Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a website was created. It was called http://www.thefacebook.com.
(Please note its debut came at a time when “www” was still used at the start of websites and, at the inception, “Facebook” started with “the.”)
From The Facebook’s beginnings at Harvard (see Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake tell you all about it in the film The Social Network), this new, exclusive social site was only open to students at select colleges. Eventually it opened its cyber-doors to students at small, private, liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, and my “hope.edu” email address was the only credential I needed to join.
My early (the)Facebook life was basically an extension of my AOL Instant Messenger. My status updates were “Jennie is studying for music theory.” “Jennie is having a great day!” “Jennie is wondering why this status format only ever allows her to write sentences that begin with ‘Jennie is.'”
The Facebook was not life changing. I remember thinking I’d probably delete my account when I got married. Surely married people are far too mature for such technological distractions. I grossly underestimated my future relationship with my Roku. Anyway, I didn’t delete it. I used it to stay in touch with college friends who had moved across the country. I used it to comment on the TV Shows I found desperately important at the time (Survivor, mostly). And when the Facebook dropped the “the” and opened itself up to the rest of the world, I used it to keep my family updated on Jason’s and my newlywed life in our new home state of Oklahoma.
And now, ten-something years later, I use it for things like: this blog, my podcast, friends, watching mesmerizing videos of recipes turning into food, ridiculous things Boone says, weather updates, cute pictures of Jonah, I-RAN-SO-MANY-MILES statuses, general questions, prayer requests, memes.
Here is something you should know about real-life me. You know, the one who exists beyond the words on this screen. She’s an Introvert. She is NOT shy, don’t make that mistake. She just has no interest in superficial, forgettable conversation. She craves meaningful connection, and isn’t upset if someone disagrees with her as long as all opinions are respected.
This is not how the world has taught her to be.
At times, it seems, and Facebook highlights this well, differences of opinion are offensive. They’re wrong. They require teaching, correcting.
I don’t mind differing opinions. In fact, I dare say they make the world go ’round. But, as the saying goes, “if you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” (And if you aren’t addicted to Hamilton, as I am, you may be slightly more familiar with the wording “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”)
It’s important for me to have my beliefs, and these beliefs have not come easily. Through prayer, conversation, devotional study, and observation, I have fairly solid opinions on a variety of topics. For a long time, you might not really know what they were, however. I watched the world beat people down for disagreeing. I watched people mock people who thought outside the box. I realized the way to survive was to be agreeable.
I was wrong.
In light of recent tragedies in the news, I did something that would once have been out of character for me: I changed my Facebook profile picture from something silly (I believe it was Jason’s and my new Mickey and Minnie tattoos) to a photo of white text on a black background. The text said “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” I shared posts from Glennon Doyle Melton and Lin-Manuel Miranda that shared this sentiment. And every time I clicked the “share” button, I hesitated for a moment and thought, what if people think less of me because of this?
Quietly, but firmly, I heard God answer my question:
God didn’t call me to a burning bush to say, “JENNIE, TAKE OFF YOUR TOMS AND HEAR THIS: YOUR IDEAS ARE THE ONLY RIGHT ONES.” He didn’t even give me a hint that my thoughts are close to being on the mark. But He did push me toward sharing, toward discussing, toward compassionately engaging with others who think differently than I do.
I’m happy to report as a result of my sharing I haven’t lost a single friend. I may or may not have provoked any new thoughts or ideas, but I feel good about staying true to myself and respecting my friends.
My real life self would have a much harder time with this. She still dislikes small talk. She still worries she won’t say exactly what she means, or she’ll start agreeing out of habit. Facebook allows us to sit, reflect on what we’d like to say, and write it out clearly. We don’t always do this, of course, either because we’re rushed or writing isn’t our forte. Whatever the reason, can we all add some grace to Facebook? Try not to read into someone else’s punctuation. Try to remember that our opinions shouldn’t divide us into camps, enemies at opposite sides of the battleground. Keep sharing your opinions, because I want to know you. I want to learn about you and in turn, learn about me.
The real world has its fair share of hate and anger. Let’s flood the Facebook with love.