Friday, June 4, 2010

The Facebook Era

It seems everyone is on Facebook these days: your co-workers, your best friend from third grade, your mom, your parish priest. According to the statistics page on there are currently more than 400 million active users, 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day and people spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Those numbers are staggering. I am a former member of this social network for reasons that I will explain later. I guess what attracted me to Facebook was that it was really fun to reconnect with people from the past, quickly and without ever having to see them-in person haha. I use to check my Facebook account twice a day and I enjoyed reading the updates of friends. It was a great instrument for sharing photos and seeing the photos of my friends. Besides the corny pictures people take of themselves in the bathroom or the feeling of “accomplishment” from moving up from MySpace, there was something exciting about being connected to the virtual world. But most importantly it was a great way to evangelize and spread the message of Christ to all people by using modern technology in a new and engaging way.

Pope Benedict XVI told young Catholics in his message for the 2009 celebration of World Communications Day to “use their computers, Facebook accounts, blogs and Internet video posts to share with their peers the joy of faith in Christ.” There is no doubt that if used properly, Facebook could bring many people to the Hope and Love of Jesus Christ.

However, as I logged onto my friends account to see “what was going on” I was deeply concerned by how much time was actually being spent on Facebook. It almost looked as if Facebook was becoming like a “god”, a “virtual god”. I talked to my friend the other day, and I asked her to walk me through her day and she said, “I get up and check my Facebook, take a shower and get ready for work, and during my lunch break, I check my Facebook again. I then go to class and when I am bored, I log on to the internet with my phone and check my Facebook!” Before I even let her finish, I knew there was something wrong. I understand that this is an extreme version of FBA (Facebook addiction) but I am easily convinced with my own experiences of being around friends and peers that people are overly using Facebook.

So what is up with Facebook? Pope Benedict, in his wisdom, also addressed to the young Catholics, "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development”.

The keyword is silence! I know this was particularly true for me. I deactivated my account because it was getting in the way of me being able to be silent. The reality is that it is not easy to discern your vocation. Why is that? I strongly believe it requires fervent, personal prayer to our Lord and the ability to quiet down and listen to His voice. At least that was how I came to discover my vocation when, during my first year of college, I became serious about God’s will’s for me. It was by removing myself from distractions that I was able to listen to the Lord more clearly.

One of my most favorite quotes by Mother Theresa is,
“In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.
Silence of our eyes.
Silence of our ears.
Silence of our mouths.
Silence of our minds. the silence of the heart
God will speak.---Mother Teresa, from No Greater Love

This blog is not to judge or condemn anyone on FB because I think it is a wonderful tool to get the message of Christ out but I challenge for those who are on Facebook or any other social network, in my case-texting, to “match the minutes in prayer”-meaning if you are going to spend 30 min a day on Facebook, you better be willing to spend 30 min in prayer. If you are going to spend 4hrs day on Facebook you better be willing to spend 4hrs a day in prayer. I think we owe the Lord that much. Just imagine and let’s cut the minutes in half…what if 400 million people spent 250 billion minutes in PRAYER?

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