Recently I have come in contact with a number of my church members, neighbors, family members, fellow pastors, seminary professors and administrators, former co-workers, former classmates, friends of our children, people in foreign lands, long lost friends, and cousins from all over the United States. Recent communicants include friends I see every week as well as some folks I haven't seen in years. These contacts run the gamut from teenagers to young adults, middle agers, and grandparents, and they all have one thing in common - Facebook.
When I first became aware of Facebook, about a year ago, I was told that it was basically "My Space for adults". I guess it was once, but now one can find folks of all ages in this global network. I ventured into Facebook in a manner similar to someone dipping his toe into cold water. Caution was the rule. Primarily because I really didn't know exactly how deep this thing ran, and partially because, at 58, I'm not quite as adventurous as I once was. Somewhat technologically challenged, I thought it best to move slowly. Searching Facebook, I was surprised to find a couple of folks I knew, so I started an account and sent out a couple of friend requests, and POW - I was in.
People use Facebook for a number of reasons. Some folks are interested in networking. Some may be looking for relationships and making new friends. Others, like myself, are just looking to connect with friends and acquaintances. It's a convenient way to make informal contact, send messages, share photos, and catch up. A person can spend as much or as little time in Facebook as they choose, but if care is not taken, it can be absolutely addictive! One hit leads to another. One friend can lead to multiple others, and on and on and on.
What I like about Facebook is the easy contact and casual interaction. One can send messages, join groups, post photos and videos, send announcements, and chat with friends who are online. While convenient and interesting, it is also easy to see how the site could be abused by scurrilous characters and those with a predatory nature. There is almost an "exhibitionist" facet to the site, which allows an individual to share as much personal information as they choose. That can be a little scary. Just as with My Space, parents should be very aware of the potential dangers to their children who are using Facebook.
I am trying to be careful about how much time I spend on the site. As a pastor, I do have other, much more important demands on my time. But it is a nice way to touch base with computer savvy church members and kids who are in our Student Ministry at church. I have found it quite helpful in staying in touch with friends in the Philippines, and it is an easy way to get messages to them quickly. Facebook has already reunited me with some dear old friends that had lost touch over the years, and it has brought back many fond memories. Like anything good, it can be abused, so it demands self discipline in a lot of ways.
So, if you are on Facebook, I'd like to hear from you. Send a friend request, and we'll stay in touch. But a word of warning... Don't send me any of those "Little Green Patch" requests. Save your time and trouble - I don't spend any time on that stuff and I refuse to believe that swapping cyber plants will help stop global warming. (The 15 degree temperature outside right now leaves me "cold" on the whole concept anyhow).
So, go ahead. Friend me.