The Rev. Janice Ford
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
There’s a new commercial out for the Toyota Venza. A teenage girl sits at her computer. She tells us how concerned she is about her parents who, in her opinion, have no social life. They recently joined Facebook, and have all of “19 friends.” She mouths the words “How sad!” Cut to video of her parents and four friends unloading their bicycles from the Venza, and heading off onto the trail for a day of fun and exercise. Meanwhile, our teen critic sits alone at her computer bragging about her 900+ Facebook friends. Her voice trails off mumbling something about the picture of a kitten on-line. The voiceover guy then tells us everything we need to know about how owning a Venza will make us the happiest, most social people on the planet.
Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I actually own a Venza, and I love it. Owning it, however, has neither increased nor decreased my number of friends, my ability to ride a bicycle, or my overall health and happiness.
What is so interesting about this commercial is the impact of the underlying message it imparts. The message is a tongue-in-cheek poke at social media and the supposed benefit it provides. Basically, having 900+ Facebook friends does not guarantee a social life or any kind of serious, mutually beneficial relationship with anyone.
Now before someone attempts to contradict me by saying how social media has reconnected them with old friends, is helpful to those who cannot venture far from home, and allows folks to see umpteen photos of their grandchildren, let me say that I agree, and that social media does have its benefits. My point, however, is that it is not social media itself that fosters real relationships. It is merely a vehicle (no pun intended) to do so. Like the teenager in the commercial, however, not everyone gets that point.
What fosters real relationships is genuine caring and love among people. Without that genuine care and love, the teenager’s 900 friends are merely an array of “talking” Hallmark cards. Insight and experience tells me that is exactly what most people experience via social media—that, and an inexplicable belief that others actually care what they are doing every minute of every day.
Clearly, Jesus did not have the benefit of Facebook or Twitter--though I must give a shout-out to the Holy Spirit who has done more personal communicating over the centuries than Steve Jobs could have ever imagined—(and she does not need to be hung on a belt loop or stuffed into a purse for easy access.) Jesus’ message about relationships was pretty clear. “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Since it is a fact of normal human psychological development that we have genuine love for ourselves, Jesus’ mandate to us regarding how we should feel about others is a tough one. Genuine love and caring for others, then, requires a good deal more than posting on a social website. It requires sacrifice and selflessness. If we have genuine care and love for others, we will do all that is required of us to demonstrate that fact. That may mean shutting off the computer so that we can have a real conversation with the person by phone. Or, it may actually mean hopping into our Venzas and going to visit someone we’ve been “friends” with.
- Wednesday, 27 June 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion