Facebook is Like an Old Plastic Hanger
After seven years of marriage, I’m still smitten by my wife. She’s everything I ever wanted in a woman – she’s smart, spiritual, attractive, funny, adventurous, and loves to sing. There is, however, one attribute I wanted in a woman that she does not have, and she will readily admit it: she does not like to scratch my back.
Ever since I was a kid, I liked having my back scratched; and from the beginning of my relationship with my wife, she has resisted it. All she can imagine is millions of dead, microscopic skin cells collecting under her fingernails. So even if she does it, it’s usually for about 11 seconds. I suppose the good news is that I’ve found a half-way decent substitute.
I started using this old plastic hanger that has the perfect length and texture to scratch that one spot on my left shoulder blade. And you know, it isn’t half bad – but it still isn’t the same as having my wife do it. And wonder of wonders, for some reason the other night she started scratching my back and then she just kept going and going.
I couldn’t get enough, and suddenly, the thought occurred to me: Facebook is like getting your back scratched by a plastic hanger.
Itching to Connect
We are people who have an itch to connect, and not just physically, but emotionally. And it’s got to be a person – a live person – that does the emotional scratching or it’s just not the same. But even so, we’re all getting more and more prone to accept substitutes from texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other screen-based forms of connection.
We long for a group of friends who like us as we are, who want to spend time with us and encourage us … yet we settle for “friends” on Facebook who regularly “like” our carefully-crafted images. Deep down inside, we know that if these were real friends, we would be connecting on a much deeper level, but we’ll take what we can get. It’s convenient.
A teenager desperately wants to feel connected to her peers, to know that she matters to them … so she texts like an addict for hours each week, rather than learning how to look people in the eyes, read body language, and appreciate the natural rhythms of conversation. She learned by example though: her mom does the same thing.
We’re all tapping, tapping, tapping on our screens in a desperate attempt to connect. And we settle for notifications, text messages, and emails because they get the job done – except they don’t. In fact, they can’t.
One hundred times in the New Testament, Christians are commanded to do things for “one another” (here’s a wonderful info-graphic that summarizes all 100). Those commands include:
- Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
- Wait for one another before beginning the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:33)
- Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16)
- Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 4:7, 11; 2 John 5)
- Serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13)
- Be devoted to one another in love (Romans 12:10)
- Be subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
- Pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Some of those things listed simply can’t be done through a screen (though I’m sure some church out there has started serving the Lord’s Supper online). And although we could technically do some of these things through Facebook or text, it’s just not the same.
I mean, it’s one thing to read someone’s 28-word prayer in a poorly-edited Facebook comment; it’s another thing to have someone sit down with you, put their hand on your shoulder, and cry out to God with you. And it’s one thing to send an email to a friend saying “I’ve been struggling with lust,” and another thing to look him in the eyes as he asks, “Does your wife know about this?”
Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
If we’re really going to live the life of “one anothering” that God calls us to, we’re going to have to deal with the fact that real love happens best in real time with real people. And if we want to pursue our calling to love those real people in our lives, it’s going to require us to talk through conflicts in person, to bake that apple pie and take it to the neighbor, to confess our sins to a trusted friend, and have some folks over for dinner.
Sure, I suppose we could just keep using that old plastic hanger to scratch our itch for community, but we know it isn’t the same thing. Let’s take the risk of connecting – really connecting – with one another today.