Why is it that even in the midst of Facebook's 24/7 cyber-access to friends, family, and people you met at last night's church supper, "We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness"
I'm reminded of Albert Schweitzer words whenever one of my Facebook friends complains about feeling lonely, which happens all too frequently. With "someone" always available online, shouldn't we be feeling less, not more, lonely?
I asked my friends what they thought and found that while many feel more "connected" because of social media, some also feel lonelier at the same time. One friend put it this way: "Connected, yes. Cared for, a bit. Effecting loneliness, a bit." I also discovered that my older friends, who have established friendships the old-fashioned way, don't depend on Facebook to fill their tanks nearly as much as my younger friends (including my children), who have cut their social teeth on it, do.
This concerns me because my fourth teenager has just joined Facebook. I find her wondering, "Why didn't anyone respond to my status update/link/photo? I have this boatload of 'friends,' so why did not one person respond to that one post where I was obviously in need of encouragement? How come this friend gets a constant stream of feedback on her posts, but I don't? Why don't people 'like' my statuses?"
The simplistic thing would be to bar Facebook altogether, but that would deny my children a valuable lesson. I know this too well, posting links to blog entries that go unread and uncommented on. It's an easy leap to go from there to a "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm going to go eat worms" mentality. Our source of worth is rooted out much quicker on Facebook than in real life, where we are used to waiting for well-thought-out replies to letters and even emails rather than expecting instant knee-jerk (and often meaningless) responses and-let's be honest-ego rubs from our Facebook peeps.
But people's feedback or lack of feedback does not determine our value.
My biggest point to my kids is that being connected and having access to people's walls and private information does not a friendship make. If friendships are well established, Facebook is a great way to stay in tune with day-to-day goings on, but at no time is it a substitute for the real thing. Biblical friendship is demanding and there is no way we can fulfill the mandate of encouraging, holding up, and living life together with 500 friends. For the same reason, no amount of "likes" on Facebook will fill our need for community, for communion. There's only One who can do that and He is the only friend who won't ignore your statuses or diss your links or defriend you. Better yet, He loves you enough to know the number of hairs on your head and counts your tears and keeps them in a bottle. Facebook has many benefits, but I doubt even Mark Zuckerberg could top that.