Facebook and true community
In his book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr makes this observation:
The intellectual ethic of a technology is rarely recognized by its inventors…Ultimately, it’s an invention’s intellectual ethic that has the most profound effect upon us.
Which led me back to page through Andy Crouch’s Culture Making to dig a little deeper. Like Carr, Crouch argues that the inventors of technology rarely, if ever, think all the way through the implications of their inventions. Good or bad, that seems to be the way it is. Thus, the role of discernment falls to the users of the invention, who are generally much too wrapped up in the awesomeness of this new thing(!) to think deeply through how this thing(!) will change them.
So. Now we’re a few years into our grand facebook experiment and I’d like us to join the conversation about what it’s actually doing to us, how the technology we use is using us, good and bad. Though it was reported this week that Facebook, while continuing to gain users, is also losing users–6 million in the US this year–its cultural power requires our attention.
Here’s one theory for discussion: Facebook promises community but can only provide the shallowest version of it. Yes, it’s a great place to make connections, get information out, share some links or pictures–but it isn’t (and can’t be) the type of community and fellowship necessary to our thriving.
To my eyes, the impossible hurdle for true community on facebook is that its very scope prevents us from being real. When my life in pastoral ministry is particularly difficult, I can’t very well go on facebook to talk about it. When I find myself distant from God, when my kids are repeatedly proving the doctrine of original sin…those are things not fit for public broadcasting. But they are things important to talk about with people I can trust. It’s with those people that we find true community.
So while facebook is a good communication tool and (let’s be honest) entertaining, we use it best when we use it for what it does well, while finding our need for relationships outside the binary world.