My first Facebook Election…

Facebook launched in February 2004, 9 months before the Bush/Kerry Presidential elections.  Unless you were attending Harvard or one of the other Ivy League schools at that time, you probably had never heard of Facebook.  Fast-forward 4 years and Facebook boasts 110 millions users worldwide and has become a fascinating new element to POTUS ’08.  Status updates become running (sometimes hilarious) commentary on the debates.  Wall posts become mini-debates in themselves.  Shared articles and web links broaden our perceptions of the issues on the table.

One of the more interesting things for me has been the exchanges between “friends”.  On the good/fun side, I’ve had friends from completely different periods of my life kicking around opinions and issues (their only connection being my Facebook wall or a blog note). Some of these exchanges are substantive, some merely joking around.  One of the things I’ve noticed as well is the occasional lack of civility fueled by a passionate opinion.  Sometimes, even though an opinion might be directed at a candidate, comments thrown around in the heat of typing would never be uttered aloud in public.  Slurs like terrorist, baby-killer, warmonger, all come spewing forth.  Assumptions about the ignorance or blind loyalty of those holding opposing loyalties are frequent.  LOTS of false information is exchanged, positions are bludgeoned and faith is questioned.

Andrew Sullivan, an Atlantic Senior Editor wrote an interesting article in the current issue about his dive into the blogging pool (Why I Blog, Nov. 2008 issue).  He says that some of the best advice he received was from Matt Drudge who said the key to understanding a blog is to realize it is a broadcast, not a publication…a blog at its best is a conversation rather than a production.”  I think most folk on Facebook recognize it to be something similar but different.  Facebook is a facilitator of conversations and at an even deeper level, a conveyor of thoughts, moods, etc.; ambient awareness is what this is called by social scientists. (check out Clive Thompson’s article in the NYTimes Magazine).    When logged in, we are present with our friend lists, not unlike being in the room with them.  We become aware of their presence.  (At this moment, I have friends from Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Bosnia online…in my room so to speak).

Next time you sit down in a room with someone, call them a “baby-killer” (if they happen to be Democrat) or remind them of how “they enjoy killing Iraqi civilians” (if they happen to be a Republican).  …and let the fun begin!!!  The thing with Facebook is that it is a conversation…except the words linger…in print…for a long time…on hundreds of people’s computer screens…all over the world!  I guess I’m not really saying this is necessarily a bad thing.  To the extent it gets up past the BS of much normal, polite conversation and we talk about issues at a deeper more substantive level, its great.  To the point we are verbally abusing friends, acquaintances, and absolute strangers…probably not so good.

Ultimately, we have a week or so before we know who will be replacing W.  If we don’t beat each other do death online, we might agree that at the very least, a new president will be a good thing… (uh oh…here comes the W retaliation comments…)

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5 thoughts on “My first Facebook Election…

  1. im really interested in (and sort of frightened and saddened by) what is happening with communication these days. i work with a ton of teenagers and college students all the time with church stuff, etc. Over the past couple of years, the feeling of constant connectedness is unbelievable. if someone is not texting or facebooking or twittering (my personal least favorite) or gchatting (my personal favorite!!!), then they are asleep.

    here’s the problem. the “FALSE sense of connectedness” really leads to an identity crisis, in my opinion. so many people are just not okay with being alone and disconnected with people for awhile- even for a whole 24 hour day. i am on the upper fringe of this, being 30, so i dont have it so much, but if i dont have my phone i am very uncomfortable. its almost a sense of impending doom that someone is not going to be able to reach me.

    the codependency that results is just awful because it works exactly against what it is intended to do, and what people think they are doing through being “connected.”

    face to face conversation becomes awkward. sometimes people feel like they are “friends” with someone because they read their blog all the time. they see that person and it is just weird when you are physically connected.

    i dont really know how to stop this, but i do think that a true authentic sense of community is a good start. community groups at our church really do a good job at this and i leave there each week feeling much better.

  2. it is sort of a brave new world when it comes to communication/connectedness/etc. Technology has facilitated reconnection with old friends and former students in ways that simply was not possible just a short couple of years ago. However, the foundations of those relationships were laid in community (of the face-to-face variety) years ago.

    Connectedness is not community. In a sense community seems to be difficult to define, but we know it when we see it…when we find ourselves immersed in it. I believe our churches can try to facilitate that, but must not try to control/program community. It emerges out of authentic relationships, not programs.

    Good comment…I need to think about this some more…maybe another blog post…

  3. yeah, i totally agree! i think it works so well for re-connection, but not for “stay connected” or “replace face to face, or on the phone.”

    it is so true that you cannot make it happen. when you do it is so freaking awkward!!! even kind of like when a traditional church tries to do “praise music” 🙂 that is one of my favorite common awkward things! the other night kyle and i left a party where about 30 of us sat around a bon fire (all ages, stages of life, etc.) and when we got in the car it was all we could talk about. we were like “community was happening!” it was so genuine and real and laid back and just perfect.

    i kind of hope heaven is alot like that 🙂

  4. I am new to the blog concept. I’d mainly heard only the negative side, where people shamelessly abuse the person with a differing opinion. However, I have found it to be an intellectual challenge to my core political and spiritual beliefs to listen and respond to differing views. I have zero time for the profanity and ‘verbal’ abuse and believe this type of junk only comes from the severly insecure… the old attack-your-accuser mentality. If we can’t have a conversation, how are we ever going to collectively make a difference? I’m a firm believer in Stephen Covey’s 5th habit – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” from his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Our two-party system is so polarized, that I don’t know how we’re ever going to get back to conversations that matter. Mike, I’ve checked your site for days waiting for your next challenging post. I can say that I have had deeper and more meaningful ‘conversation’ through your site and “Faith for Monday” than I’ve gotten at any church function or bible study in years. Thanks for challenging me; and thanks for being patient with me being me…

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