Well, I just spent an hour playing with Facebook’s newest feature. I think I’m getting good at using it! But, seriously, how annoying is it that I care?
If you're confused about why the world is moving in a weird direction, it may be because new Facebook reactions are a topic of discussion.
— Jonny Rashid (@Jonnyrashid) February 24, 2016
I tweeted that when I noticed that Facebook’s reactions were affecting me. I kind of had fun with them, so I suppose that tweet is making fun of myself. My friends were already reactng to the posts, so I wasn’t alone. My cousin told me he was excited about it. One part of me wishes I hadn’t noticed.
You’ll have to forgive my reaction to the new reactions, but I think the world needs a bit more than a random reaction to the articles, thoughts, or click-bait that we are sharing in the echo chamber, wouldn’t you agree? But on it goes, nevertheless.
I think there is a cost to reactions like this in that it limits our imagination, often creates a dichotomous way of thinking, and doesn’t engage our full selves and bodies.
I was just experiencing this the other day when my friend was reacting to the idea that suffering offers us meaning, which is our Lenten theme at our Sunday meetings. Someone at the meeting on Sunday said that the reason we can make meaning and a difference with our suffering isn’t because it is either good or bad, but rather it exists. We are not “liking” our suffering, reacting to it, and labeling it. We are going deeper than that with it. We are seeing how it changes each other and the world. (Or even like the bleeding woman in Mark, how it changes Jesus!)
But I can’t really blame the world for embracing the simpler interactions that Facebook is trying to offer us. It is less complicated, but also less rewarding. I prefer the real and the face-to-face. The incarnational. Jesus came to us so that we could more than react to him.
It may look like they are offering a variety of options (now you can say that something was funny, for example), but rather than engaging in a dialogue about that (if you can really say a reply to a Facebook post is dialogue), you simply react. It might be a little more mindful than a random like, but it still feels like a a little fake to me.
This might just sound like me complaining, but I’m not sure that’s the end of it. I want to think about this with you (so please, share your thoughts). Clearly, I’m on Facebook enough to notice the changes that happen on the social media website pretty rapidly. Sometimes I call my use of social media an “occupational hazard,” but it’s a little more than that for me (I do keep in touch with some friends through it; sometimes I find out who’s dating who that way too).
But the big reason I’m on social media is because the world is and I want to stay aware and engaged. As I’ve said in the past, I want to be “all things to all people” (more here, here, and here), so Facebook gives me an opportunity to do that. But if I don’t watch it, I’ll become the tool that it is using. Such is the danger with many things in the world.
I think one of my problems with the reactions is that I’m tired of the reactions in general. I think the election cycle wears me out a little bit—and it is clearly filled with those wearing reactions.
I’m not moved or led by many of our leaders currently and one of the reasons is because they are kind of just angrily reacting to everything that’s happening. They aren’t motivating me, telling me a story, showing me how the world is changing. I’m not part of the project, I’m not being listened to. They aren’t including me or inviting me. They are kind of just inviting me to agree with their reaction. It’s yay or nea. A little played, right?
One of the reasons that I have such high standards for something as silly as Facebook is because I have an alternative community that offers each other much more than mundane and plastic reactions. I don’t care for the cheapness because I have something better and more fulfilling. When I see the world’s reaction (and excitement if you take my cousin) to this thing, I wonder how empty we are.
I have something to fill that emptiness with and it’s realer and fuller than the fakeness of the Facebook’s pre-packaged emotions. And I think the world is longing for the realness of the Body of Christ. The number one song in the country, Alessia Cara’s “Here,” seems to channeling that very thing.
Here she is, at a fake party, wondering where the realness is at. I think in at midnight lying on your beds, when the blue glow of your phone is staring back at you, causing you not to sleep, you can have a similar feeling.
So view this as an invitation to join something that’s more real, more genuine, and a little bit messier than Facebook’s sterilized boxes. Two ways to get in: cells and Sunday meetings. I think you’ll be surprised.