Why I’m Leaving Facebook

The costs associated with the free social platform are just too high

There is a point beyond which a service becomes too expensive. The latest round of news about Facebook has made it clear to me that we have passed that point. The social impact and privacy costs of Facebook are too high for me. So, at the end of this month, I will be deleting my Facebook and Instagram account.

I’ve read many people lately who are making the same decision over concerns about how much social media dominates their time. Although that is a serious question, this is not my concern with Facebook. In fact, the app hasn’t been installed on my phone for months. I am deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts because of the clear record of Facebook’s violation of the public trust. They know more about me than any other organization in the world. And I don’t trust them with that knowledge.

My goal is not to make a convert out of you. I’m not looking to spark a boycott or any sort of public demonstration. This post is to explain my thinking and maybe prompt you to think about your relationship with this company. That is all.

The issue I have with Facebook is cut and dried: They know too much about us (even if you don’t have an account), and they lie about what they do with that data.

Over the course of 2018, we learned a lot about how Facebook really operates, and it generated numerous scandals. Not only does Facebook follow you all over the web, track what you read, watch, and listen to, they also know what you purchase, where you go, and who you hang out with. Facebook has built a surveillance infrastructure that rivals in reach and depth anything George Orwell or the CIA could have dreamt up. And they have convinced us all to willingly hand over this information. Every day, millions of people share private and intimate details of their lives with this company.

The surveillance is not even the worst part. What’s actually worse is the purpose for which they use our private data. They are not using it to identify terrorists, study social ills, or encourage a constructive conversation in the public square. They are not aiming for any number of controversial, yet arguably defensible goals. No, they are using it to sell us T-shirts, insurance, and rugs. And of course in the process they are actually contributing to many of our societal ills. Smartphone addiction, a poisonous political discourse enflamed by filter bubbles, and foreign interference in our elections are just some of the problems that are being made significantly worse by Facebook. And in the last few weeks we’ve even heard about how they police political speech on their platform, with no transparency.

In tech punditry circles there was a popular phrase for a while that said if you used a service you didn’t pay for you were, in fact, the product. That’s not exactly true, but it does broadly capture the strategic reasons behind the success of companies like Facebook, Google, and others. My private data and ad impressions are Facebook’s inventory. I am their product. And that reality is one I can no longer abide.

By willingly handing over private information to these companies for a free service that is not essential—especially services that can be so destructive in how they can capture our attention—we are opening ourselves and our culture up to potentially massive problems. What we have seen with the Cambridge Analytica incident, Russian interference in our elections, and other Facebook scandals is just the tip of a very, very big iceberg. And I don’t think they can change course.

So I’m getting off the boat.

If you would like to keep up with what I’m doing after I leave Facebook, the best ways are to follow me is on Micro.blog, Twitter, or by signing up for my email newsletter.


A Reading Plan for 2019 📚

The process is more important than the outcome

In the past I’ve set reading goals, but I’ve never really succeeded in them. Whether it was a goal of a number of books or a specific list, I’ve never been able to set a single plan and follow it for a full year. But, as with most practices that matter, the value is in the process not the results. So for 2019 I have yet another reading plan.

Priorities

The goal of my plan for this year is not to list out specific books I must read, but instead to put in writing my priorities for reading in the next year. For this coming year my priorities are to read more regularly, balance my reading time between work/research reading, pleasure reading, and seminary reading assignments. In the past—specifically in 2018—pleasure reading has been non-existent and my actual reading time has been dominated by assigned reading. This year I aim to balance all three of these categories.

Finding the time

As I have gotten older it’s been increasingly hard to find time to read. From childhood through college reading for fun was always high on the list of what filled my free time. But as I got out of school and into a career that time started to drain away. Then, as the internet, smartphones, and social media began to loom larger I gave up even more reading time. Finally adding the weighty roles of husband and father filled up the last bit of margin. So this year I must work to find the time.

My relationship with Jesus, my family, my ministry, and my writing are the things that really matter. These are the responsibilities and commitments that actually move the needle in terms of making my time count. From that understanding, what needs to be eliminated or reduced becomes obvious: social media, time wasted on devices, and any excess screen time. I will write about how I am going to approach this in detail later, but this is where I must find time to accomplish my plan.

Finally, a key requirement of finding the time to read is that it cannot take time away from the discipline of reading my Bible daily. If my morning routine is disrupted, the first thing I will read each day will be the Bible.

Reading categories

As mentioned above, all the reading in my life falls into three buckets:

  • Pleasure
  • Research
  • School assignments

Given my particular interests, there is actually a great deal of overlap between these three categories. Seldom does a single book land in all three, but most books will fit into two of these categories. Nevertheless, sorting my reading into categories is the only way I can get close to balancing these priorities. My categories for 2019 look like this:

Pleasure

  • Fiction
  • History
  • Biography

Research

  • Writing
  • Art & Creativity
  • Productivity
  • Theology
  • Reading for Story Team, Writer Dev, or other projects

School Assignments

  • Anything assigned as part of a seminary course

The plan

In the end, my 2019 plan is simple:

  • Read for 1 hour in the evenings, five days a week
  • Read the Bible first, every day
  • Prioritize books I already own over new purchases
  • Prioritize active seminary assignments for each reading session
  • Split remaining reading time evenly between the Pleasure and Research categories
  • Always have one active book in both the Pleasure and Research categories
  • Publish a short reaction/review for each book I complete

I am not setting a “goal” of a certain number of books for each month or the year, and I don’t have a set list. Just this set of priorities and a list of books I will build out by category. If I can follow this process somewhat regularly I will be a much more active reader than I have been the last couple of years.

