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Monday, April 01, 2013

Facebook & Real Relationships

Saw an old friend I hadn't seen in a couple years. Not even sure if we've communicated other traded "Happy Birthday" greetings on each other's Facebook walls. We had never been close but we're friends. Now on FB I generally follow what my other several hundred friends are doing as best I can. Certainly not every single detail but I scan the newsfeed daily. What a great joy it was to talk about stuff we saw happening in each other's lives. He asked about my son's baseball and commented about my beautiful family in a photo. I did the same. There was a sense of closeness in our friendship. We felt connected -- real, honest feelings of warmth. Is it really a false connection?

All the time lately I hear from Christian leaders who are giving up FB for "real relationships" and that FB gives a false sense of intimacy and pseudo-relationships. So many leaders are down on social media. "It's such a huge time waster." Really? I am honestly really thankful for things that have happened in my life due to FB. I love FB for a lot of reasons ... 

There's a lot of people that I pray for. Yeah, I'm a guy who believes that prayer makes a difference -- that God answers prayer. So I pray for a lot of people ... my cousin who moved, my wife's cousin needs a job, another cousin started a business, a former parishioner with cancer, a local acquaintance with cancer, a colleague getting married & going back to school, another former parishioner in a bad relationship, prayers of thanksgiving for the healthy birth of a friend's grandson, a former co-worker's husband's heart transplant, another friend starting a new ministry, and more situations than I can mention. I'm so glad I know what's going on and I can pray. There's just not enough time to keep that level of connected via phone calls or letters. 

So many of my family are on FB now across the generational spectrum. There's a sense of closeness with each other that we felt when we were kids. So much so that we ended up using FB to facilitate a family reunion, something we hadn't had in years but had really wanted. I know, I know -- people have had reunions for years without FB and if we really wanted it we would have done it. That's true. But FB gave us the framework for capitalizing on the love we had for one another and the ability to cut through schedule and communication barriers. 

Several times a month I get a FB message from someone who reaches out to me for advice on their life, often on their spiritual life because I am a pastor/priest. I'm helping people find a new church, get healing from their last church, sharing the Scriptures, etc. Often times it's persons that I haven't seen or talked to physically in years and years, or that I only have a cyber-relationship with. But trust has been built as we've observed each other or FB stalked each other over the years. Sometimes pseudo-relationships have resulted in real people worship the true living God. 

Was it a pseudo-relationship when I was able to raise some funds to help out a guy living with no heat in the dead of a upstate New York winter? What about when we were able to utilize FB to collect coats, hats, gloves, etc. for Burmese kids that were freezing because they didn't have appropriate winter clothes? We've had several similar situations. Real or pseudo, it felt pretty real when these people had warm homes and bodies, dry feet and hands. 

We probably could not have not what we did as easily as we did if we did not have the relationship capital that was built via FB. That's right. It's not just about FB as a mode of communication that facilitated requests to multiple persons. There is also the relationship capital built through "likes", birthday greetings, commentating on statuses and photos, celebrating joys and mourning losses, networking when needs occur, and reaching out via messaging when obvious crises or difficulties occurred. When we do those things, good will occurs and bonds of affection are enhanced. So much so that when we do run into each other there's a great sense of joy -- maybe even greater -- because of the connection and relationship building that happened online. 

Maybe FB is a waste of time but I really like the real life joy and warmth it produces in a variety of ways.

Comments on "Facebook & Real Relationships"


Blogger James Devlin said ... (11:11 PM, April 03, 2013) : 

Those are some great points. You have an awesome way to use facebook!


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