Thursday, January 19, 2017
Facebookiversary: The Blessings of Facebook
Yesterday Facebook drew my attention to the fact that the last ten years of my life have been as a member of their social media machine. Perhaps after ten years it would be helpful to consider some of the bane and blessing of Facebook. Today we'll look at the blessings, and hopefully tomorrow we'll consider the banes. Here's a few things that come to mind:
1. Facebook helps to keep you in contact with people
There's no doubt that Facebook is built on making connections and keeping in contact. The very concept of having friends on Facebook is what drives the experience, fills your news feed and provides opportunities to connect with even more people. 'So and so is a friend of a friend of yours, would you like to add them as your friend?' At last count, I have just over 500 friends on Facebook. Some I haven't seen from school days; others are colleagues in various parts of the country and world; some I see regularly. At whatever level, it's nice to keep in touch.
2. Facebook can be a prompt for prayer
With all those connections, the news feed can provide many prompts for prayer. In some cases, a friend will mention something that's happening in their church - an event, a new sermon series, or something else - and that knowledge leads to prayer. On occasion, someone will specifically ask people to pray, and it naturally follows. But prayer prompts can also come unbidden, as you see what people are writing and sharing and enduring. They may not request prayer, but that doesn't stop us from praying into those situations!
3. Facebook can be a tool for evangelism
Connecting with people and praying for them, Facebook also provides opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with our friends. Sharing a video that you've found helpful. Posting a Bible verse that has spoken to you. Inviting people to an event. All of these and more can be another step along the way to your friend trusting in Christ.
4. Facebook is useful for discipleship
Last year, a group of parishioners and friends decided that we would read through the Bible in a year. Alongside the fortnightly Bible study here in the rectory, we also set up a Facebook group. Throughout the year, it provided a forum for people to share what they were reading, both by highlighting something that stood out and by asking questions when there were things they didn't understand. Relationships were deepened through the sharing. And there was encouragement to keep going because there were a group of people doing the same thing together - even if geographically distant.
I'm soon due to start the Arrow Leadership Programme, and a similar group will be established for the participants and staff, as we reflect on the things we're reading, learning, and growing in together.
5. Facebook can be good for churches
There are so many ways in which churches can use Facebook (and other social media) for good. Having a Facebook group (or page) provides a means for people to keep in contact with the church. Notices, announcements and advertisements can be shared - and then re-shared by congregants. Facebook events can be an easy method of publicising events. Sharing photos of what's been going on - including pastoral occasions like weddings and Baptisms show what's been happening in the life of the parish.
Another way we use Facebook is by integrating it with PrayerMate. Each day, the prayer topic from our Prayer Diary appears on our church Facebook page. Around 100 people see the prompt to pray, as we unite our prayers on a specific theme.
Facebook - all blessing?
With these reasons, Facebook can seem to be a good tool for ministry and life. You may even have a few more ideas on the blessings of Facebook (comment below!). And yet, the experience isn't all positive. Tomorrow we'll turn to some of the antisocial elements of social media, to seek some wisdom in our online life.