Funny how something intended to connect can make you feel so disconnected.
Our world is getting bigger and smaller at the same time. Bigger because we are expanding beyond our closest communities and engaging broader, more distant places and people. Smaller, because suddenly those far off places don’t seem so far off anymore due to easy and frequent communication.
Facebook has quickly dominated our worldwide social scene. It’s telling people’s stories. It’s changing the experience of the missionary. It’s connecting people with similar journeys who wouldn’t otherwise find each other. It’s a tool for encouragement. It carries messages and begs for prayer and support. It’s used to affirm and proclaim, promote and invite. These features go far beyond mere connection.
But just like any other good thing in the hands of sinful man, it’s used for harm. Intentionally, and not. With grace, I recognize two significant ways Facebook works counter productive to its very goal of social networking and connectivity.
1. In publicly informing others of what you are doing and who you are doing it with, you are at the very same time saying what you are not doing and who you are not with. For many, this causes no harm. There are plenty of people confident in their social life who won’t allow the social reality of others to negatively affect them. I love you people. Then there are the rest of us….
The people who sometimes feel left out. Or wish they had the best family ever to celebrate with!!!! Or the most handsome husband in the world who brings them flowers!!!!!!!! Or a super fabulous social event worth telling about!!!! Or the most adorable children who ever existed!!!! Or BFFs worth bragging on!!!
Facebook has the ability to surface insecurities and make someone feel more disconnected than ever. I am a confident, secure woman who is convinced of my identity in Jesus, who loves the story I am living, who would rather be with her family than anyone else, and who feels loved and supported by friends. Insecurity is not a normal response for me. So if Facebook is able to make me feel insecure at times, I’m confident it’s happening at a broader, deeper level.
2. The accessibility of Facebook on computers and phones creates the opportunity for us to always be connected online. At the mere touch of our fingers, we can know what our friend in Uganda is doing, while commenting on our neighbor’s funny status, while stopping to pray for a family in Tennessee who covets prayers for their adopted daughter to come home soon. Amazing, right? Truly, it is. But this continual connection to the virtual world inherently causes disconnect in our real world. Disconnect to the things happening right around us. To the people we are currently dining with. To the children who are waiting for us to put our phones down. To the friend down the road who would benefit if we showed up at her front door instead of comment on her status.
It’s good and right for us to consider how to use Facebook faithfully. How to engage in the ways it’s able to enhance what we do and say in truth. And refuse the ways it can hurt and segregate. Today I offer how to be a little more hospitable with this brilliant tool that has changed the way we communicate and relate.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. We all embellish our moments when we publicly speak of them. The need to communicate our meaningful moments with extraordinary words and multiple punctuation marks, emerges from the reality of virtual communication: It’s lifeless! So we try to infuse emotion and feeling. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with being emphatic. I’m just calling us to make a greater effort to be real. Genuine. Avoid exaggeration and choose words that express your authentic thoughts and experiences.
Don’t be afraid to reveal what the camera doesn’t and speak the truth that our words don’t always tell. Facebook allows us to filter our life. We let it capture our best, even in the mundane everyday events. Sure, there’s the occasional terrible picture of you that a friend (soon to be un-friend) posted. And there are a few vulnerable people out there who aren’t afraid to show the good, the bad and the ugly. But most of us expose the fun, the exciting, and the happy of normal life. Nobody’s life is perfect. Let’s not be shy in showing our imperfect. It’s helpful to know that others struggle. It’s comforting to see that we’re not the only one whose day has more messy than cute!
Purify your motives. It’s interesting to me how we write personal messages to people on their public Facebook page when we could otherwise send the very same message through a text or inbox, privately. I can’t help but question the motive at times. Even my own! Let’s just be really honest for a moment and confess that sometimes we make public comments because we have something to prove. And sometimes we make those comments because we need others to know we are close to someone. And sometimes we need a particular person to know we are happy or busy or with another person. Consider your motives for public comments and purify the intentions of your words. Spoken, or written. For when we offer words to others, we want them to glorify the one who brings the Word to life.
Tag Jesus more than people. Facebook’s unique tagging allows us to continually recognize people in our comments and updates. It is good and right to recognize people. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with public recognition. In fact, there is something special about it. Affirming people among their community is one way we appreciate and give God the glory for what he is accomplishing through them. When we publicly recognize and affirm people on Facebook, let us make it less about the people and more about the act of love they did and the Jesus we witness in them. For we are not to praise what God created, we are to praise God for the good we see in his creation.
Be where you are. Avoid using Facebook at times when you are with people. Don’t let it distract you from your current reality. Don’t ignore people you are with in order to respond and connect with people you are not with. You might be thinking that Facebook doesn’t really interrupt your day because it’s quick and easy to check and requires little of your time. I suggest otherwise. And if you take a break from it, I think you’d be surprised just how much more engaged you will be with the people right around you.
The time and place we live offers unique tools that allow us to carry and share the Gospel message in fascinating ways, while at the very same time challenging the way we spend our time and resources. May God’s grace cover us as we faithfully engage these new realities.
I’m opening up this post for comments because I’m curious of your responses. Feel free to critique Facebook or sing it’s praises. All comments are welcome!