“Facebook Revisited”

WORDS FROM W.W.
February 19, 2009
“Facebook Revisited”

How many of us had one of our parents drive a carload of our friends with us to the movie theatre, the mall, the skating rink, or the middle school dance…and then hang around with us?
I don’t care how long my dad grew his side-burns, it was not cool to have him “hang with me and my friends”. I was always a little suspicious of parents who attempted to dress or look more like their kids’ peer groups than their adult counterparts. There was something out of sync with it.
Thus the current situation of Facebook, the internet social networking creation that is five years old. It was launched by a Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, along with some of his classmates.
In the recent issue of Newsweek, Lev Grossman writes about how middle-aged adults have invaded the social networking space that was created for typical college students. It’s the internet version of hanging out with your son at his college fraternity party. Facebook has 150 million members, and its fastest growing demographic is in the thirty-somethings-and-older audience.
I know this to be true, not because of the college fraternity part, but because I’m one of those middle-aged adults who has invaded the space. My small college in Illinois has a Facebook alumni group that currently has 600 of our graduates as a part of it. Our church has a “Cyber Worship Think Tank” group on Facebook where we can dialogue about upcoming worship themes.
On Facebook I’ve connected with people I’ve lost track of. Grossman mentions that as one of the reasons so many middle-aged adults have become enamored with Facebook. I can connect with Bobby, who I haven’t seen since 10th grade. But not only that! I can see pictures of Bobby, his grandkids, his dog, pictures of the marlin he caught on a fishing trip off the shores of Florida. In essence, I can find out a lot about Bobby, perhaps more than I really want to know!
And now the junior high kids are leaving the dance to find some personal space out in the parking lot. The fraternity brothers have retreated to their rooms to listen to their Ipods since the parents have taken over the party downstairs.
It will be interesting to see what happens next for the younger generation. There’s that other social networking tool called MySpace. That pretty much sums up the attitude that many of them have about middle-aged adults coming too close.
Not that young people don’t like middle-aged adults! They would just like them more at a distance.
The challenge for the church is figuring it out! Figuring what out? Everything related to generational differences.
How to worship the Lord in the midst of multiple generations? We tend to worship generationally. This week is for the seniors. Next week is for the middle-agers. The third week is for parents with young kids. And once every six months we have the young people lead worship Perhaps…perhaps…worship is to be about what every generation, every person, every culture can bring to the Lord.
How to have a momentum that takes the church of many generations into the community as the hands and feet of Jesus? Momentum is mostly momentary. It’s something that we often assign to a group- like the youth group raking leaves- and is watched by everyone else. Momentum should resemble a Habitat for Humanity project where everyone can be involved in the building and feel a part of the finished structure, where everyone is present as the new family moves into their “new hope”.
How to allow “space” while creating “community”? I always was amused at churches that labeled Wednesday night as “Family Night”. The family came to the building together and immediately separated into their appropriate age groups for the evening.
There are many questions related to generations and the Body of Christ. There will always be the seeking of “generational identity.” It’s part of the growing up process. There is also the danger of “un-generating”, trying to invade the space of the younger generations because what they are doing looks “cool.”
And now in using the “c” word, I suddenly am feeling my age again. These days I feel “cold” a lot m ore than I feel “cool”!

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