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Facebook: A New Kind of Intimacy

August 20, 2011

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Jeremy posted the wrong age on his Facebook page. Phillip has no picture of his wife in any of his photos. Camille has replaced Oprah with Facebook. Jan has reconnected with two of her old college boyfriends and has not told her husband. Wallace has no idea how much time his wife spends on Facebook. George does not state that he is married on his page.

These stories are true, though the names have been changed.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. For most of us it is a good and useful tool. However, it is not surprising that it is also a source of temptation for the dissatisfied and discontented.

There is no place where Facebook’s sinful side is more prominent than in marriages that have not lived up to one or both of the spouse’s expectations.

Will You Like Me?

Facebook has become the new false intimacy. It is relatively safe. It can provide a perception of genuine, authentic relationships. It is better than the video game craze because while you can interact with Facebook or gaming in the privacy of your home, Facebook has real people on the other end of it. (I do realize there is interaction with real people in some video games, but Facebook provides a different kind of temptation through cyber relationships.)

John told me that the reason he uses a different name and age on his Facebook profile is because he wants people to like him and feels his best shot at being liked is to change his identity. His Facebook name is Al and instead of using his real age, 43, he poses as a 23-year old single college student. He told me he didn’t think he was a bad person, as his wife tells him, because people like him on Facebook. Interestingly, his real life relationships are dysfunctional, while his Facebook relationships give the perception of being normal. John says that this is because his real life relationships do not understand him and, therefore, the dysfunction is their fault.

Sin with a Ubiquitous Twist

I’m sure you’re not surprised by these things. Sin is our ever-present adversary and because sin is part of our lives, bad things do happen. Facebook provides a somewhat sanitized way to flirt with people around the world for the average person. These kinds of temptations that used to be the exclusive domain of the business traveler have now been brought into our homes, free of charge.

Today, more people have cyber access than at any time in the history of mankind. The angry teenager, lonely housewife, dissatisfied line worker, and overworked engineer can now be included in what used to be the privileges of the social elite. It’s easy.

In the worst case scenario the flirtatious couple make plans to meet. Yes, this has happened more times than you might imagine.

  • Parent, do you have access to your child’s Facebook account?
  • Wife, do you have access to your husband’s Facebook account?
  • Husband, do you know the people your wife is talking to throughout her day while you are away?

The Dating Analogy

I like Facebook. It has been a remarkable redemptive tool for my business. However, because of my business I have seen the unsavory side of Facebook as well. Without loving accountability, it can be a dangerous medium that does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Facebook can be like a dating relationship between any boy and girl.

Dating has aspects of artificiality, while offering varying degrees of intimacy and realism. Of course, when the boy and girl get married and are locked in for life, the true realism comes to the fore. While they were dating they got a break from each other at the end of the day. When they married, they discovered that there were no breaks and after a year or two of sustained living with each other, they grew weary of each other and began to look for other ways to be loved. This happens because of self-centeredness and a lack of understanding biblical love. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Enter Facebook. Facebook becomes the new dating context for the dissatisfied. It provides all the accoutrements of dating without the commitment or expectation of marriage. Simply put, we do not live with the people we socialize with on Facebook. Akin to dating, we can put our best selves forward for our Facebook friends. They never have to wash our underwear or smell our breath. It is when we think the folks on Facebook are different than the folks we live with that we get into trouble.

Our spouses are the ones who live with our real selves. Keep that in mind if you are tempted to cross the lines of inappropriateness when relating to a friend on Facebook. Some of you have no idea what I am talking about. I praise God for you. May He protect you from the seamy side of Social Media. However, some of you are currently being tempted by the sinful prospects of Facebook or you’re already involved in inappropriate relationships.

To you, I appeal that you get help. Nothing good can come out of it no matter how bad you think your real relationships are. Yes, Facebook can be fun, but it is only cyber real and it should not replace doing authentic life together.

For the Glory of God

Think about how you can use Facebook redemptively. What I mean by this is how can you draw attention to your great God rather than to yourself? How can you promote the Gospel through Facebook? The answer to the Facebook dilemma is not necessarily abstinence, unless it has caught you and the wisest thing for you to do is to cut ties with Facebook. (See Galatians 6:1) Here are some other redemptive thoughts:

  1. Ask your spouse or friend what they think about your Facebook updates.
  2. Give your spouse your log-in info.
  3. Link or share Gospel-centered sites with others.
  4. Share quotes that God has used to encourage you.
  5. Seek to encourage your friends.
  6. Keep in touch with friends and family members.
  7. Learn the security settings and use them.
  8. Guard your heart (and your time) regarding Facebook games.