Can Facebook be your friend? The Theology of Facebook from the other side of the Equator

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For Young People: Theology Of Facebook

Last updated: 07/05/2011

In recent times, a new wave of insight about the nature of humanity has taken the centre stage of intellectual and scientific discourse. Ever since the first photographs of our world were beamed back to the Earth from outer space, many people agreed that a new era in human history dawned, and for the first time we could see planet Earth, extraordinarily beautiful in its vibrant colours, yet hanging isolated in a massive unending sea of black universe.

From that esteemed moment, humanity saw the truth of what it was, what it is and what it will continue to be: ‘one robust but fragile community; inextricably bound together, and unalterably responsible for the future of ourselves and the planet.”

By the fiat of that great event, humanity was compelled by truth to abandon the narrow perspectives of its thinking and action in warm embrace of the ideal that we are all members of one global human family.
This is the reason why Teilhard De Chardin would say that “Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all of the others.

The universe holds together, and only one way of considering it is really possible that is, to take it as a whole, in one piece.” We live in a global planet and we are a cosmopolitan people. Whatever affects life (positively or negatively) in one little village of the world has repercussions for the entire globe. After all, we are said to live in global village, or more restrictedly, one global hamlet where the forces of scientific and technological change have made the transfer of information and communication a matter of the swift dynamic of split seconds. These great leaps in human civilization cannot but astound us.
As such, the idea that we are condemned to be global neighbours has become a common patrimony for all human beings. As the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy echoes the General Catechetical Directory of 1971, “one must…bear in mind the enormous diffusion of the means of social communication. Their power transcends national boundaries, making the individual almost a citizen of the world. The media have enormous influence on the lives of the faithful, both in what they teach and in the attitudes and behaviour to which they expose the faithful.”

Facebook is a relatively recent global phenomenon in the world of modern digital Information and Communication Technology and young people are often always interested in what is trendy, fashionable or in vogue. We can therefore understand why Facebook captures the attention even of the most disinterested young person. Beyond the fashionable nature of Facebook, we must truly admit that there are countless benefits it offers.

This means that social utilities that connect people around the world should be welcomed as a noble gift to humanity, an expression of the wisdom, ingenuity, intelligence, inventive skill and creative vision with which the human person has been endowed by God. Man’s genius has with God’s help produced marvellous technical inventions, especially in our times.

Launched in February 2004 having been invented by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow computer science students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskov and Chris Hughes, all students of Harvard University, originally. The website was limited to students of Harvard but was later expanded to colleges within the Boston axis. Further expansion included all university and high school students in America until it was finally permitted to anyone from 13 years and above across the world.

The predecessor to Facebook was ‘facemash’ which Zuckerberg invented in 2003 while a second year student at Harvard. In Facebook, users add people as friends and send them messages, update their personal profiles, notify friends about themselves, chat with friends, and can join networks or fan clubs organized by schools, workplaces, institutions or friends.

The websites name stems from the colloquial name of books given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the US with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better.

The immediate question that arises here stems from the nature of our topic: What is the connection between Facebook and theology? Can we speak of a theology of Facebook in a specifically Christian context? This quest would echo naively in the uncircumcised ears of an average religious person or a new student of theology. However, looking introspectively, there seems to be the possibility of a theology of Facebook. What then is the link between theology and the sociality of Facebook?

This is the quandary a typical religious mind would cogitate faced with the quest of justifying a nexus between theology and Facebook.

In this kind of atmosphere the question of what theology actually is naturally surfaces too. Pope Benedict XVI raises the same question when he asks: ‘What in fact is Theology?” Has it been described adequately when it is said to be a methodically ordered reflection on the questions of religion or men’s relationship with God? No, for that takes us not a step over religious studies.

Theology does not revel on the unresolved mysteries of man, for philosophy of religion and religious studies have that to contend with. According to the Pope, the path of theology is indicated in the cliché of St. Anselm: credo intelligam (“I believe that I may understand’) which indicates an acceptance of what is given in advance.

Anthony Akinwale in his paper On What is Theology asserts that theology is ideally “a speech about God” slightly adjacent to the literal etymological roots that theology is the science of God. This speech about God is what Pope Benedict XVI explains as the advantage of what is given in advance.

Hence, they both established the claim that the Word is the ultimate basis of theology; something that can never be entirely absent from the path of faith.

