Does online social networking inhibit real friendship?

I'm a facebook user. Bigtime. A few weeks ago I commented to my father (rather sarcastically) that thanks to facebook, I can continuously 'catch up' with old friends - about what has been going on in their lives - without even bothering with talking to them, just by reading their profiles! The message exchange has replaced much of our phone conversation, which in turn replaced much of our face-to-face conversation.

I wonder how this could potentially affect us spiritually? Here is a very interesting article from The Christian Century addressing just this concern:

"...We may have multiple social networks and thousands of acquaintances and still find ourselves profoundly lonely. A sociological study found that between 1985 and 2004 the average American's number of close confidants declined from three to two, and that those reporting "no close confidants" jumped from 10 to 25 percent. Lynn Smith-Lovin, one of the study's authors, noted that "you usually don't expect major features of social life to change very much from year to year or even decade to decade." But the data suggest a "remarkable drop" in the number and quality of friendships in American culture..."

What shall the Church do in such a time as this?
Perhaps I may even be more specific - how can the United Methodist Church, committed as we are to moving our ministers around, at the same time also remain committed to nurturing authentic community?



Blogger Andrew C. Thompson said...


This represents what, I believe, is the central issue of the church today. You simply cannot read the New Testament and come away with the view that God wants to save us as individuals. We are elected into the church, God's own covenant people.

I'm a Facebook user too. I actually wrote a UM Reporter column about its problematic aspects, if you are interested in reading it:


I believe Greg Jones wrote a Christian Century column on a similar topic recently.


12:07 AM, October 04, 2008  

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