In 2009 after creating a blog for sharing ministry updates I decided it was time to start taking Social Media seriously, and use it to communicate with friends in America. This began by reading a very interesting book called “The Church of Facebook” by Jesse Rice that helped me understand how websites such as Twitter and Facebook change the way we communicate with one another. Jesse does an excellent job explaining how Social Media doesn’t just affect our communication, but how we develop relationships and define them.
There are many fascinating changes these sites bring to our lives; but the most surprising for me is the “Invisible Entourage Phenomenon”.
Communicating on Facebook can incredibly addicting…especially when you start seeing those little red notifications that mean someone has either liked, shared, or commented on one of your posts; I’m at the point were I always have to stop and check my phone after hearing the notification sound (provided I’m not in a meeting 🙂
There isn’t really anything wrong with this since all of us enjoy receiving encouragement from friends or family. The danger as our posts become more and more popular is to believe everyone MUST know what we have to say, or as the author puts it “The assumption is that the world is always watching us, hanging on every word that comes out of our mouths” Jesse Rice. The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community (Kindle Locations 793-794). Kindle Edition.
What begins as friends taking a few seconds to click a like button for something funny or meaningful can became a belief that they are always wondering what’s going on in our lives. This idea has since moved past Facebook as “the growing popularity of micro blogging that has turned Twitter into such a white-hot phenomenon is fueled by the notion that we live for an invisible entourage” Jesse Rice. The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community (Kindle Locations 1045-1047). Kindle Edition.
Therefore we shouldn’t be ashamed of sharing our emotions, daily schedules, menu for supper, or the song listened to on the way home because there is a huge entourage of people just dying to know! (there is just a teensy bit of sarcasm there). The truth is those little red notifications have led many of us to post things about ourselves and others that probably should never be shared with other people (don’t worry I’m guilty too..my social media confession comes tomorrow).
The true danger in our Invisible Entourage Idea is it blinds us to the fact that this relationship is all about our wants or need for approval. As someone who suffered from low self-esteem (it’s actually addiction to the approval or love of others) as a child I was a master manipulator when it came to relationships. The fact that God didn’t bless me with athleticism or self-confidence, but made up for that with good looks (okay you can stop laughing now) left me with what Dr. Ed Welch in his book “When People are Big and God is Small” refers to as a “leaking love tank.” This love tank is supposed to be filled with time in the Word of God everyday and strong relationships with friends or family, but instead I chose to fill my love tank with pity.
Unfortunately getting pity is actually quite simple…all you have to do is focus on something that you’re not good at and over-react about it. For instance I would go on a rant about my being stupid, ugly, etc., and well meaning friends would give encouragement. The problem is that encouragement or pity from friends became my source of confidence instead of a true relationship with God and others, and it didn’t last. So the cycle of seeking pity went on and on until as a teen I realized my true identity was found in Christ.
It’s very tempting to look towards our Invisible Entourage and their precious red notifications as the source of our confidence. But eventually you will run out of funny or cool things to say, and the notifications will stop coming; it’s then that the relationship isn’t about encouraging others, but getting that next like or comment.
Living in a hyper connected world is absolutely amazing; I wouldn’t give it up for anything. But perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn about Facebook also comes from Jesse Rice, “The world doesn’t revolve around you.”