Monday, October 22, 2012


In a recent conversation with a teenager, I was informed (as I already knew) "Facebook is all lies."  I would temper that--it isn't all lies, but there are a lot of lies--especially, though not exclusively, among younger people.

Put a bit more diplomatically, Facebook is about branding.  Everyone has a brand now.

Recently Terri Gross interviewed Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together."  Turkle is a clinical psychologist who asked teenagers and adults why they prefer to hold conversations over text-messaging, email, and other social networking instead of face to face, or at least, voice to voice conversations.  The most popular answer was that in face to face conversation you can't as easily control what you are going to say and what will happen.   Turkle's argument is that the avoidance of face to face conversations keeps us from practicing nonverbal communication that occurs face to face.  She believes that in the natural reading of non-verbal cues we are actually connecting with people on an emotional level beyond words.  In lacking this type of communication, she believes that we can connect with people all we want through technology and yet feel all alone because we are not having this level of emotional connection.

I would take her thoughts a step further.  If we like technological communication and social networking because we can control what we say, then we have ceased to have truthful relationships.  We only have relationships based on the carefully controlled representations of ourselves which are often related to the truth but it is a truth carefully shaped into the image we most prefer (or, you might say our relationships are based on what Steven Colbert called, "truthiness.")  It is like what companies do when they carefully create and market their "brand."  Recently PBS has complained about the use of Big Bird in politics.  Why?  It harms the brand... Big Bird is not political.

But as Christians, our Lord, who came to set captives free, told us that the truth would do just that--set us free.  Many of the challenges that we have with each other are due to our fear of truth and our preference for truthiness. If you and I are not only entitled to differing opinions but also differing truths then we no longer have authentic relationships--we are simply "Alone Together."

Tonight during the final presidential debate, and we will hear again competing claims as to what is and is not true.  Notice it is not limited to competing claims about how best to respond to a shared sense of what is true--we will hear competing claims as to what is actually true.  Even if there is a shared truth--both sides will shape that shared truth in such a way that it best fits their party's "brand."

It is bad enough that this happens in our politics, let us not allow it to happen to ourselves in this new world of technology.  Integrity, honesty, humility and faithfulness remain important to us regardless of what mediums we use to interact with each other.

How do you use social networking?  Do you carefully craft your brand?  Do you carelessly say things you wouldn't otherwise say?  Do you avoid it, or can you not live without it?  How can/do you use it to further the truth which will set us free?


  1. I try to use online social networking for a "fun" way to connect.

    I do watch what I say when posting. I use texting for exactly how you mentioned...fear of truth, fear of being judged, fear of being "open" about my feelings.

    I think sometimes my words comeout before my brain has time to process. Seeing my words in print sometimes help to put it in perspective.

    1. You make a great point that taking the time to think through what we say is not a bad practice. In fact, I recall James' teaching to be "slow to speak and quick to listen." Certainly we would all do best to think through our thoughts...

      I also wonder however, if we can lose something by being too careful. Perhaps a little imperfection met with grace in conversation would be a holy experience as well!

    2. People hurt too easily. Words sting. Where is the grace and holiness in that? I've thought many times about telling friends/family how I honestly feel, but don't because I know there is no winner at the end of that conversation. My true honesty is only with God.

    3. People do hurt easily. Truth should always be spoken in love, but I do wonder if when we hide "truth" in the name of love if we fail to capture the fullness of love. Without a doubt patience and forgiveness are necessary for truthful conversation, but I'm not sure where we are left without all of the above.

      The reason we can be completely as we are before God is that our God is holy, righteous, forgiving, and ultimately loving. I also struggle with the reality that this loving God came to us not only so we could be honest and righteous before God, but also that we could be honest and righteous in our relationships with each other.