Not Enough Social to Go Around
The relationships among the undergraduates in Beck’s research were not formed on Facebook, they were enriched by students’ continued digital contact. The problem with regard to churches and other religious communities (and we see this over and over again with Facebook group pages whose only visitors are the minister and the technophile parishioner who championed the church’s foray into the digital domain) seems to be that there’s not enough social to go around.
That is, if church were, indeed, a robustly social experience, Facebook would enrich and extend that experience, enhancing week-to-week retention through ongoing conversation with valued friends—just as it appears to do with undergraduates moving from the first to the second year of college. Thin connections in face-to-face settings are not magically transformed by technology.
In fact, this very point was made by Mike Baughman at the Social Phonics Boot Camp last week in Dallas, when he challenged the group about how Facebook is actually picking up where the church dropped the ball.