Rethinking Facebook

May 13, 2010 — 4 Comments

It seems that there is starting to be a groundswell of, shall we say, “concern” around the use of Facebook. Most of this has to do with the privacy issues, but I think some of it also has to do with the independent spirit of those on the front edge of the Internet.  Just as a backlash against Microsoft has led to the Linux/Firefox/OpenOffice user, I think we are starting to see a Facebook backlash. No one likes to be told what to do – the Internet was built on open standards and Facebook (just as Microsoft did) is trying to become the standard.

There are a range of reactions to the current situation from the “digital elite”. Some are canceling their accounts. Others giving up and opening up their privacy settings to be as public as possible.  I personally have not taken any action – yet – but I am starting to understand the concerns.

We all will have to make our decisions about what we will do with our personal Facebook accounts. But a bigger question that concerns me much more is how churches and ministries respond. Many ministries (such as Lifechurch) have begun to heavily commit to using Facebook. I am working with two organizations right now who are considering heavy work inside of Facebook.  I, myself, keep this blog as a page on Facebook. But if you do heavily use Facebook, what does that imply? If the “medium is the message”, are we then giving implicit approval to the use of Facebook and its terms of service? And if our use of Facebook encourages people to create accounts and/or begin using Facebook more, should that concern us?

So, will this all blow over?  Just as Facebook was starting to be seen as more important than Google, will its decline begin? What do you think? What will your church or ministry do?

Dave

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Online ministry researcher and educator. Associate Professor and Director of Innovation for the Crowell School of Business at BIola University. Author of Ministry in the Digital Age.

4 responses to Rethinking Facebook

  1. Apparently Facebook is having a company-wide meeting TODAY on this topic. Follow the latest on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/#search?q=%23fbprivacy.

  2. Great thoughts, Dave. Thanks for this post. I've been thinking a lot about this same issue as our ministry tries to decide how best to move forward in light of the open graph. I wonder how much of it should be dictated by how each ministry's individual "audiences" react to it. It will be interesting to watch what happens — especially in light of the lawsuits filed against Facebook by privacy groups.

  3. Dave, my church recently debuted a Facebook page for the church. I think that much of what happens on the Internet has to occur in an organic fashion. I think there are two things to think about. First, from an institutional perspective it does have some dangers. When a church incorporates something like Facebook into its ministry components, it has to be done with a strong understanding of ALL of the implications a move like this can have on the mission and vision of the church institutions. Second, I believe that Facebook use by ministry members should happen organically as I have seen it occur even with my church. People simply have gotten personal Facebook accounts and began connecting via Facebook's mechanism for connecting people i.e. the Friend Suggestion feature of looking for a friend.

    With all this being said my point is that much of what occurs online is organic and happens naturally, so the question for church institutions is twofold. What role does a social media forum like Facebook have to play in the core message of the Gospel and how will a church institution implement that role, whatever it is may be.

    • Patrick –

      I agree in part with you: we need to go where the people are, just as Christ did. But at the same time, I think we need to understand what we are saying by using tools such as Facebook by ministries/churches. There is a difference between you and me as individuals going on Facebook and interacting with people and an organization such as a church setting up a page there. By spending the time and resources on a page, the organization is saying: "this is a worthwhile place to be, come join Facebook and be with us!" At this point, I am not saying that churches should not be on Facebook. But I am saying we should think about it more carefully.

      Dave

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