Monday, January 24, 2011

"In your FACE"

When I was growing up the term "in your face" meant that I had just "one upped" you, generally stemming from a basketball game when the shooter was denied the shot and ended up with the ball "back in his face". Today that term means something not even conceived of in the late 80's.

Today, we eagerly seek to build a network of online friends in unguarded ways; that would never happen in a face to face world. We browse online purveyors of products and services while forgetting our digital footprints. We click and tweet while distracted with other tasks. We share personal information with people we have never met, and encourage our online “friends” to help us build an even larger circle of colleagues we won’t ever really “know.” And we knowingly, regularly break the rules that were established to protect our hearts and our minds.

It is hard to believe that in only a few short years the word "friend" has evolved from not only functioning as a noun but also as a verb. Thanks to the social media website Facebook, the characteristics of a true friend and personal relationships have diminished due to the incessant need to spend time on this website collecting as many "friends" as possible.

In today’s world it seems as if whoever "friends" the most people, posts the largest amount of status updates, or has the greatest number of tagged photos on Facebook, has a higher popularity status than those who have a fewer number of friends, pictures, or status updates. The majority of "facebookers" feel the need to check their Facebook multiple times a day and publish every moment of their life. They also feel as if they will miss out on gossip, news, or events if they do not check their pages regularly. In reality, however, many people do not actually care what others do twenty four hours a day. (Especially my sister who on a matter of principal alone will not even contemplate acquiring a FB account.) How did we move so rapidly from a society that embraced the, "are you kidding me?" $5.00 for a cup of coffee Starbucks idea of hanging out with friends to a society where we would rather sit alone pretending to have relationship. How did we become a society where we would not seek to maintain true friendships but rather obtain virtual numbers?

I am not a "hater" of Facebook or any other social networking sites. I like the fact that I have been able to reconnect with childhood friends and see what they are up to, but the friend status creates no more of a relationship than that of one when you receive an annual Christmas letter expounding how the family has done the last year. This type of relationship in the past has been called acquaintance. As our children get caught up in the social networking and don't understand the difference between friend and acquaintance they are setting themselves up for disastrous relationship scenarios.

By spending hours on the computer each day, our, and more specifically the, generation after me has lost a skill that our elders still possess: personal communication. Many children have not learned to confidently look into someone’s eyes and hold face-to-face conversations with peers without feeling uncomfortable. Instead, they revert to "wall posts" and Facebook chatting to convey messages. Although on the surface this discomfort may barely seem to hurt one’s performance throughout their years in high school, the effects will carry on throughout the rest of their lives, severely hindering their future careers when they find themselves struggling to hold a conversation with a job interviewer. (Not to mention the fact that I have trouble finding an employee who can spell properly).

Furthermore, Facebook serves as the main distraction throughout many peoples’ lives. While dealing with the stresses of balancing school with jobs and other extracurricular activities, this website only seems to get in the way of accomplishing tasks. Instead, we should prioritize our time effectively rather than wasting hours each day scrolling through Facebook. Getting my 14 year old to finish his homework is nearly impossible when he is constantly checking facebook - for what? Absolutely nothing! The fact that we are so connected to the outside world completely removes us from the one that is staring us in the "Face" - pun intended.

Although Facebook offers many positive features that allow people to maintain friendships with those with whom it may be difficult to see regularly in person it should be used with caution. While we think we may be maintaining friendships by posting our everyday happenings we are moving further and further away from the joy to be in fellowship. And although social network sites may allow us an outlet to share personal information to many people at one time, there are times when it is the sharing of that information many times on an individual basis that brings about the healing or joyful reminding.

As parents and as friends, we need to be careful to teach ourselves and our children the true meaning of friend and what that looks like from a biblical perspective.

James 4:3-5 (English Standard Version)
3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?

James 2:22-24 (English Standard Version)
22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

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