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Facebook!

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 15, 2007

Disclaimer: Most of this post is about me telling you why you should use Facebook. It may seem out of character for me to talk about technology so much, when this blog is particularly about discipleship, ecclesiology, etc. Have no fear, at the end, I connect the use of this awesome web 2.0 system with ecclesiology.

Facebook is awesome. And it isn’t just for college students (who are still its bread and butter).
Facebook is great because it gives you a constantly updated feed of info on your friends: their status, their events, the new friends they make, their most recently blog posts (if they direct their blog feed into Facebook), etc. This makes it incredibly easy to stay up to date with your friends–and to find long-lost friends. And, unlike Myspace, there isn’t any smut to try to ignore. And you don’t have to listen to stupid music playing every time you visit someone’s site.

If you don’t use Facebook, you should. This isn’t an annoying bit of internet technology that you should ignore. I use it to stay connected to old college friends, old camp pals, current buddies, colleagues, etc. All of this information show up on my home page–allowing me to know when one friend gets engaged or another graduates from college. It lets me know their favorite movies and books.

Facebook lets you create events (like parties or conferences) and let all your friends know about (who can in turn tell their friends about it). For example, I’ve let friends know about Christarchy! and the Twin Cities Parade of Churches.

And you can create groups, which function the way forums function. I just created a group on Alternative Economics–about 20 people have joined the group and can post comments based upon that theme.

And if you don’t already have a blog, you can start writing posts on Facebook too (or you can have your current blog feed into Facebook). Some have suggested that Facebook will kill off blogging. Not so. Never in a thousand years. But I guarantee that blogging platforms like Wordpress will begin to integrate Facebook or Facebook-like features into their architecture.

And I am willing to bet that at some point Facebook will beef up their blogging architecture. You won’t simply be able to post thoughts or pull a feed from another blog. Eventually, they’ll probably allow you to customize the look of your profile, provide an integrated RSS reader, and develop more plug-ins. And so, I predict that Wordpress (and its competitors) will integrate Facebook features into their architecture and Facebook will integrate Wordpress feature into their architecture (they’ve already got some nifty plugins). In the best scenario, Facebook and Wordpress would be owned by the same company–and a new uber-platform will be unleashed upon the world.

And already Facebook is trying to get in on the Craigslist market by creating a classified marketplace.

***

What does this have to do with ecclesiology? A lot, actually. Facebook has allowed me, as a thinker and leader, to decentralize my influence while, at the same time, focusing more completely on Missio Dei’s mission on the West Bank.

Let me explain. I get friends and acquaintances expressing interest in our approach to missional living all the time. Some have asked to be a part of Missio Dei because they find our approach compelling. But it wouldn’t be a good fit for them. Why? Because many of these folks are committed to different places in the metro area–or outside the metro area. For me to say “come and see” would be to woo them out of their God-given context.

By using decentralized, organic, communications systems like Facebook, I can create events, invite friends to events, and follow up on those events. Facebook allows me to more effectively foster something like Christarchy!–which is a decentralized gathering of likeminded folks. At Christarchy, I can help people learn and grow without ripping them out of their context. Instead, I can catalyze people to follow Jesus in their own context while remaining faithful to my own context. I can influence and be influenced by a network of likeminded people without requiring them to come be a part of my particular community.

And while the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort still maintains a website, I have no doubt that most communication will begin to take place over at Facebook.  Sure, blogging allowed for some of that. But now, with Facebook, sharing information and coordinating events is SUPER easy. And effective. Facebook facilitates real-life networking (unlike Myspace) that can translate into on-the-ground grassroots movements.  Facebook is perfect for mobilizing and energizing a grassroots movement.

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Comments

8 Responses to “Facebook!”

  1. Anna on May 15th, 2007 1:09 pm

    Ah, dang-it, I guess I’ll break down and join! *kicking at the grass*

    ~Anna

  2. Jesse Gavin on May 15th, 2007 1:10 pm

    I love facebook, but one thing that really annoys me about it is that it has a messaging system. So instead of using email, I get facebook messages which then sends an email telling me that I have a message and so I have to click the link in my email, then log into facebook, then click the message THEN I can read it. How inefficient.

    Facebook on the whole is friggen awesome though.

  3. markvans on May 15th, 2007 5:25 pm

    I concur. Eventually, someone will release a strong competitor to Facebook that is so superior (and includes wordpress like options too) that Facebook dies. OR Facebook will need to adapt.

  4. Michael Westmoreland-White on May 15th, 2007 6:08 pm

    I disagree totally. Facebook is pseudo-community and a way that young women are prayed upon. Christians should avoid it like the plague.

  5. markvans on May 15th, 2007 6:32 pm

    Michael,

    I have no information about women being preyed upon. I’m assuming that it is somewhat an issue, but Facebook is WAY better than myspace in this regard. The thing about Facebook is that you can keep all your information private and control who is able to see your info. So I’m not sure how folks get preyed upon with Facebook. Could you send me some sort of stats or links about that?

    And in regards to pseudo community…so is this conversation. I’m not saying that Facebook is community. But it facilitates dialogue and communication among people I already know. Perhaps it is the difference of how I use it. And most of the folks that are friends of mine on Facebook are post-college adults.

  6. Michael Westmoreland-White on May 15th, 2007 9:10 pm

    Actually, I didn’t know there were any differences between Facebook and Myspace. In general, I am simply suspicious of chatrooms and all these kind of pseudo-communities and online meeting places.

    I’m not even a fan of most blogs. My friend had to work on me for 2 years before I created a blog to see if there could be an intelligent alternative. Now, I like theology blogs and related ones, but I STILL think most blogs are very destructive and even the blogging I do seems to encourage me to be very defensive and caustic instead of facilitating true dialogue.

    This technology has great potential, but also great temptations and I think the temptations are winning. People are meeting others less. They are doing “online church” in place of actual Christian community. This technology has reinforced the worst of American individualism.

  7. markvans on May 15th, 2007 9:32 pm

    I don’t doubt your experiences or the truth of what you are saying, but my experience has been exactly the opposite. And I think you’re jumping the gun with Facebook, since most of the people that I encounter on Facebook are already in real life networks with the people that are in their Facebook networks. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to be on Facebook; it presupposes real relationships. It isn’t the sort of technology that one could use to meet new people–not really. Though it is, I suppose possible.

    My experience of blogging has been that I’ve moved AWAY from individualism, largely because of the nature and content of my blog. And the people I know from blogging or I connect with through Facebook wouldn’t use either as a church replacement. Again, I know that it happens, but most of the people I know that use these technologies are deeply committed to living life in some sort of community context and use these technologies to share ideas and deepen their already existing community experiences.

    For example: on Facebook I have been able to reconnect with childhood friends and people I used to go to school or church with. And I’ve been able to stay in touch with people I’ve met around the country. But most of my friends on Facebook are real-life friends that I see somewhat regularly. And so, through Facebook I can share ideas and articles with these friends, or I can get invited to baby showers.

  8. fargo john on May 16th, 2007 10:06 am

    “or i can get invited to baby showers.”…. and then quickly decline any such invitations…. haha.

    i agree with you, as a typically pro-myspace guy, i am steadily shifting my loyalty towards facebook as it seems to be more functional and less meat market. myspace is kinda whorish now and have been going back and forth on getting rid of it for sometime.

    have you checked out shoutlife.com at all? it’s the “christian” community website. just curious as to what your thoughts on it are.

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