Social Networking: Integration or Isolation?

Today while lunching with my co-workers we commented on how ironic it is that social networking seems to be creating a network of lonely people. Just a few weeks ago I re-initiated my Facebook profile mainly to connect with family (and a few friends), although I remain ambivalent about this decision. I do appreciate seeing others’ posts, comments, pictures, too; at least most of them (wink).

Stephen Marche’s article “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” featured in The Atlantic (see here for a good video exchange) opines that “loneliness and narcissism are intimately connected….Narcissism is the flip side of loneliness, and either condition is a fighting retreat from the messy reality of other people.” Marche also states:

Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the Australian study “Who Uses Facebook?” found a significant correlation between Facebook use and narcissism: “Facebook users have higher levels of total narcissism, exhibitionism, and leadership than Facebook nonusers,” the study’s authors wrote. “In fact, it could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.”

Wowsers! Of course, Facebook is not the only tool used to promote one’s self. Blogging is no small opportunity in the same direction (ugh!).

The first instance in Scripture about loneliness is God’s declaration “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). So God made another human to provide the interaction necessary to build a wholesome, relational life full of wonder, joy, mystery, and yes, the possibility of more humans!

Just as man needs woman, people need people. Discipleship that has a lasting effect must be done “in the flesh.” Fellowship that is truly meaningful occurs with real people in real time and in real space without the hinderance of a monitor sitting in between. Granted I have had moving phone conversations and received countless encouragements by reading other blogs, but 1 John opens the way it does for a reason.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

(1 Jn 1:1–4)

Perhaps this is why the Incarnation of God in Jesus is so profound. Christ is, after all, “Immanuel, God with us.”

All of this speak about the relational fracturing and isolated lives that social networking seems to accommodate reminded me of an email my wife and I received the day before Mother’s Day. It was from some dear neighbors who we quickly learned were also our beloved family in Christ. I would venture to say that no digital connection could ever forge the bond like what we have with our friends. Though we now share only a virtual relationship because they’re living far away, we are thankful to God for the ministry we’ve had to and with them and the blessing they’ve been to us because of our face-to-face engagements.

Soli Deo gloria!

2 thoughts on “Social Networking: Integration or Isolation?”

  1. The worldly life is consumed and directed to technology/Internet driven instant gratification scenarios. Whether its spiritual driven or not, one could say that some people dislike them self or are so insecure about oneself, that they cannot or will not remain in personal time or thought to better their internal self. Thus allowing oneself to be addicted to such things as Facebook or other things to mentally avoid working on themselves and inevitably numbing themselves to life’s problems. The means of narcissism is then subconsciously created to superficially make oneself feel better and appear fine and well to the world. Social networking allows for an easy means for this to take place. Yes there are some good reasons for some of these tools but there appears to be just as many if not more negatives to be dealt with if tools were actually broken down and assessed. Facebook for example is great for sharing in and keeping track of some of life’s great things when being at a distance, such as new baby’s, weddings, big life events, etc. It’s become a place though where so many find it comfortable and ok to verbally vomit their life as if no one is listening yet the world has the ability to. For the most part though it seems to be filled with/create drama, negativity, or mindless information. It makes for the perfect place to mindlessly avoid one thoughts and superficially build oneself up. Whether it’s hiding behind a computer to bully someone, brag about meaningless things in a means to get attention (look at my muscles, look at what i cooked/ate, look what I’m doing that you’re not, etc), compare ones life to another based on their depressing and/or meaningless comments, or just merely sitting and reading to avoid their own thoughts or having to interact with someone who might actually make them question, think, or focus on who they really are. In the end a person is left with their technology and virtual self but without anyone who truly knows them including themselves. In a sense wouldn’t you say it’s not integration or isolation but integrated isolation?

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