The way individuals relate and interact with the world around them is a crucial component of any religion. Consequently, Facebook , as an ingrained element of our social fabric, offers us an invaluable tool for studying our lives.
Take a look at your newsfeed for a moment. Now besides terrible grammar, you’re likely to find a notification about a friend’s birthday, some of your friends complaining about not getting enough sleep, and maybe even some post about a skateboarding dog. This is your view of Facebook. Let me repeat that: this is your view of Facebook – and no one else’s! And this simple, oft overlooked fact can be extremely enlightening. Although everyone is a part of this one social network, each individual has a different experience with it. If you were to log onto your friend’s profile (which you might very well have already done), you’d be presented with a completely different newsfeed. Your friend might have no idea that there’s some dog shredding up the streets of LA, but might instead be busy reading a new Ichthus article (good for him)! Yet ultimately, all that we see is determined by who we decide to let into our circle of “friends.” Indeed, this concept is in part reminiscent of Proverb 13:20, “He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”.
It’s easy to forget that everyone you ever come into contact with impacts your life. The words as well as the experiences you share with them all become indelible moments in your life and thus, a part of you. This is a tremendously powerful statement: that every moment – no matter how brief – other people are shaping your life. For indeed, even the smallest dot contributes to the masterpiece that is Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon.” But conversely, you too wield such enormous influence in the lives of others. Thus, it seems worthwhile to make sure we constantly strive to make the most out of all our everyday moments – particularly our interactions with people – and, that we strive to make our impact on every person a positive one in some way.
But what stuns me even more than this interdependence, is how narrow and particular my view of the world is! In other words, my newsfeed is only a small sliver of Facebook – I have no idea what other people are seeing! Are they commenting with people I don’t know? Are they getting invitations I’m not? Are they – hold your breath – possibly seeing something even more interesting than a skateboarding dog? Well, those situations are all quite likely.
We view the world through our own personal lens, and oftentimes, it can be absolutely blinding. We are very narrow-sighted in that we see only a small slice of this huge world – yet so much lies beyond. There are several wondrous and even life-changing ideas that we may never be exposed to if we don’t make the effort to challenge our views. So I feel we must always be working in this direction, fighting against our own personal inertia. Indeed, I’ve never understood Proverb 13:20 to mean “birds of a feather flock together” as it has often been interpreted. Rather, “walking with the wise” might very well mean walking with people with whom we disagree, people who we’d honestly be much more comfortable walking away from. And appropriately enough, I think Judaism’s Talmud best convicts us of our own narrow-mindedness and shortcomings. It reads, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are”. I can’t help but wonder: is it even possible to ever see the world “as it is”? Honestly, it’s hard to say, but I definitely think it’s worth a shot.
Thus, Facebook’s newsfeed can serve as a reminder of what it means for us to have our own worldview, our own particular, egocentric way of looking at the world – and paradoxically, just how pivotal other people are in shaping it. So, let’s find more people to talk to; let’s find more books to read; lets find new ideas to explore, and hopefully at the end of it, we’ll find a much greater world to see.