There is something about the ease of internet communication that is really… dangerous. In seconds I can share a brilliant article written by some other person and get a dozen “likes” for his work. I can receive compliments and comments on the masterpiece written by this person whom I don’t know and will never meet, and all by saying “I totally agree with this.”
Now it’s not exactly pure plagerism, but doesn’t it make you feel smarter when people affirm your linked articles… almost as if you had done the work of researching and writing on the issue yourself? Instantaneously we become informed, vindicated, victorious activists for a worthy and noble cause… that we didn’t particularly know existed five minutes prior.
Or think of how simple it is to jump on the unexpecting comment of a total stranger that we found on our friend’s post while scrolling through our news feed. Aha! We say to ourselves, that person is utterly wrong on this and I must correct them in the swiftest and surest of ways! How often do we do this before asking sincerely, “That is an interesting perspective. How did you come about it?” Or, “Do tell me more about why you think ______.” If we do not know to who we are talking, how can we assure ourselves we are not breaking a bruised reed or offending a weaker brother? How can we know to speak gently or firmly, to give law or grace? Are they ignorant or belligerent? It’s easy to think we know from the three sentences we just read… their intonation and tone and background seem obvious to us. But their reality may be totally different than our perception.
Not to mention our cultural addiction to instantaneous gratification. Have online friendships without even bothering to get out of your pajamas and go on a play date! Make sure everyone knows exactly how you feel without marching down the street with a sign or getting involved in your local community! Instantly tell the world exactly how you feel and get gobs of sympathy thrown at you from every direction.
Now… I am certainly not putting the best construction on our Facebook activity, and I’m sure most of us are not consciously posting in order to garner attention to ourselves or because we feel the need to be superior and find others to put down whenever the opportunity arises. BUT are we doing the exact opposite of that? How intentionally gentle, loving and gracious are we when we go online? How much of our activity is reactionary rather than proactive? How often do we take the time to sit and think through our next post or comment and check our motives and consider the unintended consequences? When we post are we posting for the sake of others… or are we mainly just thinking about ourselves, our interests, our needs, our hurts?
As Christians we believe that sin is actually a turning in on oneself. It is the doing of something for one’s own sake. We are to live for God and for others. We are to be other focused, focused on how to bless, care for, help, encourage, strengthen, admonish, teach and lift up the people around us. But Facebook… Facebook was created for you. For self gratification and for surrounding yourself with those things that you like and for quenching that thirst for attention. Not only does it tempt us to concentrate on ourselves, but it goads us into trying to make everyone else look at us and focus on us too.
It’s time for our Facebook addicted generation to own up to the reality.
Facebook is a spiritually dangerous place to be.
I have considered many times removing Facebook from my life, but as one person put it, Facebook has really become a part of the infrastructure of our society. There is so much that you simply do not have access to without Facebook. And not just frivolous things either, but important things, like people and ministry opportunities. Support and encouragement from those who you have no contact with otherwise. Networking that provides both knowledge and teaching opportunities. Etc… etc…
But enough is enough. I have realized that if Facebook needs to stay in my life, we need to set some ground rules.
Facebook might be a mine field, but there are ways I can diffuse those mines and avoid them. I can’t be perfect, but I don’t have to succumb to every spiritual pitfall that comes my way. Being aware of the danger and taking responsibility for avoiding that danger is half the battle. And then, at least, when we fail we can have the presence of mind to ask forgiveness, repent and receive grace.
With all these things in mind, I have come up with a new model of using Facebook for myself. It is tailored to my needs and the needs of our family, but I would encourage you to think through your relationship to Facebook and social networking and perhaps come up with guidelines for yourself. Every generation has particular pitfalls to avoid, it would be wise of us to attend to our own. A little discipline can go a long way.
Dalas’ Facebook Guidelines
Rule 1: Only log on to Facebook if there is something I need to do there.
One pitfall of Facebook is the ease of access. Since I struggle with that urge to just “check stuff really quick” a dozen times throughout the day, I am going to make the rule that I can only log in to Facebook if there is a specific task I need to accomplish there, and not just to peruse and waste time or get into trouble. To help me, I am going to set up an online journal with a list of all the online tasks I have to do each day. When I sit down at the computer, I do those things first, and if I have time I can maybe scroll through my news feed once. As an additional aid I will be disallowing my browser to automatically sign in to Facebook. Instead I will need to *gasp* consciously type in my username and password. One click makes it too easy to just log on without thinking.
Rule 2: Do not post or comment unless I have prayed about it first.
Remember the instant gratification problem? No longer am I just going to type up whatever feels good in the moment and send it without praying and thinking through the repercussions. Words can’t be taken back, sure you can delete them, but they might leave permanent scars. You can’t delete impressions that you make on others. If there is something I need or want to post I am going to step away from the computer first and take at least fifteen minutes to think and pray on the matter before returning to type up a thread or a response. If I have to pray about my words for fifteen minutes before I write them, I foresee two things happening: I will write less. And what I do write will be better.
Rule 3: Use Facebook for other people.
If it were just my wants and needs, I would get rid of Facebook. But I keep telling myself I am here because it helps me to serve others. If this is actually true, I need to start using Facebook with that in mind. I can’t get Facebook out of my life, but I can get rid of the selfishness that Facebook has fostered in me. Before I sit down to post or do anything on Facebook I am going to ask myself why I am posting. What is my motivation? How will this help someone else? Who am I hoping to help and why? Is there a more helpful or constructive way I can put this so that those I am wanting to serve will get more out of it? Am I posting this just because of my own feelings? Am I writing this to vindicate or justify myself in front of others? These are the mental exercises I will go through in the praying and considering phase before I post. If something needs to be adjusted in my heart or in my post, I will do that before clicking the enter key.
Rule 4: Follow the leader.
I am a strong believer in Biblical roles. Jake is the head of our household, and with that position comes both respect and responsibility. His job is to be the public face of our household, the responsibility of preserving the reputation of our family name rests on his shoulders. And since he is in ministry, that task is even more crucial. So when I know that something I want to say online might not be something my husband would have me say (and trust me I usually do know…) I need to clear it with him first. I have a really hard time submitting to him on this, and several times I have adopted the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” stance. I will post it, knowing he won’t like it…
This is a reprehensible sin of mine. And it needs to stop. There is nothing that I need to post to Facebook that is more important than respecting the will of the authority that God has placed in my life, namely my husband. I am called first to help and serve him, and any service to others online is a distant second to that. He is a much better judge of these kinds of things than I am anyway. I am blessed to have him. So, if I am going to be posting something potentially controversial, I will clear it with my head first. And I would encourage you ladies to do likewise. (If you are underage, make sure you follow your parents’ authority for your Facebook usage.)
I know I won’t be perfect.
But it’s a start.