Justin Buzzard recently shared his outline for a message titled Facebook: Technology and Relationships. I haven’t seen the message online yet but I found his thoughtful examination of the ways that Facebook is used negatively in our lives helpful, as well as his suggestions for how to use this particular technology to the glory of God helpful. I’ve listed them below and even added my own commentary and thoughts in response.

9 Potentially Negatives Uses For/Of Facebook

  1. The trend of using your status to complain. I think Scripture is pretty clear on this one. “Do all things without grumbling and questioning…” (Phil 2:14). The principle of this verse applies even to our Facebook status. One helpful question we should use to examine our hearts is this: “What am I seeking from people by broadcasting my complaint on the worldwide web that I can’t find in Christ?”
  2. Measuring your worth/identity by the number of Facebook friends/ Facebook interactions. Honestly, this seems almost silly when you say it out loud, but networking technology has become a serious barometer of worth and significance in our culture. The numbers of “friends” that populates ones Facebook friend list has become, for some, the measure of how well loved or accepted you are in the world (even if it is a virtual world). But our worth shouldn’t be measured by the number of friend requests we receive in a day. As the sons and daughters of God we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” (Col 3:12).  The only friend request we need is from Christ: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:15-16).
  3. Greater concern over forming Facebook (virtual) friends rather than real friends. If you spend more time building relationships over the internet than you do in real life, you need to take a break from the internet.
  4. Diminishment of face-to-face time with people / Enjoying working on real relationships. See above. Another way to evaluate this is to test how often you disengage from real life conversations to get an update on your virtual relationships. This isn’t an exact parallel but it annoys the heck out of me when I’m talking to someone and they pull out their phone, flip it open, and look to see if they’ve missed a call or text message. Seriously. Can’t it wait five minutes until we’re finished talking?
  5. Dual identities. The virtual world of the web is an attractive place to be someone that you aren’t.  Sometimes people will say and do things online that they would never do in person. The anonymity of the internet emboldens people to say and do things contrary to their character and social personality. This can be dangerous, reckless and is, above all, deceitful.
  6. Hurting and excluding others (intentionally or unintentionally). The “favorite” friends application on Facebook does this quite well. It may not be your intent to exclude someone, but online social networking can be an exclusive club. Many of the applications on Facebook make mockery of the respect we should have for all people created in God’s image. Not only is the “favorite” application dangerous, but rating how “hot” your friends are or voting on superlatives can have the same excluding or hurtful effect as a “favorite” application. Other dangers are posting events and not inviting people. If you want to host a private event and want to hand-pick your invitees, don’t post the event on the most public forum in the world.
  7.  Facebook (or any online time) can make you more distracted, change how you think and negatively affect your attention span. Ever felt like you had  to get online? Do you feel disconnected from the world without the internet or your CrackBerry (aka BlackBerry) or iPhone? When at work do you find yourself logging online or restoring the minimized page your kept up multiple times each hour? Do you have trouble focusing on the tasks at hand because your distracted by technology? If you answered “yes” to any of these then you already know that technology can work against productivity.
  8. Facebook (and other technology) can tempt you away from your calling and/or work. Is your heart and mind distracted by the silliness of refreshing your social networking pages rather than engaging in something fruitful and productive, whether it is a task at work, studying, preparation, building relationships, praying, etc. Here’s a helpful test: Over the next week log how many hours you spend online vs. how many hours you spend on your calling (husband, father, student, child, etc) or work?
  9. Facebook can cause you think about yourself more than you already do. You and I were not created to be self-focused. We were created to image God in this world. Too often Facebook becomes a way to showcase ourselves to the world. We use technology as a way to market (or prostitute) ourselves in our social circles. But we should be mindful of the fact that the goal of life is not to bring attention to ourselves and our giftedness. Paul, as he battled the human expectations of the Corinthians, a people captivated by winsome human wisdom and creativity, wrote: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor 2:2).

Is Facebook inherently evil? Absolutely not. It can either be used for good or evil. Buzzard reminds us that there are at least 6 ways to love God and love others through Facebook. Personally, I didn’t think they were all helpful or even valid, so I’ll list the ones I thought were.

  1. Reconnect with old, far-away friends in an easy way and show them you’ve been changed by Jesus. This is one that I really relate to. As a matter of fact, just last week I was noticing a friend from high school who is now a son of God. I would have never guessed he’d be walking with Jesus today, but guess what, I bet a lot of people wouldn’t have thought that about me either! Facebook is a way to reengage past friendships and share the gospel – if you are willing to use this tool as a way to make much of Jesus rather than yourself.
  2. Use Facebook as an extension  of face-to-face relationships. Facebook can be used to get to know one another better through pictures, exchanging messages, learning about one another’s interests, etc. But the goal should be, as much as it is possible, to nurture these virtual relationships in the real world.
  3. Use Facebook to think about yourself less and others more. Technology can be used to make much of God by encouraging others. Find creative ways to focus on others rather than yourself in your use of Facebook.
  4. Use Facebook as good stewardship of your time. You can quickly send out invitations to an event, send a mass email, etc, rather than logging a lot of minutes on the phone accomplishing the same thing.