Facebook and Relationships
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 350 million users. Users can add friends, send them messages, and update their personal status, notifying friends about what they’re up to. Additionally, users can join networks organized by city, workplace, and school or college. The website’s name stems from books given at the start of the academic year by university administrations with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better.
I personally use Facebook to find friends from the past, check out what others are doing, advertise, or engage in discussions with friends. Often, I find that “friends” post status updates that say things like “I am at the store and the line is long” or “I just saw a movie and it was great.” Some even posts videos they record while on line at the store or doing something funny while at the movie theatre. Others post their feelings of hurt or post their deepest thoughts on a certain subject like God or politics. Some argue that Facebook is detrimental for the relational growth. While this is a worthy topic of discussion, it’s not the idea we will be dealing with here. I believe there is a bigger issue to address: relationships.
I have been in ministry for about 10 years and one thing I’ve learned is that we didn’t need the Facebook generation to come around to inform us that we all have an innate need to be known by others. We also want to know others. This is one of the major themes in youth ministry material for the past 30 years. And why shouldn’t it be? Relationships are the means through which God conforms us into the likeness of His Son. Relationships are grounded within the framework of the eternal relationship of the Trinity itself. In light of this, we can gain some ground in understanding why social networks are popular. The issue now is to quickly define relationships from both a non-Christian perspective and the biblical perspective.
Generally speaking, popular culture has used the term relationships in terms of dating or marriage. If you Google search “relationships,” a majority of the hits are on dating or marriage. Even the recommended narrow searches are phrases like relationship advice, relationship tips, and even Dr. Phil. This hints at why there is growing dysfunction in homes, schools, and churches. People do not understand that different types of relationships are essential to maturity.
From a biblical worldview, relationships are defined throughout the Old and New Testaments. Scripture teaches us how we are to interact with God, our spouse, our children, our friends, co-workers, enemies, government, etc. A relationship is defined by the way we interact and associate with those created in the image of God, and ultimately God himself. For example, you interact intimately with your spouse knowing that you have become one flesh in marriage. Scripture also seems to suggest that our relationships reflect our character and eligibility to lead. If men do not have good relations with their wives and children, they are not fit to lead the church. God created us for relationships within the parameters of His will.
We all have a deep need for relationships. But when relationships are defined in the manner that popular culture has it’s no wonder that those needs are not met. Facebook and other social networking tools are popular because users are attempting to interact with the world the best way they can. Users attempt to connect with old friends, make new friends, share their feelings in hope that someone will comment on their status. As beneficial as such sites may be, God’s design for us and our relationships cannot be fulfilled via internet. The telos (purpose, end) of relationships is ultimately in God as revealed through the Trinity. Apart from that relationships with one another are meaningless.