Saturday, July 13, 2013

Facebook: sharing, unfriending, community, boundaries....

In February, it will be a decade since Mark Zukerburg rolled out Facebook. I was in campus ministry at the time and my friend/co-worker Joy told me about it. Through the years, I have collected around 1500 "friends" on Facebook. Most of them are students I connected with through campus ministry (on 3 different campuses), or people I met through work (3 different large churches). Then there are the high school friends, college friends, graduate school friends, and family/extended family. It is easy to gather such a gaggle when Facebook has been part of my life for 1/4 of my life!
Throughout these 9+ years, people have weaved in and out of my world, and I have weaved in and out of theirs - crossing and connecting, then sometimes detouring for months or years at a time.

It may sound silly, but I truly am thankful for Facebook.

I have encountered people who knew my mother and have told me stories and shared photos from the 50's and 60's.
I found my 3rd grade bestie, who I had not spoken to in 20+ years. She still lives in Colorado. Her folks are still in the same gorgeous pink victorian home on Main Street in our small town. Her dad still has that epic beard, the one he has had since long before epic beards were a thing.
My dear cousin and I, who were estranged for many years, were able to talk through former conflict and start a new friendship. Grateful that he and his wife are both in my life now and look forward to a day when I can see them again in person.
I try to keep up with the innumerable women who have touched my life in profound ways throughout the decades. But that's hard to do! So Facebook helps me check in on them see pics of their kids, their work life, home life and health.

I recently talked to a former co-worker who was telling me how he was about to go unfriend about half of his friend list because he hardly knows some of the people who had friended him.
And another person who unfriended lots of people because he only uses Facebook to keep up with people who he "actually interacts with in the real world".

I get that. Totally. Technology is here for us, not the other way around.
But these comments have gotten me thinking.

1. Ok, so you don't know half the people on your friend list. Did it occur to you that they may know you (or some form of you they respect/admire)? What if you made a difference in their life somewhere along the way? Perhaps that is why they friended you in the first place.
2. I can understand the argument that you have people you hardly even know flooding your newsfeed. The good news is you can label your inner-circle of "close friends", which tailors your newsfeed to highlight those people specifically.
3. Narrowing your list to people that you actually interact with in the real world: why on earth would you need Facebook? My friends span across the states and across the world. There is no way I could keep up with them without Facebook. Elizabeth is traveling in Alaska right now. Todd and Jenny are moving their family back to Dallas from Alaska. Christina is finally getting the 15 acres outside Dallas she and her hubby have always wanted - just in time for her 5th child. Tammy's ministry with children in India, and Amanda's ministry with children in Africa are both beyond inspiring. Shirl is traveling in Australia right now, but she and Greg have been missionaries in Columbia for most of their married life.
4. Narrowing your list: you're even missing out on the small things. Carla watched "Warm Bodies" last night. Chris should have been a comedian. Ginger has become a runner this past year, and loves it. Jay and Nan just celebrated their 20th in Bahamas. Karen inspires me every time I see something she posts on someone's wall as a birthday message - she makes me want to be a more intentional friend. Tonya's daily scripture peaks my interest to dig deeper. Coach Graham (my high school coach) retired. Friends are gay. Friends buy parrots. Friends buy boats. Friends have cancer. Friends' parents have died. Friends support and do not support gun control. Friends have babies. Their babies have babies.
5. Is un-friending a cry for attention? Is it simply good boundaries? Is it pretentious? Is it a way for people to have self-control on how much time they spend on FB? Each situation is different. I want to know your thoughts! But for me, it is a way to stay connected with eras of friendships which would otherwise fall by the wayside.

Confront me. Send an intervention. I am sure that I am way too into what others are doing. Understand that my husband and I have set boundaries for screen/phone/ipad/computer time when we are at home with the family. These boundaries we set for our children as well. We definitely have enough to do on our little urban farm to keep us off screens!

But as for me today, I appreciate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs. These things help me engage with the outside world. It's today's modern and efficient form of community -- life together (albeit often separated geographically). It is, in fact, actual interaction, in the real world.

*Disclaimer. I will unfriend anyone who is repeatedly disrespectful, arrogant and cruel.
**Disclaimer. I loathe all the advertisements and games I get incessantly invited to join.
***Disclaimer. I have unfriended in the past for various reasons.


Amanda said...

:) Thank you! Glad to know that people are following our work and loving our kiddos along the way. -Amanda and kids

- love the mystery - said...

I feel the same way about facebook. After moving from Ohio, to Dallas, to England, to KC, to California, and back to the Heartland again, the online community has helped me keep the friendships I've collected along the way, and stay connected to so many people that I love and admire. Including, you. Love and miss you, sister.