There I was, idly browsing facebook and twitter – enjoying reading about friends lives, or getting nuggets of creativity, pearls of wisdom, motor sports news/humour and tech headlines – when a tweet popped up from Tony Stewart, a “Husband & Father – Student at Fuller Theological Seminary – Creative Projects & Consulting – Online Community Pastor at LifeChurch.tv” to quote his Twitter Bio. The tweet simply said:
“Theory: It is more valuable to have someone’s Facebook home page then their email. Thoughts?”
I started pondering. My initial reaction was that it’s probably an accurate theory. Facebook allows you to keep up with peoples everyday lives and thoughts. It allows you to play games with them, to interact and to share life in a way that email doesn’t allow. The downside of facebook is that people don’t always use it to communicate – we feed off the information that’s there but don’t necessarily spend time talking to each other in the same way that we would in an email (or as we would in that ancient of mediums – the letter)
We absorb peoples status updates, browse their photo galleries, challenge them to games of word twist and share goodies in Farmville (of that’s your thing) and that can become the friendship. We don’t necessarily use it to converse with people. Communication is a two-way thing of sharing and responding and how many of us actually spend time doing that on facebook?
Throw Twitter into the mix and you get even more down the route of snacking on friendships – those 140 character updates become irresistible as you find out who’s doing what, where and what they are wearing or what the weather is like or what’s on their plates.
Our friendships can easily become a fast food activity – we rush in, grab our bit, rush out again and think that’s friendship.
Now you may read this and think “He’s missing the point” or come to the conclusion I’m against social networking etc, you may even be sitting there screaming that you don’t do that so allow me to present the other side of the coin.
I use facebook and twitter a lot. To me facebook is a valuable way to keep in touch with what’s going on with peoples lives, and twitter is the same whilst also providing a great source of creative inspiration and spiritual food – along with the silliness and the essential motorsports updates. To me these enable me to be connected to people in ways I couldn’t before, I am there in the day-to-day. I know many people who can’t understand facebook, and some who positively hate the idea of twitter, but to me they are great ways to keep updated and amazing tools for building relationships.
Where I think many of us fall into the fast food friendship trap is that our activity is limited to reading statuses/tweets and playing the games. When was the last time we made use of the messaging facility within Facebook to genuinely catch up, to basically write an email or letter within facebook and have that more in depth conversation that builds relationships and truly connects. The facilities are there, but too often I see people using them for quick private messages rather than making that close connection. I’m as guilty as most, probably more so to be honest.
Do I think there is more value in a persons Facebook page that their email? Yes, I think I do – but only if we use it to really feast on friendships. Sometimes we’ll only have time to grab a drive-through update, but we must never neglect and forget the need to share a gourmet 5 course meal and to share more that just a 140 character update or a quick mobile upload of a plate of food
As with nutrition, a balanced diet is required. If you’ll excuse me I think I need to start working on some banquets now.