The Hungry Facebook

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The Twitter-verse is a world that I’m slowly discovering. I don’t understand the desire to constantly retweet everything that I think is funny, clever, or intelligent. Then again, I find solace in a good book, so by my very preference I need substance to my words.

That’s why I think there’s an interesting dilemma facing the world of Facebook and social media as a whole. Most all of us have Facebook, and have become familiar with the feed which fills our mind with thought and reflection, even inspiration. But there’s a dark side to Facebook. 

Three months ago, I was scrolling the feed of my Facebook and I reflected with my wife that we had been excluded at a party of our friends! How could they possibly leave us out of their plans? Weren’t we valuable to them? Didn’t we qualify for inclusion in that party? What can we do to get them back?

But as we wrestled with the disregard for our inclusion, it hit me that the beast of insecurity had feasted on my Facebook feed. Without that story trickling from the drop down, my awareness of exclusion would have floated by unnoticed. 

This raises a very important question for us as youth leaders. One of our pastoral roles is to help bring our students into greater maturity both in their schools/homes, and in their lives. And with Facebook developing unwarranted drama among our students, we must stop and ask, “Are we guiding students through the land mines of Facebook feed?” 

Though feeds can be good for information (a recent intense conversation between two students allowed me to advise that person to remove the content), they aren’t always helpful for relationships. In fact, more often than not, they break down relationships between already insecure students. 

We must be intentional with students by taking the moments to view their feeds, and reflect spiritually, emotionally, and maturely on their feeds. Was that the right thing for you to say? How do you think your posts effected the people around you? Was what you said building up, or breaking down? If you were to re-read this comment in two weeks, months, years, was it really that important? are all great questions to hold in the forefronts of our minds as we wrestle with their comments and posts. 

We must know our students well, and encourage them in integrity and honesty in a wireless realm so easy conjured by the desire to be someone we’re not.

  • Make sure your comments reflect the same likeness: lead by example (see Christ if you need some direction).
  • Use Facebook groups, Google+ groups, and other methods to fill your students' feed with positive thoughts and reflections. This is beyond helpful, and students love a place of connection.
  • Have you also had experiences where you've used your leadership to influence Facebook content? Share below!
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There have been several times where I've called out students (usually in a private message) about the language they used on facebook.  When I call them out, I basically ask them if the language they just used fit in with religious status or prior posts.  I remind them that their non-Christian friends are constantly judging their relationship with Christ by their actions and words.  And yes, we all slip; however, as their youth leader (or former leader), it's my duty as a brother-in-Christ to hold them accountable just like I hope they hold me accountable.

A couple students actually publicly apologized on facebook, stating that being mad was no excuse for the foul language.  Two former students dropped me as a friend after I called them out.  Others apologized privately and told me what was gonig on which led to very good discussions.

I agree that there is a dark side to Facebook, and that today's world (not only our young people) need to use it with discernment and discretion, but I would argue the point that Facebook feeds aren't helpful for relationships. Facebook, when used well, can be a wonderful touchpoint, another way to communicate with the people we are trying to live in relationship with. Anyone working with youth should know how to use it, and use it well--not to monitor or spy on the youth, but to encourage them, share inspirational things with them, inform them of events, use it to invite them out to coffee, view their pictures they are sharing of their lives, share some of your life with them. Don't use it to be a "FB chaperone" though. I have heard from far too many young people who roll their eyes in disgust about the private messages they have received from a well-meaning youth pastor or uncle who saw their questionable language or photo and felt the need to preach about it. Youth want to be heard, and when they know you care without judging, they will tone it down. Use FB to show you care, not to judge.