Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, said recently that the organization (and phenomenon) he founded can play a role in society that churches and organizations like Little League used to play.
He noted that membership in various groups has fallen by about 25 percent in recent years. Perhaps Facebook can help overcome that drop by getting people plugged into various groups.
And yet, those who excessively use social media (of which Facebook is a major player) often complain of loneliness and loss of self-esteem as a result. There is such a thing as “Facebook envy.” “How come all my friends have all the fun and are going to all those cool places?”
Loneliness is a serious problem in our nation. Theweek.com observed (April 24), “The so-called loneliness ‘epidemic’ is being called a public health crisis.”
An article in U.K.’s Daily Mail last month blamed evolution for loneliness. Researchers claimed that supposedly “the cycle [of loneliness] evolved to make sure people survived when alone.” They said this was good in the short term (for survival), but bad in the long run. I don’t buy their evolutionary premise, but I certainly would agree that loneliness is bad in the long run.
One report (studyfinds.org) even noted that if you have a cold, loneliness exacerbates it.
There are some people who take social media so seriously that they care about who friends them, unfriends them, etc. and take offense at any like or dislike.
It does seem, anecdotally, that excessive use of social media can make one even lonelier rather than vice versa. There’s nothing that can replace genuine human interaction.
I remember seeing a family sitting at a restaurant, and each individual was clicking away at his or her smartphone. Instead of talking with each other and enjoying time together as a family, they were glued to their devices. It was sad, but not uncommon.
Zuckerberg did acknowledge the human factor in churches and youth sports leagues: “A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter. A Little League team has a coach who motivates the kids and helps them hit better. Leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net, and look out for us.”
I don’t know much about Little League, but many studies of church membership show the positive impact regular church attendance can have on the participants. Dr. Rodney Stark of Baylor University wrote a book, “America’s Blessings” (Templeton, 2012), that documents much of that positive impact. That includes the positive impact of faith on the family – the family being a key to overcoming loneliness.
- “Religious people are more apt to marry and less likely to divorce, and they express higher degrees of satisfaction with their spouses. They also are more likely to have children.”
- “Religious husbands are substantially less likely to abuse their wives or children.”
Stark comments further on the impact of Christianity on the marital relationship: “…although most Americans rate their marriage as very happy, weekly church attenders are more likely to do so than are those who only attend sometimes or who never attend. … Weekly church attenders are only half as likely as those who never attend to currently be divorced.”
Other relationships within the family are also strengthened through an active church life. Stark quotes Valarie King of Pennsylvania State University, who said, “Religious fathers are more involved fathers.”
Ours is a lonely society. I think much of that is a symptom of the breakdown of our family. But the Bible says, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).
God made us to be in community. The Trinity itself is a community. What a tragedy that on one day, for our sake, the community and unity of the Trinity was dreadfully interrupted. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” asked Jesus. But God (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (God the Son) to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of Christ. It was a tragedy for Jesus, but a triumph for us – as His death is the key to salvation.
This culture continues to pull out all the stops to destroy traditional marriage, to destroy the family as God has defined it. And then we end up being lonely – and yet, we blame God for it.
Relationships often flourish in a church and family setting, and social media can help aid those relationships. I hardly ever posted anything to Facebook – until I became a grandfather. Now I’m grateful that my family and in-laws scattered around the country and the world can see photos of my grandchildren. But social media can never successfully replace face-to-face human relationships.