Thursday, February 16, 2012

Patching a Broken World, Part 2

Into this fragmented, scattered, cocooning society, enter Facebook. Like any other tool, its use is entirely up to the person controlling it. Facebook has been much criticized for its high profile misuse. There are posts bragging about drinking binges or sexual exploits. There are inappropriate photos that may come back to haunt those with more naïveté than discretion. There is gossip and backbiting. There are all of these things in the rest of the world, too, but they are more visible on Facebook.

There is also much more to see on Facebook. Connections and other beautiful treasures beneath the surface of life can be more readily seen there. I belong to several support groups, based on mutual interests. One group to which I belong brought together homeschooling women who use a certain intellectually challenging Christian curriculum. It turns out that we all have a tremendous amount in common beyond our choice of curriculum for our children. In a closed group on Facebook, 110 women, most of whom do not know each other in person, share their struggles and triumphs. There are many posts about discipline issues, medical problems, and housing situations. There are multiple prayer requests every day. We have found that this Facebook group is the fastest point of connection to a collective pool of love and wisdom that we can find no where else. No one talks about the curriculum that was our original commonality. This a sisterhood of women from all over the world, from Alaska to Africa, of people who would never be able to establish this community of kindred spirits without Facebook.

Facebook also brings those we have lost back into our lives. I have lived all over the world, leaving dear friends along the way like so many breadcrumbs. Even when I was standing still, other people were moving away, so I have lost the ability to see many of my friends in person. While I long for the days when people never travelled more than 10 or 20 miles from their birthplace, that is not our reality. Social networking has enabled connection to the lost beloved: high school friends, college roommates, old cubicle mates, Swedes I used to have coffee with daily, my first and fourth grade teachers, old friends’ Moms, people from our former church, and a Japanese exchange student.

Facebook is both time machine and teleporter. It enables me to cultivate relationships in a way that in person interaction cannot. It has stepped into the gap created by an alienating society. It will never replace in person relationships, and I am not suggesting that it should. But for the way that it creates millions of connections between people and reveals the hidden ones that were already there, I count it as a beautiful example of the common grace that God extends to all parts of the world, and one of the few mercies of this isolating age. It is new, but I can say with the writer of Lamentations 3, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

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