When I signed on to Facebook it was with the expectation of connecting with my family who live far away. In some cases old friends were also a welcome addition to a list. Like many others, though, I found my list of friends growing nearly out of control as Facebook introduced not just a means of connecting with people but whole new implications of social politics. What does it mean to "friend" someone? What are the implications for real world friendships if I virutually "unfriend" someone? Who are all these people who want so badly to friend me?
In some cases, the growth of this list has introduced a new dynamic to my spiritual life. Some of my friends post things I never thought they would. Some of the videos and graphics and propaganda that are posted contain profane, filthy, and perverse words and images. To some people, I am sure, they are just light humor, but I, when I see them, I am authentically distressed. Sometimes it is not the wording of the graphic that is objectionable, but even the name of the original site from which it is posted is crass. I can't help wondering what else is on that site. Of course, many of the graphics that get posted are simply shared from another friend's post, so who knows where or by whom the post was started. This is the nature of social networking gone viral.
I used to take these things very personally, and sometimes would object to them on site. I soon realized that I was a very minority voice, and began wondering if I was just taking things too seriously. I don't think I was, but I am much quieter now. I am realizing a few facts:
For some folks, it is a darker side leaking out. Hey, I have one too. So does everyone. But social networking provides a new and interesting way to let down our guard and allow our darker side a measure of freedom we would not indulge in person, especially around all the people on our friend list. This is not the good thing some people will think it is.
But for all my network friends out there, be aware. Whether it is spoken or posted, sin is still sin. Crudeness is still crude. Words are still associated with you and should be thought through before being put out there in public. We are concerned about the physical safety implications of social networking and hear about them all the time. I'm not so sure people are paying as close attention to the moral safety of the tech. Even on line, the Devil is stalking around looking for someone to byte. So, my friends, let's be careful out there.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.