You probably can name four or five people who spend more time on Facebook than on their homework or even texting. But for some, Facebook has become the only source of social interaction and communication. In essence, social networking websites have become the primary community in their life. And because it is the center of their social lives, the pressures of popularity, attention, and self-esteem are extending to the digital realm.
How would you feel if you were being mocked, bullied, and harassed by the very people that you "friended?" Some teens are feeling pressure to have a certain amount of "friends" or to get a certain amount of comments or attention. According to this new study, these communities can become additional sources anxiety, negativity, and depression.
As Orthodox Christians, we believe in the importance of fellowship and community. Regardless of the medium or environment, we should treat every person with love, kindness, patience, and respect. In any fellowship or community, we should place Christ at the center of how we act, interact, and react. Here are some suggestions on how to keep Facebook interactions as positive experiences:
Keep Facebook as an extension of your social network, not the ONLY social network. Facebook can be a great way to keep connected to quality friends from all over the U.S. But try not to make it the only way you communicate or the only place you seek out friendships. Spending time hanging out with friends or attending youth group events are ways that you can strengthen your current friendships and make new ones.
Don't be afraid to "defriend" if someone is NOT being a good friend. If you find out someone is saying mean things about you or they are harassing you, do not be afraid to remove them from your friend list. You deserve to have friends that are positive and kind. Don't worry about your friend count compared to others. Focus on having quality friends versus a certain quantity of friends.
Remember that Facebook is not a moral-free or consequence-free zone. Sometimes people post things or say things online that they would not post or say in person. So remember that the things you say and do have consequences just like they do in person. Mean words can hurt people's feelings. Inappropriate pictures can ruin someone's reputation. Bullying can be so dangerous that it lead to depression or something worse. We should live by the “Golden Rule” in person and online. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of the “Challenge”— the monthly resource from the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the Orthodox Observer.