Last Sunday morning, February 5, I was informed by Facebook that I had been a member – for eight years!
For the most part my almost-decade-long involvement has been a joy. I like seeing where my friends have found themselves, watching them raise and ween their own families, and participate in their careers and callings. It really is a book of faces that I have come to know and love in my lifetime.
But, I am forced to have to change how I “do” Facebook.
At the epicenter of this change is the last presidential election – and the madness that has followed. Our country is built on dialogue and difference of opinions – and those differences are on broad display on the world’s largest social media site. But far too many of the dialogues that take place are not constructive. They have driven wedges between families, forced friends to be “unfriended” and shunned, and reduced what should be civilized conversation on important topics to a few short scoffing sentences dashed off while we run to the counter to get our lattes.
My family and friends are too important to me for that kind of treatment. I am not ready, however, to give up seeing them grow, sharing in their heartbreaks, rejoicing in their celebrations, and sharing my own story.
So, in that spirit, here is my new approach to Facebook
1. I am applying a very old Navy tradition about dinner etiquette: don’t discuss politics and religion while at the table. Facebook is really one big dinner table – where we share what we did in school that day, talk about our challenges, and ask for advice. It is a gathering for friends and family. Politics and religion – no matter how homogenized the gathering – are topics sure to always create friction. So, I won’t discuss them in the public areas of pages and posts.
2. I will, though, send you a private message asking for clarification, or inquiring if you want to explore that issue privately. I have become convinced that many of my connections on Facebook have been shoved to the poles of arguments as a result of defending someone else’s position, not necessarily because he lives there himself. Because we are talking privately – away from the table – we can explore and discuss the issue without the danger or losing “Face” from our acquaintances that may have more acute views on the topic at hand. Because we are “talking” in private, there is no real reason to “win” the discussion – which in itself should reduce the tension.
3. Unless you are vulgar, obscene, abusive, or outrageously disrespectful I will never unfriend you. If you find that you are no longer on my list, please send me a message.
4. I will, however, hide posts from you that I do not want to see. My high value for my relationship with you does not mean that you have a blank cheque as to what appears on my timeline.
5. Worldview matters. Christians see the world around us through vastly different eyes than non-Christians, and we approach the issues of today just as differently. That does not mean that we are unified on all the issues (we aren’t), or have the perfect answer (we don’t). But our Christian worldview does provide a different and eternal perspective on issues that is not possible for the non-believer. So, if you decide to engage with me, I will ask questions about your belief system and how you are applying that system to the matter at hand. Don’t want to talk about your beliefs? Not a problem. Just don’t engage in discussion with me.
6. These topics do matter, and need to be discussed and explored. Facebook has demonstrated it is not the place to do it. So, later this week I am launching mackayhall.com – named after the dining hall at Princteton Theological Seminary. Those big wagon wheel tables hosted many warm and hot discussions – yet also united us around the idea of breaking bread together in this realm and the next. More to come on that venture.
7. Finally, rsample.com will be the place that I will write on matters of faith and life. I hope you will continue to read this blog, and use the commenting system below to add to to the discussion.
Facebook will continue to be a place where I catch up on news, post news from my family, update you on my businesses, and sing the praises of my wife. But – for me at least – it won’t be a place where I will lose the friends that I hold so dear, nor come to think any less of family that I love so much.
It just won’t.