Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with changing technology. A few short years ago Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, an internet social network. It’s one of our fastest growing cultural trends.
My kids were in on it, way before I was, and seemed to enjoy connecting up with their friends. Then, a year or so ago I was traveling on an airplane, and I picked up one of the airline magazines, you know the ones, filled with advertisements promoting high priced business products that can be bought at Walmart for a quarter of the price. One of the articles in the magazine was about the growing number of adults who are using Facebook. So, I decided to give it a try. At first, my intention was to connect up with some of my old high school and college buddies. But, I quickly discovered that there were friends of all ages who were “friends”, including young people in their twenties who were in the Eagle Grove church youth group when I was pastor back there. Now they are raising their own families, and I get to hear how they are doing and see pictures of their kids, something which is fun to do.
Since Facebook is becoming such a common technology it’s worth thinking about and evaluating. I had one Christian father who told me that “Facebook is evil.” I’m not sure what encounters he or his children had on Facebook to lead him to that conclusion. But, that’s a fairly radical over reaction.
On the other hand, there are components of any new communication technology that need to be evaluated from a Christian perspective.
Al Mohler is a seminary president and Facebook participant. He wrote the following provocative ideas:
Here are a few suggestions for safeguarding the social networking experience:
1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication. God made us to be social creatures that crave community. We cannot permit ourselves to substitute social networking for the harder work of building and maintaining personal relationships that are face to face.
2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking. These services can be seductive and time consuming. Social networking (and the Internet in general) can become obsessive and destructive of other relationships and higher priorities for the Christian.
3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness. There are plenty of young people (perhaps older persons now, too) who are ruining future job prospects and opportunities by social networking misbehavior. The cost to Christian witness is often far greater.
4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter). Parents should monitor, manage, supervise, and control the Internet access of their children and teens. Watch what your child posts and what their friends post.
5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any "friend" unknown to you. The social networking world can be a dangerous place, and parental protection here is vital.
6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology. Grandparents can enjoy keeping up with grandchildren and with friends and loved ones separated by distance or mobility.
7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.
8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.
After receiving several birthday greetings on Facebook I wrote in my “Status Box” that there is a form of community on Facebook. And I stand by that comment. As far as I’m concerned a birthday greeting on Facebook is just as nice as a card, and a whole lot cheaper J. But, I agree with Al Mohler that there are some necessary precautions when using Facebook, or any social networking site. So, my suggestion is: have fun with Facebook; use it to connect with people from your present life and previous life experiences, but make sure that you control the technology instead of the technology controlling you.