Facebook is a vastly overused, much maligned facet of social media. Of that there can be no denial. We’ve all read stories of mothers neglecting their children to play some inane game. Dinners burn or go uncooked and families fall apart because a virtual ‘relationship’ got in the way. Other, smaller, proofs of the downside of extreme usage are most likely evident on a daily basis, somewhere in the world. There’s another, more worthy side to the Facebook coin, however. As with all pleasures, moderation is key. We are in control of how many hours we spend on Facebook or any activity, for that matter. Also within our power is the amount of food, alcohol, and leisure activity in which we indulge. To everything available to us here on earth, there is a need for temperance. There can definitely be too much of a good thing – but that’s more a reflection of our choices than it is on the activity itself. Although, I’d be remiss to claim Facebook usage perfection, I can share the boundaries I have set in place in an attempt to make my own virtual social interaction healthily balanced.
Facebook Pen Pals
With Facebook, the number of virtual pen pals available is limited only by our keystrokes – and time allotted. The examples are plentiful. Emily understands about your daughter’s neuropathy – because she’s living it too. Erika can give terrific tips about homeschooling because she’s a certified teacher who now teaches her own children. A side bonus is that her husband is a computer whiz. As a Canon Lawyer, Fr. V gives church-sanctioned advice on how to handle a relative’s upcoming illicit wedding. Other friends share recipes, organic weed killing concoctions, and child rearing tips. I’ve traded flowers with other avid gardeners and set up First Friday gatherings with other homeschool families – all courtesy of Facebook. All this is available at the tips of your fingers – spend as much, or as little, time as you desire.
Increase the Reach of Prayer Through Facebook
Who can’t use more prayers? I know I need all I can get – and some days we are thrust into an emergency situation when the quick response of friends is a huge blessing. Facebook is the perfect place to garner the assistance of some fierce prayer warriors. It’s also much more efficient than trying to make individual calls. Once you’ve honed your list of friends to a fine demographic, you’re golden when it comes to prayers – both for your benefit and for the benefit of others. What better way to demonstrate the spiritual power of the Body of Christ? I know my family has benefitted greatly from these connections.
Gathering Information Via Facebook
Don’t know the difference between Discipline and Dogma? Join a good, faithful Catholic group and the official definitions will become readily available. Want to know more about the Latin Mass? When you make good Catholic friends from all over the world, you are gifted with photos, videos, and information on an almost daily basis. If you’ve been wondering what difference there is between the Second Vatican Council and the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II, the official Church documents can be shared by someone who just happens to have links to all of them and is more than willing to share.
The goings on in this complex world of ours can be overwhelming. Even more overwhelming, are the many self serving slants by which we are accosted by today’s media. How to dig through all of the fabrications and distortions? I’ve found that a finely tuned Facebook account can be just the ticket. Much like a personalized Drudge Report, with snippets of news and links to the rest of the story, Facebook provides a way to filter sources of information. At this point almost anyone who is anyone, as far as information goes, has a Facebook page. All we have to do is ‘follow’ the ones whose information we trust. National Catholic Register, Church Militant TV, and EWTN gather Catholic information for me – while I rely on like-minded friends to fill my feed (and message box) with articles about news – both secular and spiritual – from all sorts of other reliable sources.
There are few more effective ways for individuals to reach a large group of like-minded others – all over the world – than through electronic media. Whether through blogging, email, or Facebook, the number of lives we can touch is astounding. Of these options, Facebook provides a platform like no other. I relish learning about my faith and sharing what I\’ve learned via the various aspects of Facebook, whether through my wall, fan page, or through the myriad of groups to which I belong. Are you discerning the devotion of veiling? There\’s a group for that. Is pro-life advocacy your passion? There are so many pro-life pages it\’s difficult to keep up. I\’ve personally shared my 200+ pro-life memes with other pro-life advocates from all over the world. How about praying a Novena? Look no further than the posts from your friends; someone is always praying a Novena. Not only will they remind you every day, they’ll add your intention to theirs as well. I’ve had friends go to Mass, Adoration, and even Lourdes – and remember my intentions while there. Our five little grandchildren, who are saints in Heaven, have had prayers said for them at national shrines. So, you see, the benefit is a two-way street. The faithful generosity of my Facebook friends is awe-inspiring!
Laughter: the Best Medicine
Have you ever been home alone and had a really bad day? There you are, about to embark on a pity-party of astronomical proportions. Then you see a random posting from someone who’s having a similar day. ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ – an old Polish proverb. Inexplicably, you laugh out loud. The mood is lightened and you feel better equipped to just let go of your sour mood. Then there are the ‘kid quotes’ that are the daily fare of mothers on Facebook. Who can remain annoyed when Junior just saw a commercial and asked if his turtle could be affected by ‘reptile dysfunction’?
So while some folks out there might think that social media of any type is a big waste of time, some of us garner some rather tangible blessings. It’s another example of the wonderful multiplicity God’s children display. What works for me, might not work for you; but don’t discount the very real benefits I’ve reaped. I’ve contacted a group of cloistered nuns, who helped pray for a miracle that was realized. There have been many blessings from people who are undergoing similar trials – both spiritually and physically. Sometimes groups of Facebook friends even meet IRL (in real life), as was the case when our daughter traveled to Houston for cancer treatment. All in all, Facebook can help us to realize that we are not in this world alone. We really are little frogs in a big pond. The priest from Nigeria, my Catholic friend from the Philippines, and a couple gals in Alaska all help me learn a bit about other ways of life. And the ‘other’ Birgit in Germany helps me retrieve childhood memories of nursery rhymes, prayers, and festivals.
As with all things in this world, one man’s garbage can be another man’s treasure and we are wise to limit our Facebook interactions to a reasonable consumption. Temperance in all things, our mother used to warn. ‘Don’t be too extreme in any of your emotions or actions or activities, because any good thing can be overdone.’ What can be a helpful resource is also very capable of becoming sinful, if we are excessive. As for me, I include Facebook usage in my daily examination of conscience. It can be a powerful tool or a deadly distraction. The side of the Facebook coin on which you land is up to your own discretion and conscience. There are so many more examples to share. What are yours?