02 October 2010

is facebook killing your soul?

I picked up my new issue of Relevant recently (Heck yes, Relevant magazine. Don't judge me.) and as I scanned the front cover my eyes alighted on "IS FACEBOOK KILLING YOUR SOUL? p. 72"

I was so excited.

For those who haven't participated in this minor drama in my life, I am a non-Facebooker. (I really need to come up with a more interesting name for this phenomenon.) I have waffled and wavered, I've hemmed and hawed, I've even lied about it, promising friends "I'll get one at the end of the year..." or "I'll get one when I go overseas..." or "I'll get one when I graduate..." But they were all flat-out, if useful, lies.

I wrinkled the pages all up in my rush to get to page 72. The main argument was that Facebook changes the way we think and the way we perceive and interact in the real world as well as the cyber-world. The author explains it simply: "Our thinking patterns begin to mirror the things we use to think with." Some of the changes seem to be neutral, some not so good, and some just interesting. Consider these suggestions by the author:

We now think in webs rather than lines.
We value flexible, fast intuition over hard, slow, laborious rationality.
We prefer short, simple messages over lengthy, uninterrupted essays.

He also has some more concerning observations:

"While there is a little voyeurism, there is a lot of exhibitionism on Facebook... Voyeurism is what happens when you steal glimpses into people's lives they don't intend for you to see. The people I'm looking at want me to see everything I'm seeing. They want me to know what they're eating, wearing, feeling and thinking in each moment... Such exhibitionism has an unusual effect on us... We become fascinated by the image we project. It's like having a mirror on your desk or in your pocket. And every so often, you pull it out to gaze upon your own image. Perhaps you want to adjust your hair or find postures of the head to smooth out the double chin. This kind of regular self-inspection eventually gives rise to a subtle narcissism."

"We endlessly noodle, refine, create and consume a digital projection we want others to see. However, we are rarely what we project. This image approximates reality, but it is not reality... This is hardly new, of course. In any social situation, we seek to control the impression we give. The problem is that in real social settings, there are limits to what we can hide... Over enough time, [Facebook's] subtle effect creates a minor split in us. A split between who we are, and who we think we are. This tiny fracture may seem insignificant, but if we remain unconscious, it leads us away from a life of wholeness and integration."

And finally, Facebook (and Twitter) "begs me to step out of the stream of experience long enough to record it... This may seem insignificant. But our presence matters. Our brief but increasingly frequent moments of absence add up. Imagine a father who flickers in and out of a child's life every time he checks his iPhone. He might be there physically, but he may as well be at the office or on a business trip. People can feel our absence... It is a ghost-like condition. It diminishes one of God's greatest gifts to us- a body. There is a reason God made us with bodies. There is a reason God became a body in Jesus. The incarnation is about becoming a body to bless the world through physical presence in the lives of others. To hold the hand of those who grieve, to feed and clothe those who are poor, to love those who are alone by being with them. Many of these technologies create a condition of absence in a world desperate for our presence."

I think the reason the first one hits home for me so much is that I have experienced a gentler version of this just by blogging. When I blog I am clamoring for people to look at me, look at what I'm doing and what I'm thinking and where I'm going and who I'm with. Obsessing over my image, even in a blog, is a huge temptation. I want to shape who I am into who I want to be. Which is not a bad thing. The problem is that when it comes to social media like this, who I want to be is not the image of Christ, but rather a cooler version of Megan.

This is why I can't get Facebook. I think some people can handle it fine and use it well. I'm terrified I wouldn't be able to, that it would suck me deeper into a self-absorption and insecurity I've struggled with all my life. I don't think I'm strong enough for Facebook, pathetic as that sounds.

The third point I think goes both ways. Yes, technology like this can make us absent even when we're present. But at the same time, it can also make us present even when we're absent. If I don't see a close friend all day, I can text her just to let her know that I'm thinking about her and I love her, even when I can't be in her presence. But I have to be very cautious and wise that when I am present with someone, I am fully present with them, and not darting away to talk to someone I find more interesting.

So I'll just leave you with a promise: I will try to be aware of my lurking self-obsession so that I can fight it back and be real with you and truly interested in you. Please give me grace as God sorts out this messiness in me, and know that I love you, even if I'm really bad at loving you.

Oh, and one final amusing, but insightful, snippet: "Updates may be profound, but more often they are mostly a twitch of the brain- a mental fidget adding to the static of the universe."

1 comment:

  1. Hello Megan! This is your Mom's "favorite" (I say that with my tongue in my cheek) cousin. Your Grandma (Mary Jo) sent my Mom (Marge Haines) your recent blog about FB. My Mom, in turn, asked me to read it and tell her what I thought. I have to tell you, I really don't agree with much of the author's perceptions/insights. Perhaps it's because I am now 53 years old or perhaps because my FB pals are not the same folks the author encounters. I have friends of all ages on FB. Some I see quite often, some I see once in awhile, and some (mostly because of the miles between us) I see very rarely. Some of my new-found/old friends I haven't seen in years! It took a long time for my kids to convince me to get a FB page, but I must tell you, I have found it to be WONDERFUL. I have been interacting and talking with friends I had lost track of years ago! I have also gotten to know my in-laws (who all live miles away) in a new and different way. And, too, it has become a wonderful tool to be a good witness to many of my non-Christian friends. It gives them a real glimpse into why I believe the way I believe and how my beliefs affect my everyday life. It also gives others the opportunity to ask me questions, ask for prayer, and to offer their insights.
    I realize that FB probably isn't for everyone. Interestingly enough, my sister refuses to get on FB, but she is always asking me to update her on friends she hasn't spoken with in years. . .it makes me chuckle.
    So, you can put my comments in the "for-what-it's-worth" department, but, I thought I would share the "other side of the coin".
    Hope you continue to blog, Megan. It is a wonderful way to keep track of our lives. (Our experiences, thoughts, dreams, etc.). And, I would imagine, it will be fun in the years to come to drag "these days" out and share them with your children, and perhaps with your childrens' children. I had a friend (who was a huge history buff) once tell me, "the only things that are remembered are those things which are written down." I have found his words to ring quite true!

    Your first cousin once removed,

    Joyce Haines Hying