I now have reached the “1000 Facebook friends” threshold. On the occasion of this milestone—such as it is—I felt it apropos to take a few moments and reflect on some thoughts that crowd my head.
First, I consider Facebook to be a great tool (when used correctly). I have some real-life friends who are Facebook naysayers, and it’s true that there are certainly some cautions which must be employed when using this medium. However, it seems best to me to understand Facebook as a tool. If you try using a screwdriver to drive a nail, or a pair of pliers to turn a screw, you’re bound to be frustrated and unproductive. Similarly Facebook, used improperly, can lead to both of those outcomes and more. I believe that human beings are innately flawed, and this medium can provide an opportunity for sin to abound. At the same time, the ways in which I have been blessed via this medium are many and varied, and for all its flaws, I am thankful for it.
But with those things said about the medium itself, what I really want to talk about is the nature of my Facebook friends, and then to make some observations that I hope will strike you as valuable. My eclectic assortment of Facebook friends spans many boundaries. I have Christian friends (of different stripes), Muslim friends, Jewish friends, atheist friends, probably some agnostic friends, and likely at least a few friends whose various religious choices I haven’t mentioned. While an educated guess would be that a majority of my friends would share my conservative, mostly Republican political philosophy, I know that I have a number of politically liberal friends, many of whom would identify as Democrats, and a few who’d call themselves libertarians (and some who eschew political involvement, much to my chagrin). I have single friends, married friends, divorced friends, homosexual friends, lesbian friends, and probably some other varieties. I have friends who believe in Darwinism, friends who are young-earth creationists, and friends who would fall somewhere in the middle on that spectrum. I have a few friends whom I’ve only met via the internet, some who generally agree with my viewpoints and thus friended me, and others who often disagree with my viewpoints but who don’t mind being friends with a guy like me who is so regularly wrong about things. I have some friends whom I’ve only met via one life experience, such as acting in the same play, or at least in one case, sharing one dinner together with a mutual friend. I have friends in most of the 50 states, and a few overseas friends for good measure. And it wouldn’t take too long for me to think of a number of other differences in this diverse collection of individuals I call “friends”.
And do you know the common denominator? These people, with all their differences, are my friends. Period. Those who agree with me on most things are my friends, but those who disagree with me on a lot of things—even things I consider, and perhaps they also consider, to be very important things—are my friends. There’s not one of them I wouldn’t sit down with at Starbucks and enjoy conversing with, catching up, maybe debating a point or three here or there. Sad to say, these things need to be stressed in the age in which we live, because increasingly, it seems we shout at each other across the divides that we erect to keep us apart. Sadly, there is an insidious philosophy gaining traction—and against which, I call on all my friends to fight—that says that if we don’t agree with each other on some given hot-button issue, we cannot be friends, but rather must be castigated, condemned, and ostracized. That hellish doctrine is wreaking havoc on our society. And it must be stopped in its tracks by those of us who know better.
Look, I don’t know a single person on this planet with whom I agree on everything. I don’t even always agree with myself! There are issues here and there that I find myself back-and-forth on (that will shock some of you who see me as opinionated—feature that—but it’s true). I change my mind on issues sometimes, and sometimes I do so because friends proffer strong arguments, sometimes via this forum we call Facebook. In fact, I value the interaction that Facebook often provides; it helps me form opinions, rounds off some of my sharp edges, provides perspective that I need in order to be a better person. Sometimes, I’ve posted things that I’ve ended up regretting (usually, because I haven’t done my homework to verify facts, swallowing something as true because its source is one I generally trust); sometimes, I’ve removed posts, or apologized, or softened my stance on things—and almost always, these things have happened because some Facebook friend with a different perspective has seen fit to call me on it. To those of you in that camp, thank you! For all the egg I’ve had to wipe off my face because you had the guts to call me out, you’ve probably saved many an omelet from winding up on said face in the first place, because I’ve remembered your taking me to the woodshed and then been a bit more circumspect prior to posting something else stupid (for those of you who still think I post a lot of stupid stuff, imagine how bad it’d be if you weren’t around!). And yeah, I’d like to think I’ve had that same effect on some of you on occasion.
I can promise you, though, that I will say something in the future you won’t like, won’t agree with, won’t understand how I can write or believe that. I turn 55 later this year—yeah, I qualify for senior living in less than a half-year—and with that comes a certain amount of “I don’t EVEN care”, so while on the one hand I am (because of some of you) going to keep trying to check my sources before I re-post something stupid, and while I’m going to try to be gracious, I’m also increasingly likely to call things the way I see ‘em. I hope that instead of taking offense—because I certainly can promise you that I mean nothing personal—you will fire back at me with a thoughtful response, a different angle, a compelling question. I can handle disagreement, even strong disagreement, when a conversation on our viewpoints is carried out with mutual respect. It doesn’t always work out that way; I’ve had a friend or three “unfriend” me because of some stance I’ve taken, and I’m sorry that that’s the case, I really am. I don’t understand this. I will confess that once or twice I’ve contemplated unfriending someone, but when I learned that I didn’t have to “follow” everyone, I have unfollowed some folks instead of unfriending them. But one of the best things this tool called Facebook can do, when used properly, is a very Biblical thing: it can help “iron to sharpen iron”, as the Bible says friends do for one another.
So to sum up, thank you for being a friend. I mean that sincerely. If via this medium of Facebook I’ve managed to somehow enrich your life, challenge your thinking, or encourage/support you in a tough situation, I’m happy; so many of you have done that for me, and I am truly grateful. Here’s to the next thousand…