I really enjoyed this short book on social media and the Christian life: Unfriend Yourself by Kyle Tennant. It’s only 97 pages long so one can read it in just a few days. In fact, that’s what Tennant suggests in the subtitle: “Three days to detox, discern, and decide about social media.” I have read a few other similar books, but I do think this one is a good addition to the social media conversation. What’s the main point of the book?
“At its core, this is a book about the promises Facebook and other social media make and how they often fail to deliver on these promises” (Kindle Loc. 147).
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
“In essence, Facebook’s agenda is for us to broadcast ourselves (notably the YouTube tagline), to talk about what we’re doing and what we like. This is what psychologists might call “self-presentation,” which is a fancy psychological word for what we do all the time: we wear clothes, talk in a certain way, do things how we do them, all to tell the world about who we are. Facebook is a digital opportunity for us to self-present through status updates, photos, and ‘likes.’ The problem with the promise comes when we realize that: Self-Presentation + Sinful Selves = Self-Promotion.” (Kindle Locations 208-213).
We present—or promote—ourselves [or our kids – sl] in such a way to cause people to think of us in a certain way. When I log on to Facebook, I find that I want to put my best foot forward; as a result, I find myself bending the truth and skirting circumstance, ever so slightly, to offer to my “friends” the best part of myself, the part of me that is the coolest, the funniest. I announce to others something good about me with the goal of getting others to think a certain way about me. The biblical term for this kind of self-promotion is “boasting” (Kindle Locations 216-219).
[When I read Facebook updates, I think] “I don’t measure up. Suddenly, I think to myself: “Oh, I’m not nearly as fit as he is,” or “She is far more witty than I am.” As a result, I want to find ways to make myself look better so that I can keep up with everyone else. So begins an endless cycle of self-promotion and self-rejection” (Kindle Locations 223-225).
Attempts to build a true community online will always fail, because you are using the tool for a task the designer didn’t have in mind. It’s like using a screwdriver to cut down a tree” (Kindle Locations 244-245).
While we would love to believe that social media can give us a place to “know and be known,” the question is whether that can happen through mediated communication. Sure, I can read about someone’s burdens and joys, but can I truly weep with those who weep when they are in their house and I am in mine? I don’t think so. I can weep for them but certainly not with them” (Kindle Locations 417-420).
Tennant doesn’t talk about everything in this brief book, but what he does discuss is great food for thought. I highly recommend it for those of you who 1) might be addicted to social media, 2) want to do some simple research on the topic, or 3) those (like me) who go back and forth on the issue of social media and the Christian life.
rev. shane lems