Monday, 25 May 2009
by Sharon Hodde of SheWorships
(This video comes from a British comedy group called Idiots of Ants)
I still remember the first time I heard about Facebook. Some college students were explaining it to me, and in their minds it was really just a socially acceptable way of stalking people. I, of course, thought that sounded really weird and vowed never to join Facebook.
Well about 4 years later I am a Facebook junkie. I’m on it all the time, and I definitely stalk people….not in a creepy way, but in a “I need to find better things to do with my time” sort of way. I’m quite certain that if I tallied up the number of hours I spend looking at other people’s photos each week, I could have attained another educational degree by now.
But aside from the enormous time suck that Facebook is on our lives, there is something that concerns me even more–how self-involved it has become. While Facebook is a great means for keeping in touch and it has other valuable purposes as well, Facebook tempts our self-absorption with the opportunity to create a space that’s “all about me.”
What results is a near shrine to the self:
These are pictures of my happy life. These are fun facts and interesting quotes that make me so unique. And here is my relationship status, which I change every time my dating life undergoes the slightest alteration. And don’t forget my Facebook status, which enables people to follow MY EVERY MOVE.
There’s a part of me that wonders if this behavior is a result of living in a paparazzi culture in which the intimate details of celebrity lives are splashed all over the internet. There’s an extent to which we emulate those individuals we idolize. It’s like creating our own personal celebrity.
But on a more basic human sin level, Facebook (and Twitter as well) has largely become an altar for our pride. Again, it’s not that any of these technological innovations are inherently bad–they can all be used in the service of God. But are they most of the time? No. They are used in service to us.
I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me why she got off Twitter. Apparently she was following a few people, but her phone was vibrating all the time with these updates, updates which were frequently pointless and a waste of her time. And not only that, but the updates started to make her feel bad about her own life, and her singleness in particular. Many of the updates went along the lines of “Out on a date with my beautiful wife” or “I am so lucky to be married to such a wonderful woman.”
While I don’t doubt that the Twitterer was trying to honor his wife, I can’t help but wonder if there was also a little pride mixed in as well. When I examine my own motives in using Facebook, I find they are often competitive. I want people to know how good and happy my life is, so I post photos to essentially brag about it. And if I’m going somewhere or doing something that I think will make people envious, it goes straight to my status update.
The reason this competitive spirit can be so subtle is that we describe this behavior as simply “sharing with friends.” It wouldn’t be weird for me to tell my roommates where I’m going over the weekend, especially if I was excited about it. What might be weird is if I called up all my friends simply to tell them that I was vacationing in Florida for a week. They would probably wonder why I was calling just to tell them that. They might even feel a little put off by it. Yet in some cases, that’s essentially what Facebook does.
And in doing so, we can use Facebook in ways that not only alienate others, but tear others down. In case this idea sounds a bit abstract, think about it this way–Consider the Christian woman who spends hours getting ready for church in the morning so that she can look perfect. She not only does this to look nice for church, but feel confident and to feel better about herself. Yet in doing so, she sends a message to all the women around her who did not put that much time into their exterior, and do not look as good. The women who look up to her will suddenly find themselves feeling insecure, like they don’t measure up.
We can pull off this same phenomenon with Facebook. The more time we spend glamorizing our lives and broadcasting the things that make us look good, the more we convey to others where our real security lies.
So while I don’t think we should all swear off Facebook, and there are certainly Christ-centered ways of using it, I personally am not a great example of that. This is an area in which I must constantly check my own motives, especially given that hundreds of people can be impacted by such public choices. If you’ve spent any time “stalking” other people on Facebook then you KNOW other people are stalking you, so when they visit your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, what are they REALLY learning about your life? What message are you sending? What is truly the center of your life?
The best rule of thumb for this, and really all areas of our lives, is to ask the following question: “In posting this, writing this, or spending countless hours following others who do, am I loving God and am I loving my neighbor?” If you cannot answer a definitive yes, then it’s best not to do it at all. That might sound harsh, but it draws a dividing line between real friendship, real Christian community, and a way of relating to others that is inherently fake.