As most readers will know, Facebook has just announced that it has reached the two billion user mark. One in four people on the planet are now using Facebook at least once every month. Over 800 million people “like” something on Facebook every day. And every day, more than 750 million people “friend” each other on Facebook. To add to the startling numbers, 100 million users are also participating in groups on Facebook — “meaningful communities,” in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook.
In light of these numbers, Zuckerberg might just be forgiven for thinking of Facebook along ecclesial lines. [For those interested in the comparison: the global Catholic population currently stands at 1.285 billion]. Zuckerberg, in a celebratory post on the latest milestone of “the Facebook community,” also announced that he wants to deepen the communal appeal of Facebook, by (among other strategies) supporting “group administrators.” Zuckerberg’s reasoning is based on a look at churches: “A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation.”
The Christian blogosphere is beginning to respond to Zuckerberg’s comparison between “the Facebook community” and church in various ways, but what really interest me here is this: if Facebook is like a church, what are its liturgies? The answer to that question may actually be a bit uncomfortable. The micro-rituals of Facebook intersperse contemporary lives in seamless ways. I wonder, for example, how many of us check their Facebook pages first thing in the morning, or last thing at night? Full disclosure: I don’t, but it took a conscious decision on my part to make myself turn to the liturgical calendar instead of my smartphone first thing in the morning, and another conscious decision to end the day with prayer rather than checking on friends on Facebook.
At the same time, I think that setting up overarching, facile dichotomies – between my faith and my Facebook page – are actually not all that helpful. Both are a part of the digital age, after all, through which the church currently journeys on its pilgrimage through time.
I am interested in the experiences and thoughts about this of the “PrayTell Blog community,” which – like Facebook – comes together in cyberspace.