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October 12, 2010

The Other Side of Facebook

Can it be a bridge into someone’s life?

I appreciated Beatrice Rusu’s post about Facebook that went up two weeks ago, and I understand the angle she chose to take on its implications. I’m not always a social media lover (despite the fun it affords me), particularly for such reasons as Beatrice articulated.

But I had an experience recently that gave me an unexpected appreciation for Facebook.

This summer was my 10 year high school reunion. It felt surreal to walk in and have someone’s first words to me be, “Those people you work with look like so much fun! Like when y’all were playing that game at that girl’s house?” (Can you tell I’m from Alabama?)

Facebook had come through again, crossing 700 miles of cyberspace to inform people whom I hadn’t spoken to in 10 years about the game I’d played with my co-workers the weekend before. I chuckled to myself as my friend Brad’s 35-year-old wife’s eyes got really big: “This is nothing like my 10 year high school reunion. Facebook.”

It was nice to skip over all of the “Heeeey! You look so great! Now what are y’all up to these days? Where are y’all livin’?” since much of that information was already known. But the experience that stuck out as a truly substantive benefit of Facebook was my interaction with Drew. Drew’s dad had died not even a year earlier. I’d somehow stumbled across this information on Facebook around the time it had happened. I’m not even friends with Drew on Facebook; we were never good friends in school, only acquaintances. But as can happen at large social mixers, I ended up standing next to Drew at one point. Rather than saying, “So how have you been?” or “What’s going on with you these days?” I took the leap into what I knew was likely the biggest portion of his present life: “Your dad died this year. How are you doing?”

I don’t know if Drew would have offered the news of his dad’s death without my prompting. Maybe he would have. But since I knew already, he didn’t have to initiate it. He didn’t have to break that horrible news yet again to an unsuspecting someone. Nor did he have to answer a “How are you?” question superficially. He responded really beautifully, with openness and strength.

I asked a few more questions surrounding it all, and after our conversation, which felt like a smooth, solid stone in the rapid river of a public high school reunion, we embraced with a deeper understanding of each other. And a true care. At least, I trust he felt that from me.

This experience makes me think more about the positive ramifications of Facebook. Where I’ve been more cynical about it historically, I can now imagine ways that Facebook might serve not as a veil to hide behind, but truly as a bridge to connect two separate people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you had any similar experiences with social media? Have you found it beneficial in your ministry?

Comments

Social media is a blessing! It's a rapid, expansive way to disseminate information. I blog and use Facebook (and twitter) to invite students into my life. Many of them express interest in God and even join me in church. With facebook, people all over the world can hear about God's love. And my blog alone has received 22,000 visits from 95 different countries or territories. I'm a global evangelist from my own kitchen.

Sarah, great post and great, positive thoughts! Now that I'm living 500 miles away from family and friends, Facebook and Twitter are a great way to still feel connected to the people that I don't share my day-to-day life with anymore. Just as you pointed out, years ago I wouldn't be able to know these details as easily. With Facebook, I can see the daily goings-on of others and have some interaction with people I wouldn't otherwise talk to since we live so far apart. I really appreciate that and I'm glad I can still feel connected to them. And I agree with your classmate--those people you work with DO seem like so much fun! ;)

I used Facebook to promote taking a group to the Women of Faith Conference in Milwaukee. I sent it to everyone of my friends and I had a few people then contact me to go to the Women of Faith Conference. I also read people's blogs who are involved in the ministry and find out things they are doing in their churches and I don't even know them except for Facebook. So, Facebook is really a wonderful tool that way, but most of Facebook is superficial and how much daily stuff do you really want to share? There is also one contact on Facebook that puts a quotation or a Bible Verse on everyday that he has time. So, I see many good and positive things happening on Facebook.

I have seen an entirely different side to Facebook since my sister suffered brain damage from a bleed after surgery in June. One of her college friends created a page on Facebook for her prayer partners. We have had special prayer times via the Facebook discussion page! What an encouragement to see several people from all over the country come together and pray for a miracle at the same time via Facebook. Just as with other technological advances, Facebook can be used for good or evil; it is merely the tool; we are the ones who use it. Let me encourage all of us to think of "good" ways to use social media.

I agree, Facebook and Twitter are awesome ways to keep in touch with old friends and learn so much about our God! I follow a daily bible verse on Twitter and this has become another tool in getting deeper in God's Word! Each week I go through those verses, pray over them and write them down in an index card for my own use. We also should not spend our lives on these sites, but see them as another tool to learn and to reach out and keep up...

I definitely agree that facebook can be excellent medium for building those social bridges. I grew up fairly distant from my dad's side of the faily, but in the past few years, the entire family is one facebook and I now am far closer to them than my mom's tech-shunning family. I've tired to get them on by explaining how we could keep in touch better, but to no avail...

My church Kuala Lumpur Baptist Church uses Facebook.

I have used Facebook as a means to add people to my prayer list and to ask for prayer when needed. I am "friends" with a guy who went to school with my sister. I didn't really know him well in school. His grandfather passed away on Easter and I posted a comment on his page with my condolences and a comment that I couldn't imagine a better day to arrive in heaven with all of the celebration I was sure was taking place. He said thank you as he did to all other posts. I saw him this summer and he commented about my post and how much it meant to him. I had totally forgotten until he mentioned it. I now see Facebook as a way God can use me to reach out to people and bless them.

My husband and I are trying to adopt right now, we have had the baby since birth in our home (22 weeks). It is hard to post what is going on when you get 30 messages a day, so I like facebook for that reason... you can post once and everytone that asks gets the same answer, that way our situation does not get "misinterpreted". For us, it has really been a positive. Thanks for asking.

My best friend and I had been estranged for 26 years before God brought us back together using Facebook. Now we have everything we had back then and more.

I use Facebook to keep in contact with my college age nieces and nephews. I send them a Thought for the Day (TFTD) every day, sometimes it's funny, sometimes it makes them think, lots of times it is a bible verse or something religious in nature, sometimes I even see my TFTD posted on their Facebook page. It's a wonderful way to share things I think are important without having some deep conversation. They know I care enough to remember them every day and living so far apart - it's a great way to connect.

FB connected me to lot of my friends whom I've lost contact with.Many South Africans emmigrate overseas and this is a wonderful way of keeping contact. Further on, I have met wonderful women who share my compassion for Jesus and His work on earth. Through this I got many links for Women in Ministry.

My wife used Facebook to have an elicit online affair with an old college friend. Facebook and the flirting and lurking is not a great side of social networking.

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