A friend posted the following tongue-in-cheek article on Facebook. (Thanks, Lynne.) I got a chuckle out of it.
It also made me think twice about what I post on Facebook or my blog … or not.
After the conclusion of day one of our week of Vacation Bible School (VBS) at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, back in July, one person teasingly asked if my pictures would be posted in 10 minutes. I jokingly responded, “Maybe 15.”
I was explaining to our elder council last evening that I post the pictures of a church event so quickly (sometimes scant hours after the completion) because I want to create a buzz about our church. I post the photos on my blog and then post the link on my and the church’s Facebook pages. I want people to know that exciting things are happening at FCBC. This allows folks to relive the joy and to share it with others. It also communicates to those who didn’t attend that they missed something significant. It creates an excitement for the event, and it whets people’s appetite for the next one. It makes them want to attend and become part of the staff.
Not only does it create a buzz, but there is also a halo effect. Being one person, I cannot be involved in every ministry at our church. I don’t have time to take pictures of every activity. However, shining a bright light on one activity creates a halo that spills over onto our other ministries. If VBS is so exciting, what might Sunday School look like? If children’s ministry has so much energy and creativity, what might the church be doing in adult ministry? What is Celebrate Recovery all about?
If people are buzzing about what the church is doing, it creates a hunger for more. It gets people in the front door so we can share the exciting news that salvation is a free gift from God.
A recent headline helps explain how we have gotten off track. Go Figure: Facebook Read Daily More Than Bible gives a statistical view of the popularity of the internet versus Scripture.
Facebook’s numbers are epic. More Americans check Facebook daily than read the Bible and it has more monthly users worldwide than most continents have people.
Facebook, which celebrates its 10th anniversary Tuesday, says worldwide it has 757 million daily active users. Of those 19 percent are in the U.S. and Canada, so that’s more than 143 million people checking Facebook daily.
The Bible used to be the go-to for statistics about reading, pre-digital age. A 2006 CBS News poll found 15 percent of U.S. adults read the Bible or other religious texts daily. There are about 267 million adults in the U.S. and Canada. That means about 40 million people reading the Bible daily.
40 million people in the USA and Canada read the Bible every day as opposed to 143 million people in the USA and Canada checking Facebook. Our values are more influenced by friends and culture than by God’s Word. Is it any wonder we struggle with the problems we face?
Author Neil Strauss has written an insightful article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Insidious Evils of ‘Like” Culture.” He explains that one of the dangerous elements of the Internet is the need to belong, as evidenced by the “Like” button. Instead of developing our own point of view and standing for what we believe, we are driven by what people think of us.
“Like” culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Instead, we are shaped by our stats, which include not just “likes” but the number of comments generated in response to what we write and the number of friends or followers we have. I’ve seen rock stars agonize over the fact that another artist has far more Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers than they do.
Because it’s so easy to medicate our need for self-worth by pandering to win followers, “likes” and view counts, social media have become the métier of choice for many people who might otherwise channel that energy into books, music or art—or even into their own Web ventures.
I understand what he is saying. I find myself checking the “site stats” of my blog to see how many “hits” I receive and which blog posts are the most popular. I sometimes link my blog posts to my Facebook account in order to attract people to my blog. I bask in the agreeable comments and chafe at the one that disagree with my opinion. I need to take the author’s exhortation to heart to write what I care about and not worry about who or how many people read my words and what they think of them.
I have repented about Facebook. “What, pray tell, have you done wrong towards Facebook that requires repentance?” I hear you ask.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the primary meaning of the verb “repent” is to turn from sin. But the secondary meaning is “to change one’s mind.” It’s that definition that describes my condition.
When I first joined Facebook, it was to keep up with my children. They would post pictures of their latest adventures online. The only way I could see them was to become a Facebook “friend.” I did not want to be “friends” with anyone besides my children. Then a niece or nephew “friended” me, and how can you say “No” to family. Then it was someone from church, and the pastor can’t exactly be unfriendly.
As my Facebook “friends” continued to increase, I finally repented. I came to realize that Facebook is a useful tool for networking and communication. Since I need all the help I can get in both areas, I chose to embrace Facebook as a helpful tool.
That doesn’t mean Facebook is without its faults. It can be an incredible time waster, and I don’t really need any help doing that. Hours pass quickly as you view every photo, watch every video, and click every link posted by your friends. Don’t get me started on all the frivolous games available as well. What makes my friends think I want their sheep, fish, farm, weapons, or Mafia relations? And that doesn’t include the time spent cyber stalking to discover who my friends’ friends are.
Facebook can become a lure to revisit old relationships. It can entice one back into old habits. I read of one church that banned Facebook among its membership because some people used it to rekindle old flames and wound up in adulterous relationships. I’m not ready to go that far, but I heartily acknowledge that some relationships, friendships, temptations, distractions, failures, and sins of my past are best kept right there—in the past, and not reopened in the present.
Facebook can also become a substitute for life. Rather than experience my own adventures, it is easy to settle for living vicariously through someone else’s.
But Facebook is useful for connecting. With my family and friends spread across the country and the world, it helps me to keep in touch with where they are, what they are doing, and how I can pray for them right now. It allows me to communicate quickly with a multitude of people without having to pick up a phone and call or text each one individually.
Facebook can be redeemed and used as a tool for the Kingdom of God. It can be a great resource for communicating prayer requests and answers to prayer, or posting encouraging articles or sermons.
I have seen the light and I repent. I’m not ready to do the whole “dust and ashes” thing, but I have changed my mind.
I recently reconnected with some friends from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away through Facebook. One of them contacted me out of the blue and it prompted a “Whatever happened to . . . ?” series of questions. Crank up the search tools and my “friend” list increased. That in turn led to some “Facebook stalking”–as my daughter calls it–cruising through my friends’ friend lists to see who else I’ve forgotten. That in turn led to another raft of questions about relationships.
Now that I have more questions than answers, how do I satisfy my curiosity without directly asking the questions? That being said, does Facebook really promote community or is it simply a tool for stealth networking?