Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

The latest craze of our information age is the emergence of social networking sites. Several are notable, but Facebook is particularly popular and has caught on even with folks who are otherwise adverse to technology. I succumbed to the pressure to join a long time ago. In all honesty I was dragged to it kicking and screaming, but signed up for the sake of becoming all things to all men that by ALL MEANS I might save some. I’m sure some will think I am trying to sound super-spiritual, but it is the truth. I think it is important for Christians—especially pastors—to be on the front end of effective new ways to communicate to and influence others.

It is crazy to me how many people I have “reconnected” with on Facebook. People from every school I attended (Elementary to Seminary); people from every church of which I was a part as a member, on staff, or as pastor; family members; people I played or coached with—over 800 of them and growing! It is crazy! But I’ve got to get some things off my chest:

Like any other form of communication, there is the potential for both good and bad on Facebook. It’s cool to see how folks are doing and to have another way to encourage people. It’s cool to be able to keep up with my high school son’s friends and interests. There is much potential for creating virtual community and informing/uniting people for/against certain causes. That’s all cool. But wow, there are some things that are really hard for me. Like, I can’t spend much time on it without seeing pictures of people who claim to be Christians in all kinds of potentially compromising positions. You know what I’m saying. There’s the skimpy clothing and the “aren’t I cool” poses, and, perhaps more conspicuous than anything, the pics of folks drinking alcohol. I don’t know what it is. Does everyone take pictures when they go to a drinking party or a bar? What is it about the “look at me, I drink” pictures of themselves that people like—and publish for the world to see? Is that really what you want people to know about you? Really? Forget for a moment the very real biblical issues. What about the message being sent to the many kids who are on Facebook? Kids who are impressionable, who could see someone they know or who attend their church drinking as a justifying factor to try drinking for themselves. Do we just ignore the damage alcohol does to people’s lives? I know it first hand. Call me an old fogy (I’ve blogged before on Christians and drinking so I’ll resist).

One of the hardest things for me is the way people gossip and spread falsehood for all the world to see. Or maybe not gossip, maybe just saying things that are hurtful about their church. One couple that had been a part of our church for about a year and then disappeared posted how our church was the coldest place they had ever been and how they were never talked to and nobody wanted to be their friend, etc. The bad thing is that many of us know this couple and had made MANY attempts to befriend them—some felt that they had BECOME friends (ouch!). But what are we to do? Get into an argument on someone’s “wall,” calling out the wrongness of their perception? Of course not. People sometimes get hurt and lash out. People make mistakes. Once I heard Bill O’Reilly say that with the Internet, if you make a mistake, you do it for the entire world to see. I’m afraid that’s true.

I think Facebook attracts a lot of people who just like to know what people are doing. Is this the definition of a busybody? A nosey person? Or just someone who enjoys socializing with others? Maybe some of each, I don’t know. Truth is, I simply don’t have time for it. That sounds kind of heartless doesn’t it? I rarely get to check up on others or update my “status” because I’ve rarely got time to just mess around by myself on the internet, and I’m not sure I really want people knowing what I’m doing all the time. Life is too busy. I’m a dad of three busy kids who have to be places and who need me in their lives. I’m a husband (not that Darla always NEEDS me, but she does have honey-do lists for me!). I’m also a pastor. I don’t think I need to describe the busyness of THAT job. I barely find the time to blog. What makes blogging hard is I feel I need to cover something with some degree of conclusive thoroughness and I write way too much. Sounds like my sermons!! When I do have extra time, the last thing I want to do is to be disappointed by seeing someone I care about glorying over a beer! Ahhh...Facebook. It’s a love-hate thing for me.

Ok, I’m quitting. Not facebook, just this blog post. I do feel a little better having vented!