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Facebook: friend and foe?

August 25, 2014

social-media-signsWe all know that Social Media can be used powerfully for good or bad; we are aware of cyber bulling and predatory uses, but I wonder if we have given enough thought to how we, as your every-day users of Facebook, use such media. I wonder if we strive to use Facebook in a loving and thoughtful way? When I mention Facebook I am not being exclusive, as I’m sure many of the points highlighted here may be the same for other social media, but I am most au fais with Facebook!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is not self-seeking

Unfortunately much of what we do on Facebook can be self-seeking, for example, we want to present the best side of our life – and pretend that it’s like that all the time. We can de-tag photos, we can hide what others can see and we can largely present ourselves just as we like.

For example, we want good photos to go on our profile, we want to put statuses up about our great achievements (we certainly don’t want to share our failings, unless perhaps there is an element of humour and people will still think well of me or have sympathy), we want people to ‘like’ our statuses and think that our comments are great!  Or on the flip side – we can be self-seeking by choosing to put negative things up with the hope that people will give sympathy and attention or think about how great we are for coping with such adversities.

I’m not saying that we should never post anything good about our life on Facebook, as it can be a great way of sharing our life with our friends and family and share in their joys, but as we will consider shortly, we should be aware of our reasons for doing so.

In the past I have fallen prey to the danger of wanting to present the best side of me – I have hidden all my Facebook photos because there are some photos in my teenage years of me wearing things and doing things that I wouldn’t do now (yes, I know that alerting you to this fact is running the risk of you looking at them to see just what I used to get up to!) I worried that people would see those photos and judge me and I considered de-tagging all those photos. BUT I decided that actually that is part of who I am – it is part of my history and it is a testament to how God has worked in my life, so I can run the risk of being judged.

Love is not proud

Which brings me onto the next Facebook danger – judging others. It is far too easy to look at your Facebook newsfeed and think ‘I can’t believe they did that’ or look at other people thinking ‘I would never do that’ or ‘how could they be so foolish?’ etc.  Whilst we might catch ourselves with our friends in ‘real life’ and challenge these condemning thoughts it is far easier to look at a screen and to judge what we see there, rather than having empathy and love for the friends behind it.

Love does not boast

It seems that sometimes we can put statuses and comments up, which we wouldn’t say outright to people (e.g. my boyfriend is marvelous/my child is so clever etc) and we can forget that when we put something on Facebook that there are individual people (with feelings, insecurities, hurts, struggles) at the other end who are still being affected by them.

Whereas in a face-to-face conversation with a friend we may tone down saying how well our job is going out of consideration for the fact that they are currently struggling with looking for a job. Sadly this element of personalisation and consideration can be lost on Facebook when we send phrases into cyber space and to our however-many-friends all at once.

I appreciate that you may think that considering each individual friend every time you post something is an unachievable task, but I think that at the moment we can too easily go to the other extreme and throwing in some extra consideration would not go amiss for any of us.

Love does not envy

The sheer wealth of information about other people, and the fact that we often want to show the best side of ourselves, can also cause envy to rear it’s ugly head, such as ‘oh, I wish I’d been on that holiday’/’I wish I had that relationship’/’aren’t they lucky?!’ It can be all too easy to look at someone’s Facebook page and think that they’re having a better time than us, or life is just rosy for them.

Only seeing a limited snap-shot of other people, and usually the snap-shot that they want us to see, can fuel genvious thoughts.  We can see a neatened-up version of other people’s lives, but we are often painfully aware of our own imperfections and difficulties, which makes the comparison all the harder!

This isn’t a call to abandon Facebook and other social media, unless you would like to, it is a call to integrity in how we use social media, for example:

  • Be honest about our motives – am I uploading this picture because I want to show other people how much fun I’m having or just how great I can look? Am I putting this status up because I want to share life or to gain attention (and hopefully likes/comments in the double figures) and show how wonderful/awful my life is?
  • Be honest about your life – we are ALL messed up and broken. Let’s be prepared to accept that some photos of us are unflattering (I challenge you not to de-tag that photo where you have double chins, or you don’t look your best – yes, this is a challenge to me too!) Not everything goes the way we want – but we can still share that with people without feeling inferior to those people with seemingly perfect lives. Remember, no-one has a perfect life and to admit that is refreshing!
  • Remember your Facebook friends are people! This may sound obvious, but I think it can be easy to forget. When we put information on Facebook, we need to remember that each one of our Facebook friends may see it. Is it helpful and loving to share this with your friends? Would you feel comfortable saying this to their faces? If not, I implore you not to put it out in cyberspace!
One Comment leave one →
  1. August 25, 2014 3:58 pm

    So true, Mike! I do try to be as kind when posting anything, but it is a temptation to hide our “bad” sides, thinking others won’t or can’t understand. And, I will be ever so careful in the future not to judge (didn’t even realize I was doing so until you pointed it out above) others who do crazy or what I think are risky behaviors. I’ll say a prayer for them instead!
    Blessings to you!

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