends to be in the boat I was in; I didn’t want them to be worried about what might have happened to me. So I posted a note about my intention to leave Facebook and why I was doing so. Many responded with notes essentially saying, “Please don’t go; we’ll miss you.” Others tried to convince that staying on Facebook and posting liberal or progressive memes, press articles, and personal statements was “standing up to evil.” And still others were downright insulting: one fellow retired cleric derisively posted, “Oh, yeah! That’ll show ‘em!”

“No,” I replied, “it won’t. It won’t matter one scintilla of an iota. It won’t matter to them in the slightest.” But, also, staying isn’t taking “a stand against evil!” Because of Facebook’s well-publicized algorithms, users find themselves corralled into ideological “bubbles” where one hardly ever, perhaps even never, sees the posts and opinions of those with differing viewpoints. Those on the left almost never see the opinions of those on the right; those on the right almost never see the views of those on the left. The only time we see those contrasting opinions is when the most extravagant of our opponents say or do something so over-the-top that the outrage machine that is the 24-hour cable news media kicks in and revs up. At that point, “taking a stand against evil” (however one defines “evil”) is pointless; the conflict level is already at or near maximum and no one is able to take a reasoned position.[4]

So I realize that my departure from the Facebook platform is not going to make a difference to anyone other than me. It isn’t going to affect Mark Zuckerberg’s income (although if there were a million or two like me to leave, he might take notice). It isn’t going to encourage the producers and disseminators of the doctored Pelosi video to take it off the internet and destroy it (although if there were a million or two like me, others might pay less attention to it). It isn’t even going to have much effect on my several Facebook friends: the content I have usually shared is also shared by many others so they’ll see it in any event.

But it will make a difference to me. I will have stopped participating in falsehood. I will be spiritually (and mentally and maybe even physically) healthier for having torn free from untruth. And here’s an irony: it was mostly my friends’ importuning me to stay that cemented my decision to go. I wasn’t going to deactivate the account until June 1, but I decided to go ahead and do it late last night. G’bye, FB!

“The truth will make you free,” said Jesus of Nazareth.[5] I’m taking one small step away from the Father of Lies (not that Facebook is Satan!) and toward freedom. I may return to Facebook at some point; I have only deactivated, not completely deleted, my account. For the foreseeable future, however, I will not participate in its deceptions.


Click on footnote numbers to link back to associated text.

[1] I am using “them” as a gender-neutral first-person pronoun to protect my friend’s identity to the greatest extent possible.

[2] 47 U.S.C. § 230

[3] Harold Marcuse, The Origin and Reception of Martin Niemöller’s Quotation, “First they came for the communists…” in Remembering for the Future, Berenbaum, M., ed., online

[4] Levels of Conflict by Speed Leas, The Center for Congregational Health, online

[5] John 8:32