Social Media Theology: Liking, Friend-ing, Following... and Leaving

Nine years ago, my friend, John, told me that I had to join this site called Facebook. Everyone from our college class was on it. It was a great way to stay in touch.

He was right. I felt connected and re-connected to my college friends immediately. When my friend, Jenn, got married, we were able to exchange photos directly on the site. I was able to see which movies my friend, Nick, had added to his must-see list. For me, Facebook was a way of keeping in touch with close friends and family.

A few years later, which seemed to fly by in Facebook world, an email address ending in ".edu" was no longer necessary for joining Facebook. Friend requests were popping up from people I hadn't seen since kindergarten--and people I'd never met. Seminars about using Facebook to increase church attendance and market a business were everywhere. I even heard a minister say that Facebook and Twitter accounts were necessary to grow your church.

There seemed to be so much good in this new form of communication & connection. I was able to use it to keep up with prayer requests in the church. I shared this blog on it weekly. I met other pastor-writers and yoga teachers from across the country. I had access to lots of news articles and websites. I even blogged about how good the "like" button could make a person feel! (See "Facebook Theology: Lifting Each Other With a Like.")

Then again, like the ever-changing world of social media, my relationship with Facebook began to change, too. I found myself wanting to spend more time face-to-face with people instead of Facebook-ing with them. I wanted to use it once again for the sole purpose of keeping up with close family and friends. As I joined Twitter, my social media life was feeling overloaded, and I didn't want to spend too much of life in front of social media.

So I've decided to leave 500 "friends" and 80 pages I'd "liked" on Facebook -- simply because I needed the change. Please understand, dearly beloved readers, that I am not campaigning for a Facebook exodus. My decision to leave one social media site and to "follow" another is a personal decision. I am eager to explore other ways of "growing the church" and keeping in touch with people.

For now, the simple truth is that I needed a change.

As we approach the season of Lent, we remember that the word "repentance" means "to turn." Another definition that I've heard is "to change direction." Many of us will fast certain delicacies for 40 days. Some of us will even give up sites like Facebook for that time period. We will make conscious changes in our lives in order to draw from God's Life. What "change" might God be calling you to make? It might involve taking on a spiritual discipline as opposed to giving up something you enjoy.

Our growth in God depends on our willingness to change. Just as technology is constantly throwing new options and opportunities at us, we have to learn individually how to handle all these changes. For me, this involves taking a step back from some social media. For some of you, change might mean joining a social media site. Lent calls us to examine our own hearts and to reconnect with the "Friend" who sticks closer than a brother. Will you make a change that draws you closer to him?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian