The problem with Facebook is that it is a big mirror; a mirror with a financial incentive to tell us that we are beautiful.
In this mirror we see the things we want to see. Our politics are the right politics; our beliefs highly reasonable. Our pets, vacations, children, and food are always like-able.
And when we see an imperfection, Facebook gives us the tools to deal with it post haste. When someone advocates a position we don’t like, we can ignore it, or delete them altogether. If only middle school acne was so compliant.
Facebook is a problem because we are a problem. Our behavior draws the circle around us ever closer and closer. The echo chamber we have created tells us that we are wise. Our selfie-obsessed culture offers little critique or alternative.
Facebook isn’t authentic community because we don’t want that.Wisdom, as I understand it, comes not from affirmation but is earned through struggle. In the same way, authentic community is not formed through a gathering of like minds, it is gained when we see each other as we really are, and choose not to look away.
Facebook isn’t authentic community because we don’t want that. We want the mirror to tell us that we are beautiful and they want the advertising revenue.
If you want to effect change, you need to speak up – of course! But we also need to listen. Unfortunately, echo chambers not only isolate but they also amplify. Our differences are now not only uncomfortable; they are often quite painful.
So what do we do? I’m not sure that there is any one-size-fits all solution.
One place that is brimming with potential is the Church; unfortunately many suffer from a Facebook-like effect. Absent our commitment to the vision set forth in Acts, we allow our preferences and prejudices to chip away at a diversity that could form us into the disciples we are called to be. And instead of a truly loving community intent on formation, we settle for rigid conformity or a soft permissiveness – each equally deadly.
I don’t have all the answers but I hope you’ll consider one I’m trying. We all have our favorite places (virtual and real) we haunt to socialize, get news, etc. I’m planning to audit mine, leave behind or minimizing the time I spend with some, and intentionally walk into spaces that are less comfortable.
Facebook is a space I’ll continue to engage, but I’m already working toward reshaping it toward being more useful. I didn’t delete friends because they voted the “wrong” way but I may have ignored some. I can do better.
We can all do better.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church tackled some of this same ground from a different angle yesterday. I’d strongly recommend her article.