Last night saw a quere clatter (Ulster Scots for alot) of people signing off Facebook for Lent. Such a decision has written right through it the idea that Facebook is bad for your soul or a waste of time, time that could be spent doing more Christian things. For those who took that decision I would like to say, gently but with real conviction, “BAD DECISION!” Indeed, I would suggest that it is spiritually a bad decision. In essence it is cutting yourself off from a friendship with me and your other Facebook friends. I feel snubbed by that decision. Hurt almost. I don’t think it helps our lives to be even more cut off than a busy modern world already makes us. Facebook is an avenue for friendship, relationship and conversation, like the workplace, Church, the golf club, the cafe or the pub. Facebook for me has been a rich source of joy, fun, lol, news about mates new and old, interesting information, provocative quotes and stimulating conversation and debate. If everyone gave it up for Lent my life would be spiritually impoverished. We all play our part.
To me, giving up Facebook for Lent is a sign that its real identity has been mistaken. Facebook is not some computer gadget, gimmick or game; it is a means to communicate. The people who are giving it up for Lent are saying that they will still be available on email and phone. That suggests that Facebook is the newest fangled fad and we’re going back to the more authentic forms of communication. But few are giving up the phone for Lent or conversation with other humans. Thus I conclude that people do not see Facebook as a conversational resource.
You can tell that I love Facebook. I do. It has given me the opportunity in a very busy life to stay in touch with a vast array of people that I would never otherwise been able to stay in touch with. I have been able to find friends who I haven’t even seen for thirty five or forty years and had some serious conversations with them. I have been able to stay in touch with people all over the world that I could never have stayed close to. I have been able to just hang in to friendships that would have been long lost. I have picked up new songs and new books. I have been pointed to great articles and stimulating quotations. I have had some real banter about sport. I have been able to congratulate people and see friends’ new babies and wedding photos. I have been able to pastor hurting friends. I have been able to get involved in some great debates. I have just been able to say hi now and again. It also gives me the chance to multitask. I can prepare a sermon and be in touch with friends as I do so. I can be at home watching a soccer match and chat away to friends. I can use the unfriendly hours of the day around 11-midnight to have meaningful discussions. Facebook is an amazing resource to do what humans are at their most human in doing; communicating.
I hope those who gave this conversation up for Lent gain more than they have given up. Unlike chocolate, drink or Football Manager you lose something special, if not to you then to others, and if the benefits gained outweigh the benefits given up then fair play! I and others will sit here feeling rejected and cut off in the meantime!
for more serious surmising on Facebook check out these articles from a Conference address I gave on the benefits and how to use Facebook..