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Everything Changes

The more messed up this world gets, the more God makes sense.

My Facebook Experiment

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Apparently I'm not the first person to do this - step away from Facebook for a selected period of time in order to explore (or be reminded of) life without social media.  Since having a Facebook account I have been fascinated by the fact that the medium creates a "non-social" environment more that bringing people together.   
Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, exchange and comment contents among themselves in virtual communities and networks.

I get that.  But I'm old school.  I've understood the word "social" to mean "living or preferring to live in a community rather than alone."  And while Facebook is considered a virtual community I personally prefer the true idea of community - local people, common interests, personal visits, sharing meals.

A few years I ago I began to develop a ministry concept with the goal of creating "a community of faith that loves God and loves people."   The mission statement for this ministry is simple:  
Engaging culture by demonstrating service through the example of Jesus.

And you can't do that on Facebook.  Yes, social media can be a tool to promote the idea and publish meeting times, etc., but it is a challenge to truly "walk" alongside people and "serve" them by posting on their wall.

So I signed off Facebook on Dec 14th.  Or so I thought.
Gonna take a much needed break from the non-social world of Facebook - for a month, six months, or maybe forever... there is so much more to life than sitting alone in front of a computer reading useless information about people's lives. I love and care for my friends on Facebook, but the people I spend the most time with are never online - they are hanging out with friends and family in person - for real - chatting over coffee, eating food together, praying with each other, sharing God's love and giving hugs. Sounds like a much better way to spend a Friday night. So long, for now.

Within minutes of posting my goal to stay off Facebook for a period of time I received numerous requests and invitations.  And over the next four days this is what I experienced:
  • Received 3 "meet" requests from people I haven't seen in over 1 year
  • Received 1 "meet" request from someone I haven't seen in 6 months.
  • Received 1 "stop by anytime" from someone in my neighborhood.
  • Attended a birthday party for an old friend's son.
  • Had supper at a friend's who is rarely on Facebook (although they have an account).
  • Met with 2 local friends (one has Facebook but isn't my FB friend and the other doesn't have FB) to chat over coffee and pray together for God's direction in their lives.
  • Responded to a call from a close friend whose husband is in critical condition and not expected to make it; met with the children in the family and hung out with them for a few hours while they said their good-byes to dad.
  • Had supper with a local family to talk about outreach ministry in my town.
  • Received an invitation to meet a friend I haven't seen in over 15 years.
  • Skyped with 2 Facebook friends - one from Windsor & one from Uganda.
  • Sent a few REAL Christmas cards to friends & family far away (with paper, pen and actually postage stamps).

By day five I was back on Facebook, but for a very good reason.  My friend passed away and I was asked to perform the funeral service.  Facebook was the most efficient way to spread the word regarding visitation and service times.  It was also an outlet to pay tribute and post memorable photos.

Once the funeral was over I backed away from Facebook again.  Then there was Christmas and honestly, I did post two or three (or ten) things during the holidays, but soon I was once again bored with the meaningless dribble and useless information that makes Facebook boring non-social media. 

You'd be hard pressed to find a person under the age of 30 that didn't have a "device" (computer, smartphone, iPod, tablet) close at hand - or more realistically IN HAND at all times.  Which brings up the age factor.  Yes, I am over 30.  In fact, I am old enough have children that are 30.  Yet I pride myself on being more current with technology than most blokes my age.  That said, I still seek out a teenager to "assist" me with the operation of apps and devices from time to time.  After all, they have never lived without technology and are, in my opinion, the best people to seek out when you get stuck in a cyber black hole.

On a recent episode of appcentral.ca one of the hosts mentioned that he downloaded the "Do Not Disturb" app and that he set it to be active between 7PM and 7AM - meaning that he set his smartphone to not disturb him (send messages, updates, etc.) during that timeframe.  His co-host was shocked that he would do this and asked, "What do you do for 12 hours without using your smartphone?"  His reply was simple.  
"Play with my kids, watch some TV or read a book."

Yeah.  I like that.  Is Facebook evil?  No, but I do think it is having a negative effect on community and personal relationships.  And I think there is a generation that is growing up that doesn't know how to truly be social with those around them.  Can we do both?  I think so.  But I also fear that in my lifetime I may see the day when "Facebook Anonymous" becomes a reality in our communities.