I left Facebook today after being on it for a year. Whew! And Yeahhh! No more getting tagged and poked and whatever else happens there.
Facebook IS a cultural phenomenon. It DOES say something about our world. It expresses the kind of world we live in. Go to facebook.com and you'll read the words "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life." Yes, and no, and maybe. It depends on what you mean by he words "connect" and "share" and "the people in your life."
Facebook's own statistics are here. As of today there's 175 million "active users." An average user has "120 friends on the site." So much depends on the meaning of "friend." My experience is that there's little authentic community on Facebook because real friendship and community demand things Facebook cannot deliver. There's a shallowness and voyeurism here that is systemic and structural. No one, on my understanding of "friend," can have 120 of them. But I don't deny there are millions and millions of people out there who are looking for just one real friend.
Here are some definitions and understandings of "community." For example, "In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment." I think that the larger the shared environment is, the more meaningless "community" becomes, at least when it comes to persons-in-community.
The Jesus-idea of "community" gets expressed in the biblical Greek word "koinonia." This word comes from the root word "koine," which means "common." Authentic Christian community means: sharing what we have in common, which is Jesus. Jesus' environment is called the kingdom of God. This especially works for me in small-group environments.
I'm in a small group in my church that has met for many years. It's a shared "kingdom of God environment" that cultivates and grows authentic friendship and community. We meet every week, face to face, sing together, study the words of Jesus together, pray for each other, sometimes even laying hands on each other as we pray, and eat and play together. This works best when we are face-to-face, not face-booked.
Surely some doctoral dissertations on Facebook are now being written. A lot of people are analyzing it. For example, Greg Guffield, host of Fox's Red Eye, says that "Facebook is a place that turns adults into teenage girls. "Instead of making things," he says, "We're telling people how great Gossip Girl is. Would your grandfather go on Facebook? Probably not. I think we've become a country thirsting for attention--Facebook is basically Googling yourself for people who don't have enough hits to warrant it." Being a television personality, Gutfeld will go on for the occasional ego-stroke, but admits, "It's all pointless. A Facebook friend won't shave your back."
I escaped from Shawshank-Facebook less than an hour ago. I see chunks of time appear for me and Linda (my closest friend). I'm outta here! I feel the freedom returning.