And honestly that’s a big deal, because I miss it.


Why Do Writers Long to Publish?

The power of subcreation in image-bearing artists

I can still remember how felt the first time something I wrote was published.

I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University, and I was in my second semester of journalism school. There was a pro-choice group who had lawfully erected a large political display on campus, and it had been vandalized one night. This was the first story I was assigned. I remember going to the organization’s meeting and being “that reporter from the O’Colly.” I remember being proud of giving fair coverage to an organization I did not agree with, and defending their freedom of speech.

But most of all, I remember exactly what it felt like to pick up the copy of the newspaper with my story in it.

I remember opening up the paper and finding the story. I remember reading my words in print. I remember getting up early in the morning to be there when the paper was delivered to my fraternity house. I remember the compliments from my friends, and my teacher mentioning it in class. It felt like such an accomplishment. As cheesy as it might sound, it was magical.

Why is that? Why is seeing your words—your name!—in print such a powerful experience for a writer?

Writing is an act of creation. While it can be easy to lose sight of sometimes, something magical happens when a writer sees their finished work on the page, or screen. When an article, a book, or even a blog post like this becomes reality, the writer has brought something new into the world. This is a powerful moment that never gets old for the writer.

This should not be surprising, because this is an aspect of our role as the imago Dei—the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

One of God’s purposes in creating humans was to represent him—to image him—in the world. He created us to share and demonstrate many aspects of his character, even though we do so imperfectly. One of the ways that we are like God is our capacity to create. Our ability to take many raw, disparate ingredients and combine and recombine them in interesting ways to make something new is a part of being made in the image of God. When we create, there is a shadow—or maybe better put, a spark—of the divine in that act. When we create, we are representing God.

But our acts of creation are not the same as God’s either, for He is God, and we are not. God creates out of nothing—ex nihilo—where we do not. Everything that we create uses God’s original creation as raw materials. Our creative acts are actually act of subordinate creation, acts which imitate Him and build upon His creation.

J.R.R. Tolkien coined the term “subcreation” in reference to the fictional worlds an author builds1. But his term is much more powerful than that application alone. All creative work done by human hands and minds is subcreation, because all of our materials—words, ideas, experiences, relationships, etc.—came from the sovereign God and Creator of the universe. There is nothing that we can dream up that did not exist in the mind of God first.

When we write, when we create, we are echoing God’s own creative acts. When our ideas come to life, and readers from around the world can pick them up, read them, and engage with our ideas, we are imaging God’s creative power to the world. And when we write with these truths in mind, when we create in the ways God intends, we glorify Him not only in our final work, but in our acts of creation.

God designed us to represent His creativity to the world. So, any time we write, build, or create something, that sub creative act is powerful. It’s magical. And it glorifies the true Creator, thereby fulfilling our purpose as artists and humans.

  1. Tolkien, John Ronald Ruel. “On Fairy-Stories.” 1939. 


Throwing Away Your First Draft Is a Great Idea

On the occasion of throwing out the first 14,000 words of a manuscript

Last month I shared the 8,000 of 14,000 words of a new project with my writing group. It was the first two chapters of a novel, just the beginning of the story really. With these two chapters I’d taken a risk. I tried something interesting and—at least to my mind—unique. I was excited about it, and I had high hopes for it. I really wanted it to work. But of course, it didn’t.

Aside from the usual first draft issues, the writing was pretty good and everyone was interested in both the story and the world. But it didn’t work because no writer is good enough to ignore (not break artfully like the greats, but ignore) the structure of good stories. Which is exactly what I had done in my “experiment.” But that’s another post for another day. What matters for today is that I chucked it in the bin.

Almost all 14,000 of those words will never see the light of day. They will just sit there in my boneyard folder until bit rot or a crashing hard drive claims them. Any writer knows the feeling. It can be gut-wrenching.

That’s a lot of work to throw away. And don’t kid yourself, when it leaves your manuscript, you’re throwing it away. You might think, “Oh, there’s good stuff in there. I might find a use for it one day.” And you might. It’s completely possible. But for most of those words, this is the end of the line.

But the experienced writer knows the truth: Not one bit of progress was lost in that moment. Nope, not a single word was wasted. I had to write the first 14,000 words. Because it’s the only way to get to 14,001.

That is the way to measure progress. A writer who really understands their craft knows that there are hundreds of thousands of more words behind the 150,000 words in a novel. There are hundreds of words behind the scant 16 lines of a poem. For every word a reader reads on the printed page, likely a hundred or more were written.

So no, it didn’t feel good to toss out three full chapters of a book. And yes, I might be able to find some use for a few scraps. But every single one of those words that I tossed out had to be written. In a real way they are just as much a part of the book as the ones readers will actually read.

Never be afraid to throw away a draft that doesn’t work. It’s just one step closer to something that does.


Colophon

Colophon \ˈkä-lə-fən, -ˌfän\  — an inscription placed at the end of a book or manuscript usually with facts relative to its production

The colophon is set for a comeback. With so many new digital publishing options, platforms and approaches, there is a natural opening and call for sites to share how they do what they do. In the spirit of the traditional colophon, I offer this summary of the tools behind this site.

Typography

I approached the typographic design of this site with two goals in mind. First, to not slow down page load (i.e. no cloud-hosted fonts). Second, to feel natural and of a piece with the device platform. So, I am using a prioritized font stack that degrades from the preferred font down to the system fonts.

The preferred font is Avenir, and if that font is not installed, then I use this implementation of native system fonts.

Software

Hosting & Services