I was an early adopter of Facebook. My freshman year of college, when Sean Maxwell told me to get on it (back then it was called thefacebook.com), I skeptically gave it a shot. I wasn’t really sure what it was, but it seemed to be the way that I could connect and remember the other Temple students I met. When I first joined you needed a .edu Email address to join as Zuckerberg was adding a variety of universities to his list. This was well before the contemporary newsfeed days. I remember when the feed was added to howls of protest—some people were saying, “Now people will be able to see everything I do!”
It’s funny how quickly we adapted to it. For a while, it seemed like things kept changing, until our privacy was totally sucked dry, and we were participating in commercializing ourselves. When Facebook started selling the ability to promote our own posts, I suppose we all became advertisers.
I think at first one of the main reasons I used Facebook was to keep in touch with friends. Lately, I think it’s become a little corporatized, and subsequently pretty banal, and I’m losing interest in it. But it still seems to be a great way to connect with new friends, forge new relationships, show a little love, even. I like using it to share things I love, articles I read, or to wish happy birthday to my friends. It has a use, I suppose. And it also shows me what the world is interested in. I’m not really opposed to social media, and I think it provides some great opportunities, but I still wonder and its effectiveness and its impact on its users (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically).
After I tried to get some of my friends to share things that I care about (an invitation to our Sunday meeting, a blog post I wrote, or a videocast the pastors made), and got some resistance, I wondered: is this thing dead? Our whole Leadership Team pondered the same thing.
Why won’t someone share what I ask? Some said it felt “spammy.” Others thought it might fall on deaf ears. Still others thought that it was like throwing pearls before swine—competing with other loud voices, sponsored posts, and corporations. One person has even told me Circle of Hope and what we are doing is too “real” to just post on Facebook. It felt cheap to them.
I suppose I don’t disagree with all this. So I asked my own Facebook friends whether they thought Facebook was dead. Considering the rich discussion that followed, I’m not sure I can confidently say it is.
One person wrote, “Undoubtedly it is dead, I think. But the next question is, do we have anything to bring to life on Facebook?” I really do think some of the stuff Circle of Hope offers, our cells, our Sunday meetings, our teams, bring life not just to Facebook but to our whole metro.
Another: “Less dead than a primitive Email system.” Maybe Facebook is a better way to communicate than Email, after all! I use Email much more, but don’t necessarily have great results to report.
Someone else thought it was about as generic as an annual high school year book, with people saying things are deep as “never change,” and “have a great summer!”
Another friend noted how great it is to sign into other apps with it and numerous people thought it was a good way to stay in touch with their friends, or see pictures of babies and weddings.
One of our leaders noted that it was never alive, but still, billions are on it, so that is something, right?
I think one of our staff members did some great theology with it: “I have interpreted your question thusly: Facebook never had life to begin with. Facebook has always been a kind of death. Life resides in God and creation, not computers. Life-giving relationship is face-to-face, spirit-to-spirit. It is in person. We are not ourselves on Facebook, we cultivate a brand of ideal self that isn’t our true self. Life cannot be had without in person contact. I’m thinking of 2 John 1:12: I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
With such an engaging discussion, one person said, “I feel God in this Facebook post.” Another, “I enjoyed this Facebook conversation with people I will probably never have an opportunity to sit down and chat with face-to-face.”
There are many lessons to be learned from this dialogue.
- Facebook still seems to be an OK place to share thoughts and ideas, though nothing beats the person-to-person connection. Even John noted that, but still wrote his letter. In fact, the whole Bible isn’t person-to-person, but it’s relational nature is illuminated by the Spirit and by us. I think your Facebook post has that potential.
- If we want to be influencers, it seems to be obvious to using such a popular tool. But it is prudent to discern what meaning it gives what we feed it. But with billions of people on it, it maybe shouldn’t be our sole means of communication, but why not be one of them? It seems like it is a good tool, but I think we should still discern its evil. Certainly, tools are not “objective,” they have their own meaning and so I think we always need to be discerning.
- People use Facebook to stay connected. Making an extra connection with our friends, the people in our cells and congregations, and also people that may want to join in seems to be a good use. It shouldn’t be our only mechanism for connection, because it isn’t enough. And although you probably can’t be as real on Facebook as you can in real life, you can certainly project some narcissistic façade in real life, too. And you can show a little bit of genuineness anywhere.
Sometimes I think the fact that there are billions on Facebook, and every corporation ever, makes Facebook feel kind of like the NBA Finals: trying to make money off of us and tricking us that we are enjoying what’s happening. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and it has lost the coolness that exclusive things can have, but I think lots of people are on Facebook, and so for now, I’ll stay on and use it for the Kingdom as best as I can.