Part 3 of series:
Would Jesus Have a Facebook Page?
A couple of days ago, I raised the question: Would Jesus have a Facebook page? Yesterday, I answered in the affirmative, giving reasons why Jesus, if he lived today, would have a Facebook page. Today, I want to regroup and offer some thoughts on why Jesus would not have a Facebook page. Then, I’ll try to make some sense out of my contradictory arguments.
Jesus Wouldn’t Use Facebook Because It Is Too Impersonal
One of the commenters on yesterday’s blog post wrote: “He would not have a Facebook account. He is interested in intimate personal relationships and you can’t do that using the internet.” This is a good point. From what we see in the Gospels, Jesus did not communicate impersonally. He did not send edicts or even letters, as far as we know. He did at times speak to large groups, but most of his interactions were with relatively small groups or one-on-one. It’s hard to imagine Jesus having hundreds or thousands of casual “friends” on Facebook, or investing himself in the way of relating that is common in this medium.
Moreover, in many ways, Facebook encourages triviality, inauthenticity, and a kind of exhibitionism. Most Facebook users are not sharing their true selves on Facebook. They are creating online personalities, masks that cover their true selves. Facebook friendships are not really friendships in any classic of deep sense of the word.
Having said this, I suppose a lot depends on how one views Facebook relationships. For me, Facebook is mainly a way to remain in contact with people with whom I already have intimate, personal relationships. I keep in touch with family and close friends whom I don’t see often because we don’t live close together. Yes, I have many “friends” whom I don’t know outside of Facebook, but I don’t think of them as the main reason I have a Facebook page. So, one could argue that Facebook has the potential to make intimate relationships even deeper, or, at any rate, more consistent. If this is true, then we might need to reconsider whether or not Jesus would have a Facebook page. Perhaps he’d use it to keep in touch with his mother.
Part of what makes it hard to imagine Jesus with a Facebook page is that so much of Facebook chatter is trivial, and we don’t think of Jesus as engaging in small talk. Unfortunately, we don’t have a record of his conversations when he hung out with “sinners” at their dinner parties. We know that they invited him and he frequently dined with them. Did he tell funny stories? Did he talk about the weather? Did he add witty comments when his host said something silly? Did he laugh out loud? I expect all of these are true. But, I must confess, I have a hard time actually envisioning Jesus doing these things. Still, much of Facebook falls into the “wasting time” category of life. Let’s admit it. I expect Jesus would have more important things to do with his time than many who invest their lives in Facebook.
Jesus Wouldn’t Use Facebook Because Digital Technology Is Essentially Dehumanizing
I have good friends who would argue that Jesus would not have a Facebook page because Facebook and the whole world of digital media is essentially dehumanizing. There is an inherent and inescapable difference between relating with someone face-to-face and relating to someone via Facebook. Friendship in three-dimensions is real in a way that can not be matched by digital friendship. The more our relationships are shaped by the norm of digital media, the less we are enjoying the fullness of our humanity.
I am not fully convinced by my friends who take this point of view, though I think they make a point we ought to consider seriously. It does impress me that we are letting technology radically reframe the way we relate to others, for better, perhaps, but certainly for worse. For example, next time you’re out at a restaurant, look around at other tables . . . or maybe even your own. You will see people interacting with technology rather than each other. People will be texting their non-present friends rather than having conversation with the real human beings sitting right across from them. It is hard to imagine Jesus updating his status while reclining at table with the dinner partners he is ignoring because he’s wrapped up in Facebook.
Jesus Would Not Use Facebook Because He Would Focus on a Few People, Not Lots of “Friends,” Just as He Did in the First Century
It’s not uncommon to hear Christian defenders of Facebook argue that, of course, Jesus would have a Facebook page, because through this medium he could communicate with thousands or even millions of people. This argument forgets that Jesus, when he was here in the flesh, was not interested in communicating with the world. Rather, he focused his efforts mainly on relating to a few, to his closest disciples. Into these people, Jesus poured himself in a deeply personal way. Moreover, he did not make an effort to spread the good news of the kingdom of God beyond the Jewish people. This task would be given to his followers after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
So, if Jesus were on earth today for the first time, he would not be interested in communicating with thousands or millions of people by way of Facebook. Rather, it’s safe to assume that he would be doing much as he did in the first-century, building deep, genuine, face-to-face relationships with a relatively small number of his closest followers. In time, these followers would spread the truth about Jesus throughout the world, perhaps even using Facebook.
I’m quite sure there are other reasons to believe that Jesus would not have a Facebook page if he were on earth today. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
In my next post in this series, I’ll try to draw together my thoughts and resolve some apparent contradictions.