About a month ago a Pastor in Texas declared a national facebook fast day. He called his congregation and others to a day of forsaking facebook, twitter, email and texting to give more time for "real relationships." I heard about it because local radio stations were challenging their listeners to jump on the bandwagon and do the same.
Now I must start with a disclaimer - I did a similar facebook fast a few months ago. Although I didn't challenge others to do the same, I chose not to check my facebook or other social media until later in the day each day. I'm kind of a twitter and facebook nerd, so this was tough and deeply enriching in my spiritual walk.
However, it is starting to seem that there are too many haters out there on the subject of facebook and our spirituality and I want to set the record straight. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on "Being More Like Jesus in Surprising Ways," discussing the idea that Jesus practiced both solitude and community. In fact, the Scriptural account seems to show that he practiced the spiritual discipline of community (with his Twelve and with the continual crowds) more than 90% of his ministry.
It is not hard for us in America to practice solitude, comparatively to the rest of the world. While we do have distractions from our technology, we also have one of the least communal cultures in the history of the world. Our problem is not too much community, our problem is isolation. The Scriptural practice of community is one of the hardest for us to practice in America today. Many of us go from our garage to our car to our cubicle and back each day without ever meeting our neighbors for years on end. How can we really love our neighbors if we never leave this cycle?
While I obviously agree with the importance of real relationships and seeing our friends, family and neighbors face to face, I also feel that no other generation has had the opportunities we have to supplement real relationships like we do thanks to social media. One of my favorite magazines, Fast Company wrote an article two months ago on the science behind it. When we play on facebook or twitter the same endorphins (Oxytocin, not oxycotin) released in our brains when we are actually with our friends are released when we are simply connecting with them online! We sense the same fulfillment and joy as if we were actually in the same room with them. For a culture than struggles with community, this is a beautiful thing. We should embrace it and utilize it to supplement and deepen our friendships, guide our prayers for each other and help us learn to be as selflessly communal as Christ was.