Facebook & Narcissism

Facebook is blowing up. I have a profile, but am not a 'user.' I typically only log on when my email is prompted by a friend request, or message or something. I have often wondered how self-centered the site really is. You will recall that Narcissus was the fellow who fell in love with his own reflection. I find the site helpful for a couple of reasons, namely keeping up with old friends. But I also find a lot of negatives.

I read a great article this week about facebook in a recent Time Magazine by Joel Stein. He writes, "In the pre-internet days, neither of us would have even thought of calling each other friends. We'd have called ourselves friends of friends who met once and yet, for some reason, kept sending each other grammatically challenged, inappropriately flirty letters with photos of ourselves attached. Police might have gotten involved. . . . Its weird that I know more about you than I do about actual friends I hand out with in person." Would a real life friend "call me up and say, 'Hey! Guess what? I have a bunch of new pictures of me'? Or tell me he'd colored in a map of all the places he'd ever been?"

He continues, "I'm sure social networks serve many important functions that improve our lives, like reconnecting us with old friends and finding out if people we used to date are still good-looking. And social networks all have messaging functions, which would be an excellent way to send information if no one had invented e-mail. But really, these sites aren't about connecting and reconnecting. They're a platform for self-branding. . . . We're not sharing things we don't want other people to know. We're showing you our best posed, retouched photos. We're listing the Pynchon books we want you to think we've read all the way though. We're allowing other people to write whatever they want about us or our walls, unless we don't like it, in which case we just erase it."

Sadly, I think Stein is right on. You become your own press agent with these sites. To write that "Blake is tired of studying" assumes that someone cares what Blake is doing. Otherwise I would not let the world know. Wonder why you never see, "John just finished disrespecting his parents" or Kim just finished an hour long argument with her husband and wants a divorce." Multiple personalities are created. You try to look fun, hip, hot, holy, or whatever to create a false persona, like playing dress-up. Of course blogs can be self-serving as well.

Josh Harris has a good post on why he only lasted a week on Facebook. He lists the fact that its addictive, he doesn't need another reason to stare at a computer screen, and he needs to read more. Here is another in his own words:

I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit. . . Without any help from the internet I'm inclined to give way too much time to evaluating myself, thinking about myself and wondering what other people think of me. If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness. I need to worry more about what God is thinking of me. I need to be preoccupied with what he's written in his word, not what somebody just wrote on my "wall."
Am I saying that all should leave facebook and those who stay are inferior? Not at all. I don't intend on leaving, yet anyway. I'd just exhort believers to be careful, weigh motives, and be good stewards of time (read, pray, love your family, share the gospel, work well and hard, all for the glory of God).