Every week I wish I could quit Facebook. And every week I’m glad I didn’t. So I hang around for another week. Just like the Facebook folks want me to. I love the blog post on this love/hate relationship to Facebook by Patrick Reynolds and Gwen Bell. [If you are interested in social media, you need to follow Gwen's blog and Twitter feeds. Her work prompted this post] They hit on some of the tactics Facebook engages to try and control more and more of our online activities. As I read the post, I think Patrick and Gwen are reading the same book I currently am, PROGRAM OR BE PROGRAMMED by Douglas Rushkoff (of Merchants of Cool fame). I recommend Gwen’s blog and Douglas’ book to you.
I work with teens, college students, and leaders, all active social media users. Or, as Maurilio Amorim writes, leaders should be actively using social media. I agree, but only if they are effective in their team leadership. The last thing a company needs is a CEO touting the advantages of social media usage while his/her team silently wishes for better management and vision-casting.
I digress. Sorry for the soapbox moment.
I think that Facebook possesses controlling elements to it that other social media does not. It is controlled by an organization that wants to manage and monitor the activities of the people who belong. As often as it can. It doesn’t always (and often thankfully so) allow for true freedom of expression. As Patrick and Gwen point out (from a Rushkoff quote), AOL once tried to do this when the Internet first came on the scene. I remember the decision process Kel and I went through when we ‘dared’ to leave the confines of AOL and engage the web on our own. I feel like I have the same conversations now regarding Facebook.
Do you think Google is working toward a similar control of the Internet? They have Blogger.com, Google analytics, Google Mail, and storage for my documents. They monitor and manage quite a lot of my online activities and work.
Again, I digress. Sorry for the conspiracy theory moment.
Ok, in true “read my blog” fashion, here are my re-tweetable (@TerryLinhart mind you!) “top 3″ statements with a quotable comment or two afterwards.
Three reasons you should use Facebook
1. Facebook allows for personal expression, away from the social structures of everyday.I know it’s opposite of what I stated before, but it is an easy way for folks to post pictures, communicate, stay in touch (“wow, HE gained weight since high school!”), and support each other. My daughter’s status picture changes nearly every hour and, hey, that’s a fun way to be a bit creative.
2. Social media provides hope that there’s a better world “out there.” I think the Internet has been a boost in combating depression and loneliness among teens who may feel trapped by their family or high school. They realize there’s more to the world out there and they can vent, express, connect, and grow through interacting beyond their immediate world. But, if they have access to technology. As we’ve seen in some countries of the world, technology access increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
3. For some, Facebook is the new Email. Truthfully, this is the main reason I stay around. People communicate with me via Facebook. About business. I connect with students via Facebook, and most Facebook users are outside of the US, so it’s important to my international work. My blog’s traffic doubles or triples when I post links on Facebook.
I talked with a non-profit leader who wanted to connect with his potential volunteers (in their 20s) and so he (in his 30s) sent an Email. Nothing. Tried again. Minimal response. So, he sent a message via Facebook. Over 3/4s of the people responded within a day to that communication. Right now, that’s the power of Facebook. But, if people leave…. I’m going with them. And Facebook is working hard to keep that from happening.
Three reasons you should not use Facebook
1. We’re chasing a carrot that never satisfies our appetite. Gwen Bell, again, says, “We’re looking for something outside ourselves to prove our worth. To prove we exist. To prove we matter.” Social media is not end, it’s the means. But, the means toward what? That’s the question we need to answer.
2. We create our own sunshine and thus have greater shadows. Emerson’s quote regarding our self-focus rings true. What do you do when you don’t have responses from others? Do you worry that suddenly something is wrong? That no one likes you? “I haven’t heard back from them for 3 hours!” Do we think about ourselves more now with social media, or have we always done so and now it’s digitialized?
3. We are thinking in bytes, not bases. The allure becomes what grabs, the quick image, and what ‘feels right.’ An overindulgence in social media without an accompanying pursuit of intellect is dangerous. We lose our ability to reason, we develop an intuitive theology/philosophy of life, and transcendent values and beliefs can be quickly discarded. And we wouldn’t even know it. Or why it is bad.
What are your guidelines for using Facebook? What steps have you taken to guide you in your use of social media? How do you counterbalance your digital time with organic (e.g. exercise, outdoors) and spiritual (e.g. church, devotional reading, spiritual disciplines) activities?
Terry Linhart (Ph.D., Purdue) teaches, speaks, and researches on youth and culture. He is professor of youth ministry at Bethel College (Indiana). He is available for various speaking and teaching opportunities, but is booking engagements about 9-12 months in advance. Please contact him with your event or idea. And, you can sign up to receive the latest from This Corner emailed directly to you. Terry posts about 2x a week on various topics. No ads. No spam. And Email addresses are kept private.