Sunday, August 2, 2009

Absorbed by Facebook

During the Lenten season this year one of my friends chose to "fast" from Facebook, Twitter and other such forms of communication. Since that time he has resumed using them, but I've noticed that he is very moderate, even infrequent, in posting updates. When I heard that he had done this I was both surprised and pleased. I was surprised because it had never occurred to me to pursue such a fast. I was pleased because I could see quite well the benefit of it.

I joined Facebook about a year ago. I signed up initially because I wanted to keep in touch with a friend of mine who works in Africa. Over time my list of friends grew. I reconnected with many old friends, including several that I had not seen or heard from in twenty years. I was also bombarded with friendship requests from people I barely remembered. More than once I had to pull out my high school yearbook to prompt my memory. On the whole I have come to value this aspect of Facebook and other social networking tools. It can be a good way to keep in touch with friends, especially those who do not live close by. It provides a forum for sharing a small portion of my life. At the same time, it is not a tool for maintaining in-depth relationships. I don't share my deepest thoughts and feelings on Facebook because they are not something I want all of my contacts to know. (Yes, there is the option of writing things to individuals, but that option existed earlier--it's called e-mail.) In fact, I'm appaled at times by the things people feel the need to share about themselves. One of the downsides of sites like Facebook is that they seem to contribute to the blurring of the personal and the non-personal spheres of life.

I don't have a problem with controlling my urge to reveal personal secrets or details about my life that really don't belong in the public domain. (Do you all really want to know when I'm running to the store?) I have, however, found that Facebook will absorb as much of my time as I choose to give it. There are fun games and activities. There are new pictures to see and links to explore. It can become an obsession. I don't think I have reached that point, yet. But I realized recently that I need to control my time, especially time spent playing games. I am not condemning them or those who play them. They can be a fun pastime. But they can also divert my attention from things that are far more meaningful and beneficial, like spending time in the Word or interacting with my family or friends in real time. I think of Paul's words to the Corinthians: "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial."

So while I appreciate the benefits of Facebook and will continue to use it, I want to be more disciplined in the manner in which I do so. I will even continue to play games until we move and my internet connection makes that unfeasible. But I want to do so more moderately. I want Facebook to foster relationship, not be an escape from it. I may even fast from it altogether next spring.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who takes a computer and internet Sabbath every week. On either Saturday or Sunday, he does not use any computer or mobile devices. Instead, he uses the time to play (non-electronic) games with his kids, exercise, picnic, hike, visit friends, read, go to church, etc.

    I think this is probably a good idea for many of us to consider.