The Challenge of Social Networking

Social networking is a wonderful phenomenon. Just think, you can be instantly connected to someone via your phone or some other electronic device. Via Instagram, people know what I am eating at a restaurant before I’ve even had a morsel of the entrée.

With almost every good or even great thing, there are inherent challenges, which must be met and overcome if we are to experience maximum benefits.

God created us to be in fellowship. When He observed all that He created, He said,“It is not good for the man to be alone…” Genesis 2:18b. Indeed, humanity was created to be in fellowship.

Has social media helped us in our quest for fellowship or has it dampened our ability to experience true fellowship.

In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, William Deresiewicz examined the new forms of friendship that have emerged in the age of Facebook. While social media has allowed us the opportunity to be connected to everyone, it more often than not comes at the expense of deep, meaningful, friendships.

Deresiewicz wrote: 

“[Concerning] the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement that … has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support—‘therapeutic’ friendship, [to quote] Robert N. Bellah's scornful term. 

We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free ….

With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. 

Facebook's very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. Therefore they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they're not in the same place, or, rather, they're not my friends. They're a [superficial likeness or semblance] of my friends—little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets …. 

Deresiewicz concludes: ‘Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves.’"* 

I am personally thankful for social networking, but I am more thankful for “real, live” friends with whom I can engage especially in times of real need and accountability.

Something to think about … 

*Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, Canada; source: William Deresiewicz, "Faux Friendship," The Chronicle of Higher Education (12-6-09)