When I joined Facebook I was in college, and it was “the next big thing” (although I’m not sure any of us realized just how big it would be). Back then I didn’t have a smartphone, or even a laptop, so I would trek all the way to the university library to “check my Facebook” or “update my status”. Back then it was a college world. Only college students could join Facebook, and we often used it to coordinate study groups or keep in touch about classes.
My, how times have changed!
My six-year-old nephew has a Facebook page. Many kids across the country do too, and other countries, and the function stretches far beyond study-related networking. Now I scroll down my newsfeed and see every “like”, every “share”, profane and uplifting, Christian, secular, and downright vulgar. Facebook has become a platform by which the shy can argue, and the formerly un-opinionated can boast of politics.
It doesn’t stop at Facebook, though.
It’s bigger than me
I joined twitter last year. I mostly use twitter to keep up with the headlines, as I follow all the best news outlets. I find myself limited on twitter, though, because I joined a little late in the game. It is much bigger than me. So is Facebook. I think it’s always good to realize when you’re operating something bigger than yourself.
When I talk to someone on Facebook or twitter I feel like I’m standing with them in a crowded room trying to be heard over the hubbub.
So, should we just give up?
There are ways to keep in touch, even do some good on social networks:
Uplift and Empower! You don’t always have to quote the Bible or the newest devotion book to get people thinking about God. I’ve found that people respond more to me being real about my faith and attitude, rather than posting quotes and verses.
Engage People! Yes, “like” photos, statuses, links, etc., but don’t let that stop you from engaging another human in conversation. I equate “liking” with a smile in the checkout lane. Sometimes a smile can brighten someone’s day behind you in the line, but a short conversation about the weather, your kid, or the newest Christian cd in your cart can keep people smiling for hours. You never know how you can change someone’s day by taking the time out of your day to make an effort. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all make us available, but oftentimes that is not enough. Available doesn’t mean approachable. Instead of just liking or commenting (along with the 15 other friends that did) click on the person’s profile and write on their wall. Pick a person a day to engage on a social network.
Follow-up in REAL LIFE! When the online community first started growing there was an abbreviation “IRL” meaning “in real life”. To be honest, I haven’t seen this term very often since, and I think it’s because we don’t much care about “real life”. We’d rather our real life not mingle with our online life. These statuses and ‘tweets’ have watered down our compassion. When we see someone directly asking for prayer, we shoot a comment “praying”, and wait for another status to update us. When we see someone indirectly, but obviously crying out for help we oftentimes don’t respond. What is there to say? There’s a lot to say! Wait a day and pick up the phone and follow-up. If you aren’t used to calling that person, send a text, or even a message on Facebook. Let them know you are worried in real life.
Be Honest. If you take the time to update your status, encourage others, even stay in touch well and proactively, then take the time to be honest. If you are discouraged, tell your online friends! If you are in need of prayer, tell your online friends! Not only does it build a bridge between yourself and your friends, but it creates a need for them to fill. Relationships are give and take–even online relationships–and, believe it or not, people like to give.
Take a Face-cation. My husband and I have deleted, deactivated, and fasted from Facebook and other social media numerous times. I have gone from only ‘friending’ people I know well, to people I’ve just met. I constantly change and update my privacy settings and try to set boundaries for social networking. The truth is that just as God commands us to rest from labor to enjoy the Sabbath, we must rest from other things, Facebook included. Choose a time (make it short at first) to turn it off. I started with a few hours on Mondays; “No media Mondays” is what we called it. Currently I am trying to spend my Sabbaths off the net, but it is difficult. Some things that have helped me is signing out of the accounts. Its more troublesome to sign in each time I want to check my newsfeed, so I do it less often. Find what’s easiest for you. It’s your face-cation.
Without a doubt, there will be those who use social networking sites to bog down the works, stirring up strife and confusion. Some abstain from the sites completely believing them to be a cumbersome vice. Still some find them extremely useful for personal correspondence, ministry, and business. As with any other thing at our disposal as Americans–as with food, TV, books, etc–if we do not set boundaries we can become quickly overwhelmed and overused. When this happens we do ourselves a great disservice, and others as well.
Find your happy medium. There is one, and only you know where to draw the line.