The Economist (8/17/13) reports on two studies of Facebook users. The first, by Ethan Kross (University of Michigan) and Philippe Verduyn (University of Belgium), indicates that increased Facebook use correlates with growing personal dissatisfaction.
Earlier studies found correlations between Facebook use and depression, social tension, and jealousy—though it isn’t clear what is cause and what is effect. Maybe jealous people gravitate toward Facebook? Or does Facebook make people jealous?
Kross and Verduyn followed 82 Facebook users for two weeks. These Facebookers, in their late teens and early twenties, reported five times a day on their Facebook use as well as their social interactions outside Facebook (face-to-face or by phone), and their “state of mind.”
The main finding: The more these participants used Facebook, the worse they felt. But the more they had “direct social contact,” the better they felt. “In other words,” The Economist summarizes, “the more [these] volunteers socialised in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling.”
The study found no gender difference, nor did it matter how large the person’s social network was, their stated motivation for using Facebook, or their level of depression, loneliness, or self-esteem. “Dr Kross and Dr Verduyn therefore conclude that, rather than enhancing well-being, Facebook undermines it.”
An earlier study of 584 Facebookers found that Facebook tends to make users envious as they compare themselves with what others post on Facebook (photos, achievements, clever sayings, whatever). “Real-life encounters, by contrast, are more WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get),” notes The Economist.
The report also makes the point that these studies are of young folks. Are things different with older folks? Hmmmm. . . .
In any case, for Christians the findings should be no big surprise. The New Testament puts major emphasis on “one another”—encouraging, confronting, teaching, singing, greeting and so forth—all ways of loving one another. “Encourage one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). To be really effective, this requires face-to-face contact—two-way communication where more than just words are exchanged.
To love someone is more than to “like” someone.
The church is the body of Christ, and while the internet can serve as a supplement, it can never be a replacement for real spiritual “body contact.”
Research on Facebook so far is preliminary, not conclusive. I believe it does however point in the direction of confirming the essential role of Christian community. For many, that means the rediscovery, or perhaps first-time discovery, of what “body of Christ” actually means.
Maybe the greatest lessons about Facebook and other social media are ones Christians should already know: moderation, careful stewardship of time and attention, and the importance of face-to-face social interaction in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Also a keen sense of priorities as we seek first the kingdom of God.
My advice to myself: Stop. Examine. Reflect. Be intentional.
Obviously Facebook has many positives. It helps us keep in touch with family and other folks we aren’t able to be physically present with. It can be a channel for encouragement, and of course for information sharing. The upside may be greater than the downside. Or maybe not, depending on the person and their circumstances.
This post was written by Dr Howard Snyder. For the original post with comments, go to: http://howardsnyder.seedbed.com/2013/08/26/will-facebook-ruin-you/
BE A MAN.