Drawing from the above picture, theology as expressed in the opening chapter of Dei Verbum is essentially a revelation of the face of God to his people.

Hence, theology can be seen then in the perspective of God entering into communion with man.

God comes to make a reunion with Man. It is therefore a justified imitation of God when men reciprocate this gesture by showcasing the souvenir of socialization among one another Men could be said to theologize if they participate in or imitate the divine mode of operation by making social connections in the abode that they have been beautifully placed.

Hence, there is a sense in which a hermeneutic of theology as communion (fraternity and solidarity) can be ascribed to that relation. As an instrument of communication and the transmission of information.

Facebook links people from across diverse national, ethnic, political, social, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Through the Facebook utility, people establish connections and relationships of communion between themselves and others, such that we can conveniently say that theologically, this communion can be ascribed to the relationship of fraternity, solidarity and communion which binds all people transcendentally and immanently.
The media is a very powerful instrument of social progress and a vector for social cohesion, and that is why for us religious people, effort must be made to get ourselves immersed in the Facebook utility.

If nothing seems providential about it, the fact that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI’S Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Communications last year (16th May 2010) makes vital recommendations about the importance of new digital modes of communication for priests, pastoral ministers, young people and the whole Church in the service of the word of God suggests that we cannot altogether stand indifferent in the cultural matrices that have characteristically dominated public consciousness in recent times.

Before this time, Vatican II Fathers had advised that it is the Church’s birthright to use and own any of these media which are necessary or useful for the formation of Christians and for pastoral activity (Inter Mirifica, p. 285). This is an area that much consideration must be given as far as catechesis of the young is concerned.

‘When we take a careful survey of the scientific and technological revolution making their debut today, we find the young people at the heart of the ‘jet age’.

Many young people today are at the centre stage of the use of the Internet, the television, the computer, the newspaper and other many other media of social communication. The use of these media has positive and negative values that can either mould or destroy the lives of very many young people.

Facebook is indeed a powerful tool for the transmission of information and communication at a very fast speed.

Through the chat feature and messaging system, business transactions and other transmissions can be performed at ease at a highly economical rate, with the greatest amount of flexibility and comfort.

Profile Information and other posts (photos, animations, links, etc) on one’s wall page can contribute meaningfully in drafting the original outlines of a person’s biography. In a general fashion, the ideal of keeping contact with friends and establishing new ties with relations, new friends and colleagues becomes easier and beneficial.

For the Christian, the Facebook utility offers a powerful tool for social communication and evangelization. When one positively uses the opportunity to share ideas on one’s Facebook wall that is accessible to a wide readership audience, he can seize upon the opportunity to stuff the reader’s mind with issues of principal concern for the Christian conscience, Beyond this, the social network utility of Facebook offers the users the opportunity of connecting with old and cherished friends, meeting and making new friends and subscribing to objects and properties of Christian virtues like being a fan of the Rosary, the Pope, the Blessed Virgin Mary, particular churches and a host of other fan clubs.

This facility opens up new vistas of information and ideas that may not have been accessible to one were one not a subscriber. Facebook helps one to stay current and up-to-date regarding events and happenings around the world.

In the ancient philosophical era, the classic philosopher of all times, Socrates equated knowledge with virtue. With the paradigm shift precipitated by modern science, Francis Bacon the English thinker in his Classic Novum Organum equated knowledge with power.

The positive judicious use of the Facebook utility can offer one the opportunity for learning, scholarship, sharing and dissemination of ideas, some sort of a cross-pollination and fertilization of ideas.

With knowledge construed as virtue and power, the opportunity of a privileged access to network utilities create the receptacle for the right cultivation of a learning culture imbued with moral values that impact positively on one’s life and style.

Although we cannot totally dispense with the fact that some people can count on the utility to perpetrate shoddy activities like cyber-crime, promiscuous display of pornographic literatures, fraudulent activities and unholy alliances between new found friends, the utility purposes to confer immense and invaluable benefits on all users and subscribers

Many users would accede to the fact that the utility of Facebook has linked them with numerous distinguished personalities they would ordinarily not have had the grace of meeting cheaply.

Facebook can therefore be viewed with the eyes of a melting pot of peoples of different races, tribes, languages, locality, occupations, careers, creed, and social countenance!

From: The Nigerian Observer


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