WiW: On Facebook

The Week in Words

Tim Challies had a great post this last week on How (and How Not) to Use Facebook for Ministry. While the article was primarily focused on pastors and other ministry leaders, I think a lot of the advice given within applies to “the rest” as well.

On Facebook as the easy way out

“Be sure that you are not allowing Facebook to be an easy way of getting around difficult ministry.”

I understand this temptation. I don’t want to actually relate to someone, don’t want to do the difficult work of ministering to them or dealing with conflict or whatever. But I still want to give the illusion that I care or that I’m maintaining the friendship. So I “like” something on their Facebook wall or leave a quick wall comment. It lets me pat myself on the back for being relational but at the same time allows me to escape from real relationship and ministry. Let’s not do that.

On Awareness versus Stalking

“Use it to learn about the lives of the people you love, to encourage them, and just generally to be aware of what they are doing in life. But do not use it to stalk them; and be careful how you introduce information you’ve learned from Facebook into real-world conversation.”

Do you use Facebook as a way to stay “in the loop”–or do you use it as a means of inappropriately inserting yourself into others’ lives? It’s an interesting dimension–and one that deserves caution.

On Farmville:

“Don’t Play Farmville. Just don’t. It’s stupid and it will make you stupid.”

The money quote!

What do you think…can Facebook be used as a ministry tool? How do you use Facebook as a ministry tool? How can Facebook hinder your witness? What words of counsel or caution do you have to add to Challies?

Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.

Impromptu Pleasures

Several weeks ago, a general announcement of an upcoming book club showed up on my Facebook news feed. I read through the announcement, and while I was not a particular invitee, the book looked interesting and the announcement stated that anyone was welcome–so I clicked the “maybe attending” button.

I nearly forgot all about it in the intervening weeks, what with preparing for Tim’s graduation and Debbie’s bachelorette party, and working on my thesis and the like.

But on Sunday night, the book club made its way onto my “coming events” sidebar and I realized I had to make a decision. I read through the announcement again and decided that yes, I really did want to attend this book club.

Problem was, it was much too late to try to purchase the book online.

So I searched around all of Lincoln’s stores, trying to find the book. The next morning, I searched again. No luck. None of Lincoln’s booksellers had a copy of Gregory Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation.

When I searched at Barnes and Noble, however, I discovered that there was a copy at one of the Omaha stores.

And thus began my wild hare.

“Rebekah Menter is contemplating driving to Omaha today to pick up a book. Am I crazy?” my Facebook status read.

A friend directed me to a discussion of Evangelical politics featuring three panelists, including Greg Boyd.

I watched a few clips of the event and decided that I was DEFINITELY interested in reading this book.

My next Facebook status? “Rebekah Menter is taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to Omaha. (What I will do for a book…)”

My trip was uneventful, quiet, nice. I got the book and returned home.

What turned this into an impromptu pleasure was that, having spent an extra couple of hours of my day tracking down the book, I HAD to go to the book discussion.

And so I did.

I didn’t know anyone who was going to be there (at least I didn’t think I knew anyone)–so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to find the group in the midst of one of Lincoln’s busiest coffee shops. Thankfully, someone had the book out, so I was able to introduce myself.

“I don’t know anyone here,” I said, “but I’m here for the book club.”

At which the fellow facing away from me looked up and gave a “What are you talking about?” expression.

I guess I was wrong. I did know someone.

“Sorry, Jake. I didn’t realize you were here.”

It turned out to be a wonderful night. I enjoyed meeting new people, getting bit of an intro to the book. But most of all, I enjoyed the passionate discussion that I found myself embroiled in after the “formal” book club portion ended.

It’s been so long since I had a real, honest-to-goodness, face-to-face passionate discussion about the issues of our day. It was refreshing, energizing, invigorating (let’s see how many more synonyms I can come up with :-P).

Needless to say, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I’m so glad I made that impromptu decision to lock myself into going.

Life, Facebook-ified

When you spend fifteen minutes discussing emoticons at dinner…
When you debate the relative merits of “Live Feed”, “News Feed”, and “Status Updates”…
When conversation includes telling everyone else what your Facebook status is…
When you learn of your friends’ friendships, dating relationships, and engagements via Facebook and consider a “Facebook official” relationship more real than one that is not “Facebook official”…

Life has become just a bit too Facebook-ified.

Do you remember the days before Facebook?
Do you remember when if you wanted to catch up on somebody’s life, you’d call them?
Do you remember when you used to spend hours talking with actual people without a keyboard mediating?
Do you remember when you didn’t know what each of your “friends” ate for lunch and (horror!) what color bra they’re wearing?
Do you remember when you used to actually laugh out loud, rather than just “LOL”?

I remember those days, and I miss them.

Remember when Facebook first came out and you spent hours procrastinating homework while spying on all your friends?
Remember when said spying meant you had to actually click on their name and visit their page, where you could read what they had written and write a comment?
Remember when you started to get tired of Facebook, realizing it was a terrific time waster?
Remember when you started checking Facebook less and less frequently?

