I'm sure there are studies being done as we speak and in twenty years when results are published, we'll find out that human beings en masse behave exactly the same online as they do in real life. That is to say, they are largely social lemmings (though of course, exceptions do exist); following the example of established leaders, going with the flow, not rocking the boat. Newcomers seek to ingratiate themselves by quickly adopting the customs and mores of their chosen group, behaving deferentially, and rarely drawing attention to themselves by opposing the dictates of that group.
Pretty standard social strategem.
The only problem with this, is that Facebook is a huge amalgamation of groups within groups within groups. It's a vast bubbling stew of sociological, theological and philosophical ideology.
That adds an entirely new dimension to the game of interpersonal relationships and makes it a veritable minefield of missteps and blunders.
Why? Well, for example...on my friends list, I have feminists and misogynists. I have gays and homophobes. I have unapologetic racists and those who are assertively colorblind. I have avowed Atheists and highly devout Christians. I have Republicans and Democrats. I have Eco-Warriors and I have those deeply committed to conspicuous consumption. I have fitness types and professional types and intellectual types and creative types and beauty queen types and domestic types. I have...(and these two groups might just be the most divergent of all)...men and women.
Now, given the fact that one is able to hand select the people on one's own friend list, one would think that Facebookers would be aware of the very diverse nature of the friends list. And yet, strangely enough...most Facebookers seem to be under the impression that everyone on their friends list thinks EXACTLY LIKE THEM!
I tend to think of Facebook the way that many folks do; as a cocktail party type environment that is meant to be fun and frivolous. The interaction is largely superficial, but on occasion meaningful and satisfying. I keep it light, I keep it fun, and I like to think I keep it interesting. If I manage to help or inspire somebody along the way, so much the better. Do I sometimes express a deeply felt emotion or convey a genuine concern? Yes, I do. I think everybody does, because we all need to feel like somebody hears us and cares. Do I ever use it to make a point? Well sure. But I do not use it to further my personal platforms, I do not use it to pander my political beliefs and I do not use it to proselytize.
Because I'll be blunt: it irks the living hell out of me when other people do it. Now those of you who've been long time readers can guess which of the above three irks me the most. Mmmhmm. That's right. I can ignore the political posturing and the pandering of personal causes. It does annoy me, but it's stuff that I hear on the news everyday, standing in line at the grocery store or passively eavesdropping at Starbuck's. I can tune it out easily enough, just as I do in real life.
But people, there's a reason I don't go church. And it is very, very simple. I do not wish to be ministered to.
I know Jesus. He and I grew up together. I read his biography. Very entertaining, if not entirely plausible. A few holes in the plot here and there, but nothing that impacts the ending. I know his work, I understand his agenda, and I respect them both. But I don't want to be part of his army. Though I think he's a pretty okay dude and our belief systems are amazingly similar, I just can't get behind certain aspects of his....philosophy.
Since I am thusly informed, and since there are no current comings and goings of which I need or want to stay apprised, I do not need him as a friend on Facebook. But you can be sure I got him anyway. Oh yes. Jesus shows up on my homepage multiple times a day.
Now, I am not the boss of Facebook, but seriously...c'mon. I doubt very much Mark Zuckberberg intended Facebook to be the internet version of televangalism. That's just not what it's for.
If I sent you a friend request or accepted one from you, it's because I want to keep in touch with YOU. I want to know what is going on with YOU. I want to hear what's new and exciting in YOUR life. I want to know what cracks you up, what enterntains you, what speaks to your heart, what feeds your soul, what inspires you, what gives you hope, what makes your spirits soar......
If that's Jesus, then good for you! I think that's great and I really do want to hear about it now and then. But not every day. Not every post. And frankly, posting scripture does absolutely nothing to let me know how God is at work in your life. It tells me nothing except that you couldn't be bothered post an original thought; to really be a witness to the ways God touches you. It tells me nothing except that you can copy and paste. Does that kind of thing really get you in good stead with the big guy? I can't imagine that it does.
And the Judgy McJudgerson stuff? Just cut it out. Unless you can say with 100% certainty that everybody on your friend's list believes as you do, then you are bound to anger, offend or hurt somebody with judgmental rantings and blanket statements about the morality of those who believe differently. I know you don't want to hurt or offend me, because I'm a friend...right? Stands to reason if I'm on your friends list. And if you honestly believe that I'm not as pure and moral and just as you, then why am I on your friends list? If that's the way you really feel, then please unfriend me right now. I'll wait.
I'll admit to being completely baffled as to the purpose of such posts. Is it to show everybody what a good little Christian soldier one is? That's the only thing that I can come up with, because scripture posted on Facebook sure isn't going to save anybody. Nobody is going to accept Jesus into their heart because of a hastily typed snippet on Facebook. GOD IS GOOD!!! looks very emphatic, but it does nothing to further my opinion of him, frankly. I can't speak for everybody of course, but it does nothing to stir my soul or feed my hunger for meaning and purpose.
I don't know...maybe those who don't live in the South don't have to deal with this kind of thing. I've always asserted that Southerners are far more overt with their beliefs than people in other geographical locales. It's woven into the very fabric of everyday life here; a way to identify, quantify and indemnify within the very complex strictures of Southern heritage and culture. Sometimes it seems like it's not even really about religion, but about social heirarchy. It's very, very alien to me, even after twenty years here.
Is there a point to this post? Um, no, I guess not really. I just needed to vent. And since I can say what I want here, then I shall. See, that way, I can avoid hurting or offending someone on my friends list. I'm not even going to link this on my Facebook page, which I sometimes do.
SIGH. I like Facebook a lot. I resisted the Facebook siren song for a long time. I scoffed at the lemmings who scrambled to sign up. I rolled my eyes when anyone mentioned it, even in passing. I guess I considered myself above something so....gauche. It really did seem that way to me. But I admit, I was wrong. It's a great way to reconnect, keep in touch, make new friends. It's fun and lighthearted...for the most part. I guess I resent it when someone makes it not fun and lighthearted for me. Cause I have plenty of not fun and lighthearted right here in the trenches, and I think most of you do too.
Well, if nothing else, the YAY GOD! posts are elucidating in terms of understanding humankind and man's eternal quest for validation, approval and belonging.
I hope the sociologists are keeping good notes.