The Facebook Effect: Observations and Implications for Marriages and Personal Relationships
As the social networking service giant of our time, Facebook has captivated our culture and changed the way we think about connecting and relating. It seems that everybody who is anybody is on Facebook.
And we are on it a lot!
In March of 2011 alone, Americans spent over 54 billion minutes on Facebook. That is the equivalent to an accumulative 100,000 years. By the end of the month of July, 2012, we had already spent 121 billion minutes, or 230,060 years on Facebook in one month.
So, the question guiding this Hub is simply: “Is all of that time on Facebook, taking a toll on our marriages and personal relationships?”
We are relational creatures, . . . created for relationship, . . . to connect and be in relationship with other people. There is within all of us a longing to connect with others, . . . a longing to connect on deep levels with at least a few other people, . . . a longing to know and be known, . . . to love and be loved.
But often, something happens along the journey of life. The years go by, and somewhere along the way, we realize that life has not turned out as we had dreamed, our relationships are not fulfilling and perhaps life has taken us places far away from home and the familiar. Then, along with these realizations, a longing and desire takes root to connect or re-connect with old classmates and friends from the past or to find new friends.
One writer has summed up our unmet longings this way:
“Longing for what will never be is torture, and torture must be relieved.” (Larry Crabb)
We long for life to go well, for our relationships and marriages to be fulfilling, to have someone who is safe, to know and be known, to experience intimacy with someone who will love and accept us (warts and all), to do the dance of life together, . . .
Deep within all of us, we all have those types of longings. And for whatever the reasons, when those longings are not met and experienced, it is torture to the soul. And torture must be relieved.
Throughout history and along life’s journey, we humans have chosen different ways to relieve the pain and torture. We hit the bottle, take our drugs, withdraw, become workaholics, have affairs, busy ourselves, shop and acquire stuff, . . . whatever it takes to ease the pain and torture of the reality that what we long for is never going to happen!
Our modern world is one in which the drugs needed to dull the pain of our unmet longings are now at our very fingertips. And Facebook can be our “drug of choice!” It is easy to access, to get as much of it at any time we need, and with just the right dosage, it seems to temporarily dull the pain and ease the torture of our unmet longings.
So, for some, to ease the torture of unfulfilled, or loveless or non-existent relationships, we go to Facebook to connect with cyber-space friends, . . . sometimes anyone with a similar need and reciprocating desire to connect, to chat, to message, to poke . . . Then, with the pain dulled and the torture eased, something we weren’t necessarily expecting can happen.
● When deep longings are strangely and finally touched, it can easily lead to more time and emotionally energy spent in any form of connecting, . . . leading to the desire of more and deeper longings being met. . . . more messaging, more pokes (as if we were back in elementary school), more clearing of one’s schedule to be available to chat late at night (always with the option to delete).
● Facebook makes it so easy to give to someone online that which was designed to be given only to our spouse or children (i.e., your personal relationships).
● Intimacy in any relationship can easily slip away over time. Intimacy is difficult to cultivate (especially for men), and even more difficult to restore. And so, we each find our own ways to deal with the pain and torture of the lack of intimacy.
● So often we don’t know how to fix things with our present relationships, so we opt for the easiest remedy to relieve the torture by turning to porn or online relationships primarily through the venue of FaceBook.
● Ours is a world where all to common we find the "Post-Modern Dysfunctional Family," . . . all in the same room, . . . with the TV on, the fire glowing, a Family Christmas Movie on the 65” Flat Screen, . . . each with a laptop or ipad, in their own cyberspace world, interacting with meaningless posts, commenting on an endless barrage of photos, . . . messaging, chatting and poking Facebook Friends, . . . while our personal relationships (e.g., the real people in the same room, perhaps even sitting on the same piece of furniture) go untouched, missing yet another opportunity to connect and experience "true intimacy," . . . becoming more and more content with the substitute of "digital intimacy."
Implications for Marriages
The ancient text gives some very insightful and crucial warning to the couple seeking to experience the relationship and the intimacy for which marriage was designed.
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom." (Song of Solomon 2:15)
The “little foxes” can invade any relationship and both distract and rob that relationship of its intended intimacy. These “little foxes” can take a myriad of different forms. They can be: children, money, baggage brought into the relationship, hobbies, work/career, TV/Computer, over-commitment to other activities, the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent,’ putting the relationship on ‘auto pilot’ during such seasonal foxes as working away from home, or the first year of a newborn, or taking care of aging and dying parents.
Whatever the season! Whatever the length and strength of relationship! The “little foxes” can subtly invade and destroy intimacy and even the relationship itself.
Enter the “Little Fox” of Facebook!
● Facebook is perhaps the most subtle of all the “little foxes” that lurk in the shadows, waiting to invade and destroy intimacy and relationships.
● It takes only a few touches of the keyboard, a click or two, and a new friend is made or an old friend is re-established and there is connection—a few more clicks and photos are viewed, Bio’s and Postings read. Maybe it’s a public post to the person of an innocent “Hey There Stranger!” or “Get Me Caught Up!” when you are conveniently available to chat. Then, along the way, thoughts of “What if?” begin to be entertained.
● Then we can find ourselves going through the day with great anticipation and looking forward to: hearing from her, getting a poke from him, receiving a mid-day text from her, a message from him on Facebook when I got on the computer, . . . looking forward to when everyone is finally in bed with the possibility of being able to chat with her late at night, . . . and on and on.
● You become amazed how a kind or gracious 'typed' word, a flattering compliment of the way you look in a photo, a seemingly innocent poke, or even a smiley face can stir you in places and arouse relational longings and feeling of which you may have been felt deprived for years.
● Then, those touched longings can easily lead to more time and emotional energy spent in any form of connecting, more playful pokes, midnight chats, more messaging, leading to the need for more connecting and days filled with countless texts, . . . anything to ease the pain. And eventually, the pain and torture do cease! And soon, . . . without knowing it or really even seeking it, . . . you find yourself in an emotional, online affair.
● In the end, our desire to ease the pain and torture of what we feel will never be in our present relationships becomes so strong, that we are ultimately willing to substitute “digital intimacy” for “True Intimacy!”
So, is Facebook taking a toll on our marriages and our closest personal relationships?
Is Facebook one of the "little foxes" that can ruin and destroy intimacy and even the relationship itself?
Only the parties involved can accurately answer those questions!
And it takes both parties to identify the "little foxes" and agree on a strategy to keep the foxes out and to continually cultivate True Intimacy.
We were created for relationship. And deep-down within each one of us, we long to know and be known, to love and be loved, . . . to experience intimacy in marriage, with our children and in the relationships we really care about. But silence destroys intimacy. Being physically present but emotionally absent is a formula for failure. Man’s natural inclination to remain silent and committed only to himself, results in uninvolved husbands and fathers, lacking what they long for.