Pastor's Corner December 2010
On his show November 11th Jimmy Kimmel called for a National UnFriend Day to be celebrated November 17th.
video here: http://abc.go.com/shows/jimmy-kimmel-live/national-unfriend-day
The basic principle makes sense. Kimmel says we need to get back to what friendship is really about, interpersonal relationships, developed with actual contact, emails, phone calls and face-to-face visitation. As one who lives in an industry defined by how many visits you make, and how many are making a personal relationship commitment to Jesus Christ (and by extension the local church, which is to be God’s visage in the world), this issue is before me all the time.
So, what do we do with all the people who are friends, acquaintances, and followers?
I have posited in the past the theoretical boundary of Dunbar’s Number. Wikipedia offers a quick definition as such:
Dunbar's number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150.
I consider too, the old adage, “just give me twelve committed persons and I can change the world”. I have to admit that as an introvert in a very extroverted position I tend toward the 12 for comfort, but I have found the value of friends that number into the thousands.
The truth is Dunbar’s number is theoretical, but it also pretty accurate for the number of deep meaningful relationships any one person can maintain. The semantics of such a definition leave room for many other tangential relationships. I was told of a school principal, who would pour over the 2000 names of the students coming into the school each year who would practice all summer long to learn the names.
I grew up in a town of 12,000 people, and I can recall that it was rare that I came across someone I didn’t know, at least peripherally, and at a little bit of effort, couldn’t get to know better.
I guess that’s what is so intriguing to me about Facebook, and in turn, the Church. We have so many peripheral connections. I wanted to be more intentional about those. I wanted to try to find out more about these great people. I have to admit, I have made some unusual friends on Facebook (and through the church for that matter), like the folks in the chat group for the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, my high school nemesis, fraternity brothers, and my family.
In some ways I look at it all kinda like Sunday mornings at church. There are a lot of people there. I may not get to meet or know them all, but I have a way to connect. When something comes up I have a chance to pray with them, or for them. I can encourage these friends across miles and lifetimes, with the hurts they experience, the joys they celebrate, and indeed the dreams they express.
Facebook is merely a tool, for helping to get my mind ready for a deeper relationship. The other pieces will have to follow, visits, talks, and written conversations. It is both the modern business card, as a means of introduction, and the Christmas card, as a way of keeping up with friends from years gone by.
As you might have guessed, because of these aspects of Facebook, I opted out of National Unfriend Day. I think relationships are important. And an understanding of the medium can help develop meaningful relationships. However, I do think Jimmy Kimmel got it right about this, Facebook does not stand for real relationship. Facebook is a bookmark in the lives of others, which needs nurturing and attention so that meaningful relationship can be made. Perhaps that is the truth of Sunday morning as well. And the truth is, I am in both places to make an impact, learn about others, and develop something greater, with an eye to another friend I want folks to know because of me, Jesus Christ.