In this series of posts I want to highlight two potentially dangerous appeals of Facebook.
The first is this: On Facebook I can recreate my world through my words to gain approval.
Think about the name “Facebook”. It suggests a place where I can show my “face” or my “image”.
1. I can recreate “my face”
One reason Facebook is popular is because it appears to allow me to create my image using my words. I type in a version of the person I want to be. I use my words to create as positive image. Or I upload pictures that portray me in a certain way, usually having a good time or looking beautiful in artistic poses. There are no pictures of me first thing in the morning or being bored.
Celebrity culture pours over the minutiae of the lives of the rich and famous. Facebook, blogs and Twitter allow us all to be celebrities with our lives on show. It blurs the public and the private. The world becomes my audience. On Facebook you do not have a conversation, you have an audience. Your life takes place on a stage and you are your own playwright, creating or recreating yourself through your words.
2. I can recreate “my space”
This is the genius of Facebook. Facebook enables me to have all my friends and family gathered in one place. What we cannot do in physical space, we can do in cyberspace: bring everyone together in place. But this is my space. This is my world. These are by definition my “chosen people”. The genius of Facebook is that all your friends come to you and all their friends come to them. So we simultaneously all inhabit our own little worlds, each with me at the centre.
One pastor told me: “The people I know who use Facebook most are those who are most self-obsessed.” I remember a young woman who wrote a blog about her life. But like most of us her life was pretty boring. So she constantly had to heighten the sense of drama. Her blog became the story of her heroic struggle to overcome really quite minor difficulties. The result was she thoughts of life as a constant self-obsessed melodrama.
3. I can find approval
Not only do I (re)create myself through my words on Facebook, but I can measure myself through Facebook. I can score or rank my image: the number of my Facebook friends or Twitter followers; the number of Facebook “Likes” or blog “comments”. These become the index of my self-worth. Or I do visual assessments by comparing photos. I am defined by other’s people’s “gaze”, what they make of my “face”. Jonny Woodrow, a tutor with the Northern Training Institute, calls it “personality by numbers”.
On Facebook I bestow approval and I receive approval. The result is many people constantly checking their Facebook page because this is where they receive affirmation.
Notice the language we are using. I recreate my image through my words. I recreate my world around me. I can find approval or justify myself. This is the salvation language. This is gospel language. Facebook – used in this way – is another gospel. I am recreating my image and my world through my words so that I find approval or justify myself.
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