Facebook and the Christian

What is facebook?

“Facebook is a social networking website. To flesh out this definition a bit more, it’s an online community—a place where people can meet and interact; swap photos, videos, and other information; and generally connect with friends, family, coworkers, fellow students, fellow hobbyists and enthusiasts, and numerous others in their social network. Facebook connects people within cities or regions, work or school, home or abroad, and so on. Built on an architecture of profile pages that allow individual users to share information about themselves and communicate with others, Facebook seeks to create an environment in which members log in regularly to keep track of what friends and colleagues are doing, share their own activities, interact about interests and hobbies, send messages, and join groups and networks—just to name a few things.”- Introduction to Facebook by Indometric

Facebook can be said to be the most powerful social networking tool in the world’s history. In no other website are lives made so public and information divulged so freely. It is most apt that in this post-modern era, where opinions define truth, a melting pot of ideas and expression has evolved. Facebook prides herself on the fact that there are currently “more than 500 million active users, 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day and people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. (Facebook, Press Room, Statistics)”

Even one who has never used the internet in his life would have seen columns in Life! sections of The Straits Times on Sundays having caricatures of notorious celebrities put in Facebook format. Also, the media uses Facebook to obtain information about matters that organisations aim to keep in the dark. Even to the ungodly, Facebook is a vice when used unwisely. At least 5 people have been red after posting their complaints about their job on their Facebook statuses or on their friends’ Walls. It was also recently reported in The Straits Times (8 Oct 2010) that “Facebook and other social networking tools are being used by sex assailants in the Philippines to lure their victims, contributing to a rise in such crimes.”

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Truly, much of Facebook can be described by “vanity and vexation of spirit”. There is little significance of the change in relationship status of a non-christian friend from “In a Relationship” to “It’s complicated”. There is even less significance of learning that your friend’s sister’s friend has uploaded a video of herself dancing. It would not harm me if I did not know that my cousin changed her profile picture. All these notifications that clutter my “News Feed” do not matter to me at all, but with Facebook, it has become possible, attractive and almost an obligation to indulge in these visual treats. Yet while we pry into the lives of our friends, our sinful nature in us causes us to subconsciously develop envy of the pleasures that our friends can afford, and we pride ourselves in the things we can afford and we are greedy for more.

“See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15,16)

In reference to the above quote from Facebook statistics, how many hours does one spend on Facebook in a week? In a day? Commenting of a friend’s photo takes approximately 10 seconds, and writing on a friend’s wall to wish him “Happy Birthday!” takes about the same time (multiplied by all the friends who have birthdays on that day). Moreover, Facebook must surely be credited for the most number of ridiculously trivial games around. Café World allows one to run a restaurant and cook up to 100 types of different foods and can recruit various friends to be assistants in the venture. Mafia Wars allows one to purchase weapons and fight various mafia gangs and to thieve from other gangs. All these games have incentives for one to return to them the next day – for instance, “food” at Café World turns rotten if one does not return to serve it on time. All these seemingly benign activities with not much consequence add up and result in wasted time in excess of hours! How much of this time could be spent in the study of God’s word? In ministering to the sick and those who are discouraged?

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Amidst all the temptations in Facebook, a Christian must exercise much discipline in abstaining from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. A Christian can and must use Facebook for purposes entirely different from that of the world. Organisation of events has certainly been expedited and Christian events can be publicised to old friends (whose email addresses, telephone numbers or addresses we have forgotten), overseas friends, and loved ones. We must see Facebook as our conversation in life and that our photos, updates and comments are part of our testimony. They should “minister grace” to others and not tempt them to sin. We must carefully choose our friends, that we might not be tempted by their walk in life as well. Lastly, we must examine ourselves: Are our motives for using Facebook truly for God’s glory? Or are they for our boastful pomp and show of the places we can afford to go, the things we can afford to buy and the many friends we have?

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

In conclusion, I would summarise Facebook as being an amalgamation of all forms of social networking and communication into one portal. It is convenient, attractive and unbelievably addictive. Yet as Christians, we must use it wisely and not “be brought under the power” of Facebook.

Written by: Julia Ong | Issue 5