Day 38: The Social Network Confessional

You may have seen one of these before:

It’s a confessional booth. The Roman Catholic church use these boxes as a place where members of the church can confess their sins to receive forgiveness. I disagree with the theology, but I get the principle. A private place to repent all the things you have done wrong.

Why do we treat social networking sites like confessional booths?

Over the last few years, a new internet phenomenon has literally transformed the world. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now instantly recognisable brands. They have managed to shrink the Earth and connect everyone to anyone. Companies have formed from it, millionaires have been made from it and the obscure have been thrust mercilessly into the spotlight through it. It’s quite astonishing really, particularly for someone of my generation who has grown alongside the internet from infancy to maturity. But while we’ve seen the rise of ‘status updates’ and ‘tweets’, we’ve also witnessed the inescapable rise of the Facebook Confessional.

For some reason, these sites can act like the strongest of magnets to the brokenness in us. Have you ever experienced frustration with someone and wanted to ‘tell the world’ about it? Or to tell everyone that you’re connected with about how upset you’re feeling at that exact moment in time? Have you ever said something inappropriate that you’ve regretted or that you would simply never say in ‘real life’? I know I have. There was a time when the confessional booth or the people close to you acted like lightning-rods – becoming a receiver for all your your frustration and anger to stop you from saying/doing things that you shouldn’t. Unfortunately, these social networking sites have found their way onto phones, laptops and PCs, managing to fall right in between us and our lightning-rod friends; they are so much easier to talk to right away…so tempting.

Social networking sites are not confessional booths.

But this is not the best way for us. Airing your dirty laundry on the internet doesn’t help you, it doesn’t bless others and it doesn’t broadcast the best parts of you to the world. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are fantastic resources. I’m a little addicted to them in all honesty, but they are simply public representations of ourselves. I would never be negative about my life, my friends or my situation to a stranger, so why would I do it on the internet for all to see? I want people to see the best parts of me in public, not the worst.

Having said that, it’s not about lying. It’s not about creating a facade that you operate behind – that’s equally dangerous. The challenge is to be real but selective, choosing the right people to share the right information with. If you struggle with posting negative things to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, find yourself a lightning-rod friend. Someone that you can be real with without broadcasting it to the world. It will be ten times as helpful in the long run and many, many times more beneficial. I promise!


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