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.

xkcd_-Online-Communities-2

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?