I listened to a sermon by my friend Chris Moore of Mayflower UCC Church yesterday on my iPod in which he criticized Facebook as anti-social and a barrier to relationships and community. I completely understand what Chris was trying to say, and I agreed with the overall message of the sermon. I myself have been known to “preach” about the importance of making connections with the people around you in order to build empathy and spread the love of the universe. But I do have to disagree with him to a certain extent about Facebook relationships being meaningless.
I see how technology can seem to have isolated us. When I walk around with my iPod, it’s true that it might make it less likely that I will have a random conversation with someone. It’s possible. On the other hand, it was my iPod that allowed me to listen to Chris’s sermon in the first place. Because of the Mayflower podcast, I am able to “go to church” anywhere. This technology allows me to still feel connected to that church family that meant so much to me. Granted, I’m about six months behind, but every time I listen, I feel renewed and challenged and nurtured.
I have many Facebook friends about whom I know very little. They are useful and interesting connections. They don’t post very often, therefore not sharing anything about their lives with me. On the other hand, I’ve reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve gotten to know them again. Every time they put something on Facebook, I learn about who they are and what they love. Being here on the other side of the world, Facebook is one of the only ways I’ve been able to stay connected with the people I know around the world. Of course, the ideal situation would be for me to connect face to face with them. To share a meal and give a hug. And wouldn’t I love to be able to share that true connection with so many of them. But geographical proximity makes that impossible for me.
Facebook, Skype, and MSN are solely responsible for keeping many of my relationships alive. I can take my friends with me wherever I go through this technology. Rather than cutting me off from the world, I am seeing directly into the lives of so many people. I get to see my daughter’s beautiful face on a regular basis. My husband and I fell in love over MSN. When I was in Taiwan and he was in England for five months, the computer was our only tool of communication. Being forced to only talk to each other for so long helped us connect in a unique way. I wonder if we would have gotten to know each other as well without this time. We talked on MSN for several hours every day. And I suppose one could argue that this kept me from connecting with other people, but I will never regret the hours I spent getting to know his every mood and dream.
Chris is right. We need to connect to our neighbor. We need to make an effort to understand them so that we can truly respect and love them the way we are expected to. Facebook and other technology has help me to do that. But however you choose to connect, I ask you to cultivate peace and spread love.