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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

Facebook Dynamics

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Facebook on this blog, but I’ve recently reactivated my account, evincing a softening on my earlier position.  What brought me back?  I read an article by Mark Driscoll about Santa Claus some time ago that suggested three options for Christian parents who wrestle with the Santa Claus question:  (1) Reject it, (2) receive it, or (3) redeem it.  With Facebook, I’ve opted for (3).

While Facebook can degenerate into mere relational candy, it can also be used to stay legitimately in touch with friends and family.  Furthermore, like Santa Claus, it isn’t going away any time soon.  It’s already firmly embedded into the culture I inhabit, so I might as well deal with it rather than avoid it.  As I’ve made a start at this, I’ve done some housekeeping, which brought up some interesting dynamics:

(1)  In the “religious views” category of my profile, I selected “Christian,” as one might guess.  But Facebook also offers some for a description below the simple declaration.  I found filling in this area to be very difficult, because I wanted to fill in all sorts of things that Christianity doesn’t mean to me (e.g., I’m not a member of the Tea Party movement).  It’s so discouraging to think of all the baggage that is attached to the word, and I found it impossible to write anything simpler than just referencing Acts 11:26, which is the first mention of the word “Christian” in the Bible.  This was in part inspired by something I read in An Evangelical Manifesto some years ago: “In the first instance, Christians ought to define themselves, and be defined, by what they are for, rather than what they are against.”  Ironically, I don’t entirely agree with that statement, but I do agree with the larger point that it’s not very helpful merely to define what something isn’t.

(2)  It’s hard to un-friend somebody.  I went through my friend list and found people who I did not remember or recognize, no matter how hard I tried.   I also removed some friends whose names that I remembered, even though I couldn’t think of one shared moment or interaction from our past, other than, perhaps, that we were in the same gym together when we graduated high school.  Why is it hard to un-friend somebody with whom you’ve spent very little (if any) time?  When said time is most likely decades in the past?  My guess is that it’s bound up in the implied language of taking somebody off your list of friends, viz., “You are not my friend.”  It feels like I’m rejecting somebody, and that never feels easy to me, whether it’s a mouse-click or an actual conversation.

(3)  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a temptation to “collect,” friends, whatever that achieves.  “Two more friends and I’ll have 100!”  What’s the itch being scratched here?  Probably the basic human need for relationship, love, acceptance, and all the rest.  Cue sermon.

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Facebook: You’re Dead to Me Now

Facebook has been on borrowed time since I subscribed.  Today, I deactivated my account, despite Facebook’s own “Are you sure?” page.  Said page displays pictures of a few friends with a caption under each that reads, “[name] will miss you.”  Indeed they might, but I have my doubts.  Why?

Here is my Facebook experience, sans exaggeration:

  1. I receive a friend request e-mail from Facebook.  The “friend” can range anywhere from a true friend with whom I have current, human-style contact, or an acquaintance whose name rings a dusty bell from the “early 90’s” section of my brain.
  2. If indeed I know (or have known) this person, I accept their request.
  3. If I haven’t been in touch with said person for a year or more, I view their profile, thus satisfying my curiosity as to “what they’re up to now.”  Here is Facebook’s big payoff: You get to go to your high school reunion without actually going to your high school reunion.
  4. Ten percent of the time, the reinstated friendship results in one or two quick, superficial exchanges of “how are you’s” or “remember when’s.”  After some brief well-wishing, a complete lack of contact follows which is rivaled only by the complete lack of contact that preceded our reunion.
  5. (Optional) A Facebook friend invites me to:  (a) join in a “cause” (usually of the “save the whales” variety).  Joining the cause consists of all of the sacrifice, accountability and personal reward one might experience when forwarding a chain e-mail (i.e., none),  (b) consider a discussion of life insurance or investment options with him/her (no kidding),  (c) become a “fan” of something (e.g., a band, brewery, or celebrity),  (d) play some type of cyber-game, such as entering into an e-snowball fight (whatever that is), or taking a personality test.
  6. Go to step 1.

I confess that the above is a little biting, and it would be wrong for me to assume that everybody has a similar experience.  There have been a few exceptions to the pattern above, but they are just that: few.  As such, I hope I don’t offend friends who truly value Facebook, or could recount stories of happy reunions that had staying power. I certainly wish no ill upon the individuals of my Facebook friend list, nor do I have any rebuke for them (aside from a “Dude…seriously?” for the insurance sales people). In my experience Facebook has been just another flavor of cyber-candy, and in the end I decided that I had enough non-nutrative sweets in my life already. While one prefers Facebook and video games, I’ll choose “The Simpsons” and Homestar Runner.

My own experience aside, the real point of this post is simply to introduce a provocative article I recently read about Facebook. Like most articles we recommend here at BBG, I wouldn’t say I agree with all of the author’s conclusions, but it’s a worthwhile read none the less.

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