R.C. Sproul Jr. writes about the possible perils of Facebook.
Should Christians be on Facebook? What about all the privacy issues that are in the news these days?
I sometimes wonder if the devil doesn’t take great pleasure in irony, in watching us turn ourselves inside out while missing the point. While I am on Facebook, and therefore at least hold to a tentative conviction that such is allowable for Christians, there are any number of reasons to raise concerns over it. Privacy and the lack thereof, however, would likely be the last one I would raise. With Facebook’s very public and controversial announcement of its change in policy with respect to privacy, that, however, is what has many Christians concerned. How, I wonder, can a person take a technology that exists to say to the watching world, “Here I am. Come see about me” complain that the world is coming to see about them? Anyone who wishes more privacy can find such easily enough. Don’t use Facebook. If you already do, stop. We are in a moral uproar for all the wrong reasons. We are aghast at the owners of Facebook for daring to change their policy (which, remember, the original policy held out as at their discretion) rather than being appalled at ourselves for implicitly breaking the 8th Commandment. We think because we are a user of Facebook that such makes us an owner of Facebook, and so demand this and demand that from the real owners.
That said, here are some very real concerns I have about Facebook. First, has it become a god to us? When God commands that we have no other god’s before Him He doesn’t mean ranked higher than Him, but rather He means in His presence. If Facebook is too needful for you, you may need to stop. Second, has it become a graven image? Have you confused its reality with real reality? Do you really think you have 200 friends? Third, have you taken the Lord’s name in vain? That is, have you, in weaker moments, put a bad face publicly on your Christian witness? Are you laughing at your old sins with that old buddy from college or high school?
Fourth, is Facebook giving me the peace of the Lord, or agitating me? (And please note the very real difference between that peace that passes understanding and that “peace” we receive when we feed a habit, when we get a fix.) Am I jumpy when I don’t get to log on? Am I more keyed up after I’ve logged off? Fifth, am I honoring those in authority over me? Wives, are you failing to honor your husbands because you’re too busy reading about your friends? Children, are you failing to honor your parents because you’re too busy sending flair?
Sixth, is this technology honoring to life? The cyberworld can be a barren wasteland, not because it is filled with pornography and gambling, but because it isn’t real, because it is Gnostic. Seventh, are you loving your spouse on Facebook? Is the rush of nostalgia from finding long lost friends encouraging you to be dissatisfied? Are you secretly looking for that old girlfriend? Are you already caught up in adultery simply by wishing you could be sixteen again? Or do you not know that Facebook can all too easily devolve into relational pornography? The allure of porn is that you think you can have the joys of the sexual union without having to have a real relationship with a real person. The allure of Facebook is much the same. Eighth, are you stealing from your employer by not giving a full days work because you are moonlighting at Farmville, or as a Mafia Don? Or, simply because you are spending your hours at work at play?
Ninth, are you lying? That is, is the you you present on Facebook the real you? This technology has an insidious capacity to both hide reality and fool us into thinking we are both showing and seeing it. Why are our updates all about our victories- I just made cookies for the family; My son just hit the game winning home run; rather than our failures- I just shouted at my little girl; I left my computer on the airplane and it’s gone? Keep a particularly close eye on this one. And tenth, is Facebook encouraging contentment or resentment? Are you coveting your neighbor’s friend count? Are you jealous of how many “likes” there are for his posts compared to yours? And are you content with the real life you are shutting out while hunched over your keyboard?
Please don’t misunderstand this little thought experiment. I suspect we could walk through the Ten Commandments in light of our church, and find many of the same temptations. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from church. It does mean we ought to be deliberate enough to know what we are doing, and why we are doing it. And deliberate begins by affirming that our own hearts are not just desperately wicked, but deceitful as well. We don’t need to protect our privacy. We need instead to expose our sins to the light, the light of Scripture that we might repent and believe, that His face might shine upon us