I used to see Facebook as a mindless space where people shared photos of their breakfast and other mundane moments. Eight years on, I experience withdrawal if I can’t scroll through my newsfeed many times a day to see who’s doing and saying what.
To my surprise, Facebook has become a significant influence on my prayer life. I often find myself reading people’s status updates and praying that God will help them with the challenges they’re facing.
Facebook has widened my horizons and perspectives on some complex issues. It’s also increased my empathy for those who don’t experience the same welcome as I do from the church, along with those struggling to make sense of Christianity.
But this is no blind love affair, because there’s too much unbridled meanness on Facebook.
This probably reflects Facebook’s origins. Its predecessor was called ‘Facemash’, a website developed by Zuckerberg and three of his university mates as a ‘game’ where people could compare student pictures and decide who was hot and who was not.
A lot of great inventions have their beginnings in simplistic roots, so I’m not going to criticise Zuckerberg and friends for their early prototype. The problem lies in the immaturity of those who still utilise Facebook primarily for the purpose of judging others today.
A Bible verse comes to mind:
‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NRSV)
If we’re using Facebook primarily for its childish origins, to judge who is in and who is out, feeding a false sense of superiority about where we stand in some or other imagined pecking order, it’s time for a rethink.
Perhaps the solution is to return to the start of the real world, where we see God making man and woman in God’s image as the final act of creation, and then declaring all that had been made was ‘very good’.
Just imagine how powerful it would be to approach our social media interactions as a chance to encourage and affirm people all the time! And in those times when we may feel snubbed or put down online, to return to the voice we need to hear most clearly above all others … and to listen as God tells us we are loved (not just ‘liked’), and that we—all of us—are ‘very good’.
Christina Tyson is a Salvation Army officer, editor of War Cry magazine, Mum of three, wife of one, and proficient in ironing and other sundry domestics.