I got a Facebook page. I’m honestly not sure how it happened–the techno-details are blurry, but the friends requests rolled in, and the stark choice between “confirm” or “ignore” seemed brutal. (Everyone got confirmed except for one guy from college….)
What I instantly loved about Facebook is the opportunity it gives for reconnecting with old friends. This may be why Facebook is more popular with baby-boomers than with 20-somethings; we’ve had more time to lose track of more friends. The other reason I use Facebook is that many of my friends use it instead of email. For practical reasons, it is just one more venue for communication.
So, I am not judging Facebook users, because I am a Facebook user. However, there are a few things about Facebook–and about social networking in general—that I wonder about, like, for instance…
• Doesn’t it all seem a little socially voyeuristic? All of a sudden, I know surprisingly private details about people I barely know. (I may know you, but not know your FB friend who shares openly on your page.) The “six degrees of separation” has been drastically reduced, to say the least. The appeal comes because we were created for relationship. However, social networking is to relationships what artificial flavorings are to the real foods they are meant to represent.
• What about all those narcissistic lists and quizzes? You can list 25 things about yourself; list books you’ve loved (OK, I did that one); complete 25 sentences that tell us something about you; you can take any number of quizzes that tell you (and everyone else) even more about you, such as which Star Wars character you would be, etc. Really, it kind-of all boils down to, “Let’s talk about MEEEEE.” The appeal is that we all want to be known. The artificial substitute (in social networking like Facebook) is that we can dance around the uglier truths about ourselves, and deal in shallower currency, like… well, which ‘80’s sitcom character we’d be.
• Does it fragment and compartmentalize community? I often feel like I’ve had a conversation with someone I haven’t even spoken to in weeks. I feel that way because we have swapped information on Facebook – either directly, or through someone else. What is missing? –The eye contact, the body language and all of the cues that tell us when someone is hurting, or anxious, or insecure, or needing encouragement, or…–you can fill in the blanks. “Virtual” social networking can never replace the real thing, but the lure is the impression that it’s much easier. We can tell what we want to tell, maybe even paint things a little rosier, and we can invest in the lives of others in a safe and limited way. The appeal is that it may save us time and effort, but the truth is…(see next)
• Is it a waste of time? No doubt. If you are disciplined about signing in and logging out, Facebook is fine, but I’ve lost count of the people I know who have given it up for Lent. That should tell us something.
So, my point? I’m not suggesting that social networking is an evil of the modern age, because it really isn’t. But all things in life come with a certain “buyer beware” tag, and social networking is no exception. We are called as Christians to “filter” the good from the not-so-good, and the downright bad, and acquiring that filter is actually pretty simple, if we’re disciplined about it. What do we do? We put all things next to Scripture. When it says in Hebrews 10:25, “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another,” we need to ask ourselves if indeed we are accepting artificial substitutes a little too much – maybe too much internet, and too little fellowship? When it says in Psalm 90:12, “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” we need to ask ourselves if we are being good stewards of our time. You get the idea.
To be in the world and not of it places demands on us. We are to hold all things up to the light of what God has to say. Every generation has had to do this, and so do we. So…carry on with Facebook if you have it, but with a sense of Jesus with you at your computer.