Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 6

Many people struggle to do everything you want to do. But I can give an extra hour a day. I have the secret. Thank what you could with an extra hour: time with the children, doing mission, reading your Bible, learning a new skill. What is the answer? Stop using Facebook. On average Facebook users spend 20 hours a month on Facebook. That is the average which means getting on for 250 million people are spending an hour a day on Facebook. You could stop. Some people do not have a Facebook page and somehow life goes on. And you get a whole hour each day.

Some of you have little time for community and missional life because you are spending too much time on Facebook or watching television or surfing blogs. You are opting for disembodied life over embodied life.

Now disembodied life is easier. But it is less fulfilling, less real and less satisfying.

Embodied life is harder. But it is more fulfilling, more real, more satisfying. It is more substantial – you can touch it, feel it, embrace it!

One study found that over half of young women spend more time talking to people online than face-to-face. Another study found that for every hour we spend on our computers, face-to-face interaction falls by thirty minutes. The more people engage online, the less able they are to engage offline. Real world communication feels more threatening, less natural, less normal.

I was talking to the wife of one of leaders in The Crowded House. She was describing how many people struggle to keep up with old friends. They are often off pulled away from church and mission to visit people elsewhere in the country. And Facebook perpetuates this. The result is stress and thin relationships. In contrast she talked about as a couple they recognised that God has placed them in their city, in a physical place with physical bodies with all the limitations that involves. So their focus is on the people in their Christian community and their neighbourhood. They do not give a lot of time to “keeping up” with past relationships. They focus on their present time and their present place. As a result they have relationships that are deep and significant.

Facebook encourages you to live elsewhere. The gospel encourages you to live life here and now.

  •      You can tend your Farmville farm or you can get an allotment.
  •      You can catch up with friends on Facebook or you can go out on a cold, dark night to see real friends.
  •      You can catch up with “Friends” by watching the latest episode on the television or you can serve your neighbours.
  •      You can build a new city on Sims or you can be the city of God set on a hill with your Christian community.

Here is the test: Am I using Facebook to enhance real world friendships or to replace them?

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12 thoughts on “Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 6

  1. Pingback: Online friendships « Sunshine Lenses

  2. Greetings from America ~

    ‘Very well written, you’ve really nailed what our society, culture, mindset has evolved (or devolved) into. Your quote, “You are opting for disembodied life over embodied life” is classic!

    I prefer real-world interaction myself, there’s nothing like hearing a voice… feeling a handshake… watching a tear fall…

    Be Blessed!

  3. Some good advice here, Tim. Embodiment is a crucial issue – as is the quality of community. I’m working a book at present: ‘The Gospel of Slow’ which in part addresses the downside of fast, complex online communication. Having had a nervous breakdown last year I found that part of the ‘cure’ was complete abstinence from social networking for several months followed by strict rationing. It might sound austere, but gearing- down to a more human pace is genuinely lifegiving in the long run.

    Now, I do dip into facebook, but the pace is manageable. I haven’t given up my online existence. After all, how would I read excellent posts like this.

  4. Good thoughts. Like most things, Facebook needs to be used wisely. I find it helps keep me connected to my family overseas. I don’t need it for people I meet every day.

  5. Pingback: Will you be my Facebook friend – Part III « WHATEVER IS COMMENDABLE

  6. Sorry to be the only dissenter here but…

    I think you are being unnecessarily negative about Facebook!
    I think it is a mistake to dismiss it out of hand as though it were an hour of playing video games rather than acknowledging it as a way of keeping in touch with people.

    I was puzzled by your assertion that it is a bad thing to keep in touch with old friends. Yes, we need to spend time with our geographical proximate friends, but that doesn’t preclude keeping in touch with others. After all, didn’t Paul take time to do this in his relationships?

    I always think that facebook and twitter are the modern equivalent of the old ‘penpals’. This isn’t necesarily a new problem – there have always been friendships that have been mediated through writing in-depth and waiting for a reply. It seems churlish to dismiss this medium of friendship, particularlly as some of the Bible epistles seem to have been penned on that basis!

    Facebook allows a more superficial interaction and keeping in touch with a greater number of people. It doesn’t replace more intimate and physical interaction with a smaller number of people, but it seems like the one shouldn’t preclude the other.

    I am in the interesting position of being an extrovert who loves being around people and yet is housebound from illness. I am the first to say that I love the quality of relating and the spontaneity of being with people. What a gift it is! And being prayed with is so much more special than being told that you are being prayed for.

    BUT there is a lot to be said for these online connections. In one sense I don’t have a choice, so I am forced to do many relationships this way by necessity. I make contact with a different range and variety of people on Twitter and think about issues that I would never come across otherwise, simply because they have come into my online ‘circle’. There is an online community of people with M.E. which I am discovering is very supportive. They are not physical, but they are immediate, whereas most other friendships are physical but not immediate – they have to be scheduled in around other stuff.

    There are pros and cons to each way of relating, and of course they should be balanced, but I certainly don’t think it is contrary to the gospel to want to keep in touch with friends by sharing your life in small amounts of written communication, as you seem to want to suggest.

  7. I’m not saying contact with distant friends is bad. But we all have a limited amount of time. so we have some choices to make. Facebook allows us to give equal wait to all relationships, past and present, near and far. I’m suggesting that may not be a good choice if we want relationship in which we are truly connect and truly accountable for what we do in the flesh. Clearly those who are housebound are in a different situation. Remember I’m not against social media (I am, after all, blogging these reflections). I’m simply arguing for a thoughtful, gospel-centred approach to their use. I would also hope your Christian community regularly come to you.

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  10. Hi there.
    Thanks very much for this comment, which I found helpful. I agree that a thoughtful and intentional approach should be the way forward. I have written a more lengthy response on my blog to the issues you have raised – thanks very much for helping crystallise my thinking on this. blessings!

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