I remember those days. But then Facebook changed.

Now the progression has changed. People don’t grow tired of Facebook and log off anymore. Now they’re inundated with constant stimulation in the form of a feed of some sort. They’re offered countless opportunities for procrastination through games and “boxes”. They don’t have to actively stalk their friends anymore–they can do it without even thinking. Just log in and stay on.

You don’t need to talk to people anymore. Just Facebook chat them.
You don’t need to write a letter. Just send a Facebook message.
You don’t need to catch up on the news. Just check your news feed.
You don’t need board games or card games, just play on Facebook.
You don’t even need to send gifts anymore, send a cow or a cactus or a cupcake on Facebook.

I miss my life before Facebook.

But I doubt I’ll ever get it back.

So I do what I can to take advantage of Facebook’s strengths while minimizing its negative qualities.

I get status updates but not “news feed” or “live feed” items. I don’t need to know what you’re playing or whether your relationship status has changed (unless you tell me).

I turn off e-mail alerts so I have to actually log on to Facebook in order for it to inundate my life.

I choose to not add applications or join groups (generally speaking).

I don’t do the “poking thing” (except for my little sister and my out-laws).

I don’t give people birthday greetings on Facebook.

I try to be judicious about “liking” things–and never write *dislike* under someone’s status update.

I don’t do the “copy and paste” status update thing. I love Jesus, I want a cure for cancer, and I support the troops, but I’d rather not post meaningless drivel on my status.

I don’t tag people in notes. If they want to read what I’ve written, they can come find it. If I really want them to read what I’ve written, I can take the time to let them know personally by sending them a link or telling them about it.

I try to keep Facebook from taking over my life.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try just as hard to resist my defenses. Facebook is an everyday companion. It loads every time I open my internet browser. I don’t check it that often, but it’s open in a tab. Because it’s open, my friends see that I’m “online”. My tab starts blinking when a friend wants to Facebook chat. And while I generally ignore it, I’m still sucked in on occasion (thankfully, my friends know that I don’t like the chat feature, so they tend to NOT open up chat communications.) People still send me invitations to groups, causes, and games. Most of the time, I decline.

But like it or not, my life, too, has been Facebook-ified.

On smells and me

We have a closet in the basement of Love–our supply closet. It contains all of our chemicals, and our paper goods and trash bags. And it holds our clean cleaning rags. I love that closet, and occasionally dream of spending time inside it. It smells so clean–like sheets just out of the dryer. It makes me feel warm and cozy. I wish I could just sit on the floor and read, in the midst of that comforting smell. No one would knock on that door asking for assistance, no one would bother. I don’t have any projects in there that need to be completed. I don’t feel obligated to organize it or get it clean. Instead, it’s a little room, a refuge. I’ve never actually acted on my dream, but whenever I open the door to get a towel or some extra rolls of toilet paper, I indulge my senses by letting the door close behind me and breathing in the sweet silence, the blessed warmth, the heavenly odor. For just that moment, I’m a little girl again, wrapped in a freshly washed, cozy blanket. And that’s what I love.

To myself I’m surprisingly simple and remarkably complex. I understand my motives perfectly and I can’t for the life of me figure out why I do what I do. I could be simplistic and say that I desire the same things as everyone else–security, love, acceptance, variety within the bounds of comfort. But simplicity also demands that I have my own unique desires. I feel like a paradox to myself, which is perhaps why I so hate to be put in a box by others. And perhaps that’s why I desire so much to find a box that fits me. We laud dynamic characters in fiction, but my own complexity makes me want to be flatter. At least then I could be certain who I was. I could be “the shrew”, “the ingenue”, “the bombshell”, “the flirt”, “the femme fatale”, “the cowering miss”, “the wallflower.” Instead I am none and all. I hate and love, I am carefree and somberly involved. I am melancholy and joyful. I am organized and I am messy. I cannot identify myself, so I continue to search, to answer that great question-“Who am I?”

There’s something wrong with checking facebook at 3:21 on a Sunday morning. There’s something even more wrong with seeing that you’re not the only who’s doing it. It’s easy to become addicted. It’s easy to develop horrible sleep habits. This is how school messes you up. Either studying or partying keeps you up late, and then when you want to sleep you can’t. That’s where facebook comes in. It’s a time waster when you know you can’t sleep. It’s foolish but quitting seems impossible.

My bedroom smells like vinegar for some reason. Or maybe that’s the 409 I used to clean the microwave. One way or another, it smells funky. I luxuriate in smell. I don’t know why. It’s an odd phenomenon considering that I can hardly smell during most of the year. Allergies and a deviated septum keep my nose clogged. Yet I delight in what I can smell, or else it triggers me to obsessive cleaning. I love onions and I love to cook with them, but I hate how they make my hands smell after I’ve cut them. I smell my hands a lot. Right now they smell like 409–and it’s definitely not the same vinegary smell I’m smelling from the rest of the room. Odd. Maybe I should look into that.