Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 3

In the previous post in this series we saw one potentially dangerous appeal of Facebook is the way it allows me to recreate my image and my world through my words to gain approval. Does this work? Does self-creation or self-justification through Facebook work?

Alex Jordan of Stanford University found people often feel depressed after spending time on Facebook.[1]

To understand why you have got to remember that the medium is the message. How we communicate shapes what we communicate. And Facebook is geared to project positivity.

You upload pictures of people having a good time, not pictures of you feeling bored or miserable. Even the jokey, early morning shots of people looking rough are really saying, “Look me after I’ve had a good time.” Compared to all these photos, the day I have just had at work seems dull or sad.

People can “Like” something you have written. But there is no option to “Dislike”. So to get a response you have to phrase things in positive terms. No-one is going to click “Like” to “Had a miserable day at work.” So instead you put, “Looking forward to watching a movie with a tub of ice cream.” “Like”! No-one is going click “Like” to “My rabbit died yesterday.” So instead you put, “Fluffy was a brave little bunny until the very end.” “Like”!

So everyone’s Facebook’s face wears a smile – whatever the reality behind the mask. We are all spin doctors, presenting upbeat, propaganda versions of our lives. (The exceptions are those with disorders like anorexia who often compete at misery.)

So what the research found was this: You are feeling miserable. You go onto Facebook. Everyone you know appears happy. So you feel a loser. All the time you forget that somewhere someone else is looking at your upbeat, unreal Facebook page and feeling like they are missing out.

Here is the test of whether you are facing this danger: Is your Facebook self more attractive than your real world self?

The real question is: Am I trying to do self-identity or am I finding identity in Christ? Or, Am I looking for approval from others through my words or approval from God through his gospel word?

The gospel of Jesus says that Jesus recreates me in the image of God and Jesus is recreating the world. God’s kingdom is extended as his word is proclaimed.

  •      Jesus recreates me – not me
  •      Jesus recreate me in God’s image – not my image
  •      Jesus recreates the world – not me
  •      Jesus recreates God’s world – not my world
  •      Jesus creates God’s world with God at the centre – not me at the centre
  •      What creates and recreates are God’s word – not my words

It is these truths that enable me to be truly human, fit for the purpose for which I was created. And this is what liberates me from self-obsession to enjoy the goodness and grace of God. Knowing the real God is better than Facebook.

[1] Alex Jordan, “Misery Has More Company Than People Think,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, cited in Libby Copeland, “The Anti-Social Network,” Slate, 26 January 2011, slate.com/id/2282620.

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7 thoughts on “Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 3

  1. Hi Tim,

    This is fascinating and brilliant, thanks.

    What do you think about the phenomena where people announce they are single/in a relationship on facebook – and that is now the key way to announce your status.

    And I even knew one man who announced on facebook (before speaking to his wife) that his marriage was going down the pan.

    What are your thoughts on announcing to the world this type of information? It means we speak the hard truths but we don’t actually say it to people’s face.


  2. Hi Steve, my rule is never write anything about someone you would not say if they were in the room. As for sharing your private life with the world, frankly I think it’s just narcissistic.

  3. Hi Tim, this is Gene from Italy. I’ve followed your thoughts with both skepticism and praise. Generally, I’m in agreement with you. I was pleased, however, in the thought today to see some constructive alternatives (The test of whether you are in danger or not.) We (you, me, and other evangelicals critiquing our culture) have a tendency to pick up on the world as God did not mean it to be, and act as evangelical surgeons doing biblical surgery cutting this out, or amputating that value from the body of our culture. We are good at cutting into and cutting out of our culture, but not so good at being healers, especially healing the brethren we have been doing surgery on. So thanks for the alternative that heals. Take care. – Gene

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