From Today’s NY Times:
Facebook, the popular networking site, has 350 million members worldwide who, collectively, spend 10 billion minutes there every day, checking in with friends, writing on people’s electronic walls, clicking through photos and generally keeping pace with the drift of their social world.
Make that 9.9 billion and change. Recently, Halley Lamberson, 17, and Monica Reed, 16, juniors at San Francisco University High School, made a pact to help each other resist the lure of the login. Their status might as well now read, “I can’t be bothered.”
“We decided we spent way too much time obsessing over Facebook and it would be better if we took a break from it,” Halley said.
By mutual agreement, the two friends now allow themselves to log on to Facebook on the first Saturday of every month — and only on that day.
In my world, Facebook actually makes my time on the internet “shorter.” I go on maybe 3 times a day by leaving the tab open for most of the day and taking a 10 minute break once an hour to check in on friends and colleagues. It’s been the source of finding out about a friend’s car accident and the illness of a colleague’s father. I scored tickets to a ballgame and was able to catch up with a friend who happened to be in town and hadn’t realized that I had moved.
Most importantly, Facebook makes me a trusted source to literally over a thousand people who call me (albeit loosely) friend. People are able to see the short posts (or not so short, some days) that I blog here through the notes application. I often ask my network “questions” to get a quick straw poll or to quickly get an honest opinion from people that I trust quickly. Facebook has led me to chance meetings with friends of friends and most of the speaking engagements I’ve gotten lately have come from and are planned on facebook. In fact, one of my colleagues convinced me to come to Buffalo during a chat on facebook!
Facebook is about connection and being open to that possibility of being connected to someone who needs some advice or information–perhaps at times on mundane subjects, but that is nothing new. People have always gotten advice from other people, as opposed to institutional sources. There’s more legitimacy in a friends using Tide and recommending it than the advertisers telling you that it gets your clothes clean. Becoming a trusted source is why sales teams are able to make that last sale happen and what keeps a congregation from leaving their church when they can’t stomach the latest hate message from a group that comes from someone speaking in the name of Jesus and claiming they speak for an institution.
And that today, all happens faster. Instantaneously. We have an opportunity to be in connection with those who doubt, question or simply need someone in a moments notice. And while that can lead others to compulsion, the eschewing of the technology is not the answer. Learning to control those compulsions are. For some using Facebook once a month might be al they can stomach, but I think that might be the exception rather than the rule. For the rest of us, using facebook with better intentions might be what we are called to do.
And so: today’s challenge: For one week, Christmas week, can we more mindfully use our status updates to not only spread the good news of Christ at his birth, but also try to reach out to others who may not often hear from us or to send a message of support to those who need it. Maybe we can use facebook to find a source we need to help another or to spread the news of someone else’s good work just a bit farther.
Whatever the case might be, sharing and responding to the mundane might not need capture our attentions. Instead weeding out that insignificance to respond to what truly moves our hearts and attracts our souls can indeed be something we spiritual social networkers might more intentionally be mindful of this final week of Advent.