Often times I talk or write myself through my thoughts… not knowing at the beginning where I will end up. So, here goes… Sometimes Facebook frustrates me. I don’t begrudge anyone their many joys in life. But every now and then, I feel sad when I look at my screen. The ready supply of smiling faces with great friends, family, good times, travels, etc. distorts what real life is. It can spawn comparisons which are never good. How can we not wonder if our own lives are a little pathetic next to all that glamour and glitz. Events often become more about sharing the picture online than sharing the moment in real life. Social media is the electronic version of keeping up with the Joneses. I am tremendously blessed, but my word — the mountain top experiences of my life come at no where near the rate at which some people post and punctuate their days of bliss. Their 2013 year-in- review highlights must be amazing!
Frustration. Sadness. Comparisons. There must be something deeper.
Am I jealous? Competitive? Insecure? C.S. Lewis says if other people’s “pride” is getting to you, you might need to look for the “plank” in your own eye… It’s true. I can post my best foot forward with the best of them! I enjoy sharing my family and world and having others complement them. That is all well and good. But, I wonder if all the “high life” shared online interferes with authentic relationship and the intimacy we deeply need from one another? Does the fact that everyone else seems to have it all together and be busy making merry make anyone else feel less inclined to reach out? Do we feel others are too busy, perfect or removed to give us “skin on” friendship when we are experiencing a bout with depression, anxiety, or just the sameness of an ordinary day? When we want to just talk face-to-face for no reason, do we reach out?
Articles abound about the unique ills social media are spawning. I’ll also quickly credit Facebook (and other social media) with the positive ways it can be used to spread news, solicit prayers, and help us know a little more about a much wider circle of friends. I don’t dislike facebook per se, and I’ll leave the research to others.
It just seems to me that the real fabric of life and intimacy with others is necessarily absent from Facebook, because it’s not an appropriate forum to bare our hearts. The question is are we following up in REAL life? Are we still taking the time to send a real birthday card, call a friend with our congratulations, stop by with a casserole — or is clicking “like” and commenting, ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘you are in my prayers’ where we end the connection? Sadly, I think I am guilty of sometimes counting Facebook as a sufficient connection. After all, my online time has to come from a limited supply of hours in my day. In the name of efficiency, am I increasing the volume of friends and family I reach, while sacrificing really touching and knowing people and sharing our lives?
What of the hard times: the opportunities we all have to persevere, to grow in faith and character? The circumstances where God is all we have, and He proves Himself to be enough? Or the everydayness of children, jobs, homes, and aging? While often not Facebook appropriate, they are also times to be shared with those we love and even those we meet. Times to pray together. Times to learn from one another and to know we are not the only ones struggling. In our intensely cyber-connected world, I believe we are hugging less. Sharing less of our real selves. Learning less from each other. Possibly we are less compassionate. Less sincere. We are wide in friendship more than we are deep in relationship. Consequentially, studies say, we are more isolated and lonely than any generation.
My question is this: What can I do to create intimacy and real connection?
Relationship — Father, Son and Holy Spirit is at the core of the Trinity. We are made for relationships of ALL kinds. Our relationship with God is our first priority, and I know that sadly, Facebook curiosity sometimes comes before devotions for me. The Bible also stresses the importance of many other relationships — those with a spouse, children, parents, other Christians, co-workers and unbelievers are all deemed important relationships — worthy of my time and presence, as I seek to live in obedience to Him (see verses below).
Personally, I am feeling disconnected and isolated from real life and real relationships. Despite its decidedly positive side, Facebook is playing a part in my withdrawal from people. Moving to a new town provided fertile ground to log in rather than get involved; my internet history shows way too many visits to Facebook.
The value of Facebook, especially with God’s big picture in mind, is not worth the time and attention I am giving it. God is nudging me to see it as an idol, as I believe He does. As I am currently using it, Facebook keeps me away from Him and His will and purposes for my life. Especially in my relationships with others, it is a cheap substitute for engaging fellowship.
I don’t think I’m all that unique. Following are astounding statistics. Facebook is the largest social network in the world with 500 million active users of whom 50% log in on a daily basis. The average time spent on each Facebook visit is 18 minutes. The average monthly amount of time per user spent on Facebook is 12 hours, with 640,000,000 combined minutes spent on Facebook each month.
What must I do?
Repentance is real change of heart and in behavior that turns me towards God in agreement with Him. I’m not getting totally off Facebook (I don’t think that will be necessary and is sort of throwing out the baby with the bathwater), but I see a problem, an addiction? I’m going to tremendously reduce my interactions and time online. I’m going to consider Facebook as more of a once-a-day venue to transfer and receive news, and try to respond to my friends, especially the local ones, more intimately and more authentically. I believe my life (and hopefully the lives of others) will be richer for it.
Am I alone or does anyone else struggle in this? I would love to hear your thoughts. Logging out and plugging in — I’m off to meet a friend for a walk!
I especially like Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”