On January 31, assistant professor of practical theology Michael Bruner gave a lecture titled “Would Jesus Friend You?” calling Christians to delete their Facebook accounts.
Bruner’s lecture focused mostly on the reductionism of Facebook, or its ability to reduce relationships and friendships until they no longer have meaning. He also focused on the self-promotion and self-reinvention Facebook makes possible.
“When you agree [to Facebook], you are tacitly buying into and agreeing to a reductive view on who we are,” Bruner said.
Bruner extensively covered reasons he thinks Facebook is detrimental to Christianity. A few students even deleted their Facebook accounts immediately after the lecture. One of Bruner’s Christian Life, Faith and Ministry students, freshman psychology major Abby Paris, deleted her Facebook because she no longer saw the practical use of it for herself.
“I was putting too much value into something that isn’t important in my life anyway,” Paris said. “The main reason I had a Facebook was to stay connected with my family, and there are so many different ways that I can update them without using Facebook.”
However, not every student who left that lecture deleted their Facebook or made plans to do so; Bruner knows this isn’t going to be a reality. Bruner said that it wouldn’t happen, and if it ever did, APU would be on the cover of Time Magazine.
So, how does the problem get fixed if people won’t delete their Facebook accounts? The lecture was not a call to delete Facebook; rather, it was a call for Christians to change the way they think about and use social media every day, in order to use it only for the tool that it could be.
Just getting rid of a problem isn’t always the best way to deal with conflict. There is power in confrontation and power in being able to see the original problem in a different way afterward.
First, be realistic about how and why you are using Facebook.
Many people say they use Facebook to stay in contact with people they would otherwise have a difficult time staying connected to and to keep up with one another’s lives.
These are all fine reasons to have a Facebook, if that is what people are really using it for. But for many people, as Bruner pointed out, Facebook is a tool forcreating a perfect representation of ourselves via our profile and — let’s be honest — creepily stalking someone instead of getting to know them.
What people don’t realize is that Facebook is inflating their ego with every log-in. With every “like” on a photo or status update, people are basing their self-worth on other people’s opinions and approval.
This is where a break from Facebook can be beneficial. It can be humbling to step back and realize how much value you place on something as insignificant as a Facebook profile. Also, it might not be so bad to go more than a few hours or days without a “like” on your profile picture.
If Christians spend less time worrying about how a Facebook profile creates a perfect image of themselves and hold less value in the praise that comes out of it, they could start using Facebook for good, not evil.
Second, since Facebook is diminishing real relationships, start making a conscious effort to pursue real-life, 3-D community. It is not necessary to deactivate your Facebook account to truly pursue friendship.
Christians should be aware that a disconnect is happening; however, it doesn’t have to be that dramatic of a change. Simply spend less time on Facebook and more time face-to-face with real people in real community.
Essentially, Facebook is not always the wrong thing, but sometimes people use it wrongly. Although Facebook presents the opportunity to lose focus on community and disregard humility, Christians do not have to take it.
There is real value in the tools Facebook can offer, even in facilitating these things. Facebook can create an event that brings a community together. Status updates can reflect what God is doing in the lives and hearts of the people who post.
Deleting Facebook doesn’t have to be the only solution. Although it is highly unlikely Mark Zuckerberg will change the intent of Facebook (as Bruner pointed out), Christians can begin to use Facebook intentionally.