Essay

For the Love of Facebook

By April 7, 2016 No Comments
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by Kate Kooyman
Theresa Latini is taking a  break from her rotation on The Twelve. While she’s away, we welcome Kate Kooyman. Kate is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Witness in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thank you, Kate.

I love Facebook.

I was a late adopter, and it took me a while to “get it,” but once I was there, I was all in. Pictures of my cute kids, status updates about my moods, the whole nine. I know that it’s all old people on Facebook these days — Instagram is where the hipsters hang out, and there’s something about the young folk and Snapchat or whatever. I don’t care; Facebook is my jam.

I’m on vacation this week, soaking up some Florida sun, laughing at my children’s sunscreen-hair and gleeful play with frightened crabs.

But I’m still finding time to check Facebook. I have lots of respect for people who take time off of social media, or who aren’t on it at all as a matter of conscience. But, for me, Facebook has been a constructive, not destructive, force in my life. Here’s what I would have missed if I’d taken a break from Facebook yesterday:

  • A friend posted this link (note: some offensive language), which was a helpful brain re-train for me. I didn’t see what others saw when I first looked at this advertisement. Through Facebook, get the huge gift of exposure to opinions and perspectives I hadn’t considered. I also get to hear new perspectives much more regularly — especially perspectives on race, class, culture, power — since they seem to be more easily shared on social media than “in real life” where conversations don’t tend to cut to the chase quite so quickly. I’m really grateful for this gift, which has done a lot to help me recognize my own privilege and unlearn some inherently racist ways I view things.
  • A friend posted this important read: an Afghan translator served the US military, sought asylum in the US and now languishes in detention. Through Facebook, I get to follow the passions of friends who are knowledgeable and insightful and faithful — and who share important stories I might otherwise miss. As a person who believes using one’s voice to speak into systems of power is a crucial habit of discipleship, this has been an invaluable tool for me.
  • I learned a simple way to break a bad habit, and re-invigorated my desire to become a master meditator and a generally more curious and engaged human. I tried for like 5 minutes and then ate some chips. (I’ll try again after vacation?) Facebook helps me appreciate other people’s habits and hobbies, and even sometimes appreciate them enough to give them a try myself. I’m not saying I click “like” on all the map-my-run updates or all the pictures of someone’s multi-level-marketing-branded breakfast shake, but I’ll admit: I find the healthy habits inspiring. And without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t know you were training for a 10k, because I’d fail to ask.
  • A friend posted this status about Easter and power and doubt — which was a breath of life to me. When I’m taking a brain-break from heavy theology, Facebook gives me snippets like this to lean on during a holy season. Following pastor friends, writers, clergy, bloggers has allowed me to stumble upon so many inspiring and challenging ideas. And it’s a great way to break up the gut-wrenching onslaught of political posts lately. Go find and follow some people you don’t know, but respect a lot (I’d recommend: Inward/Outward, Glennon Doyle Melton, Anne Lamott, The Work of the People… who’s on your list?) and see how differently you feel about Facebook.
  • I got to read the blogpost of a colleague, highlighting an event which was a really big deal (that I would have otherwise missed without his wisdom): Muslim leaders from around the world approved the historic Marrakesh Declaration, safeguarding the rights of religious minorities in Muslim nations. Facebook keeps me posted on events that the media might overlook, but which are the real game-changers.

I also saw about a hundred pictures of snow in my hometown while I’m gone, which prompted me to live it up and rent a kayak for the week. Facebook inspires me to live in the moment! (Read: keep up with my neighbors whose vacation looks like it’s currently more eventful than mine.) And then — get this — a clueless tourist returned her boat to at the rental place with a sea turtle in her stern, concerned that it “looked pale.” The kayak proprietor scoffed, appalled at her ignorance, exclaiming, “That’s just its color!”

She enlisted me — ME! — to return the wayward turtle to its natural habitat. It was all a do-gooder Northerner really wanted from her beach vacation anyway. I reached for my phone to take a selfie to post on Facebook — basking in the glow of early evening sunshine and environmental self-righteousness — but I’d left it in the car.

But then I realized that perhaps the kind of Facebook post that is least helpful to me is the braggy vacation photo. Your politics, your weight loss, your religion, your frustration with your boss — let the world know. But please keep your sunsets and beachscapes and tan lines to yourself. For the love of your shivering friends back home; for the love of Facebook, keep that stuff on Instagram.

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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