Father Ronan on Facebook
Is Facebook making us lonely?
Last week the smiling face of Mark Zuckerberg was front page news in papers around the country. The much anticipated IPO of the social media company he co-founded concluded the first day with an estimated value for Facebook of $105 billion. The results of this unimaginable event made Facebook the 25th largest company in the United States. The size may seem surprising for many reasons but statistically, 1 out of every 13 people on Planet Earth use Facebook. The exponential growth in popularity of this company has given rise to many theories and critiques.
In the May issue of ATLANTIC, Steven Marche has written an evocative article: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Marche develops the question and places it into the context of this age and culture, recalling the trend of social disintegration that has been documented since before David Riesman’s classic work, The Lonely Crowd. His research points to the age old human longing for connectedness (friendship, intimacy and love), and in the North American culture in particular, to the high value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. It would seem that Facebook offers a marriage of these two longings: the illusion of intimacy along with the illusion of autonomy.
Stepping into our world 2000 years ago and today, Jesus speaks to these ageless longings of the human heart. The Architect, Engineer and Builder of you and me, knows each of us so very completely. The One who understands our hopes and dreams, our fears and sorrows, comes among us to lead us out of the shadows and darkness of our loneliness. How?
I believe each of us holds within a desire to see and know God. And when we stop to wonder about our own lives and everything and everyone around us, looking back through the years and becoming amazed at all that is and all that we are and all that we yearn to do and become, we recognize it as Gift! Since childhood we have been taught how to receive a gift – with THANK YOU. Gratitude is key – it opens the door to everything.
Most importantly, gratitude opens the door to love. For once we know this love, in which we are held by God, in gratitude we feel compelled to give it away with family, friends, community and in service to others. Our lives are transformed by living in this experience of love. The entire life of Jesus, including His teaching and example along with His suffering, death and resurrection, all point to and underscores the one single command that God has left us: Love one Another as I Have Loved You.
Facebook and any other technology of social media are some of the many tools we have to connect by sharing information with one another. It can be useful and enjoyable in this way. But these methods do not provide us with the depth of true understanding, intimacy and love that each of us longs for. To think that they do or will is an illusion.
The gift of faith in God is the one means that opens for us a veritable way to realize intimacy and love as well as complete self-fulfillment. When we open ourselves to God’s life within us - to our God who loves us unconditionally; who offers us continual freedom, refreshment, forgiveness, insights and nourishment; and is with us in times of challenge, difficulties and sorrow - the depth of gratitude we feel compels us to want to share them with those we know and beyond – to make a difference in the world. We make a deliberate choice to bring into a world so desperate for authentic freedom, understanding, intimacy and love yet so caught up in intriguing illusion, the profound sense of genuine belonging to one another and to the Source of Life who sustains us all in love.