The World according to Facebook

I’m in touch with a lot of people, mostly around North and Latin America. Here’s what I learned from FaceBook and other media this week. It was an eye-opener to read postings from various friends, and to see what we write about. Please, no intended criticism intended for anyone, since my FB postings too are sometimes trivial.

From North American friends: remarks about the weather; purchases we need to make; sports; food, and its partner, exercise; movies and TV; political issues; family news; spiritual issues. Nothing particularly sinister, mind you, it’s all good wholesome stuff.

From outside of North America I’ve received in the last 48 hours: a note from a former student; she’s working with an isolated group of people in Guatemala, and a boy who uses a prosthetic leg has outgrown it and needs another – there are no resources to get one; another friend, in Africa: “spent the afternoon on bumpy dirt roads in 90+ degree heat with a ministry partner trying to follow up on the status of a former victim of human trafficking [enforced prostitution, I imagine]; another friend who works with “children at risk,” working through issues of street children in India; another friend, a new transcultural worker, fighting through sleep deprivation as she tries to learn a second language; a student from ESEPA, where I teach, is just now organizing a trip to Honduras (18 hours in the bus each way) to help several isolated villages. The cost for each person who takes the trip is a mere $200, but there are a number of people who would like to go for whom that figure will be a lot of money.

What’s striking is that this is a normal day of FB postings and emails.

As I believe, there is One who sees the 7 billion of us all at one time. For me, I’ve got a list of about 550 FB friends, plus emails and other media – I get a very tiny glimpse of what people around the world are doing. But it’s plain that I’m looking at two worlds – one world where a person can live more or less anticipating that he/she will be able to eat, find a doctor, achieve literacy, buy a book, enjoy freedom of speech, conscience, religion, and so forth. In the other world, the people who cannot count on those privileges.

Far be it from me to tell one person that he/she has trivial concerns in comparison with others. Yet, I hope that my FB friends in North America will take a broad view of the globe; pledge themselves to be grateful to be where they are; seek to focus on the crippling issues that others in the world face, problems not of their own making; put their resources to the benefit of those who cannot crawl out of their situation by their own effort or creativity.

I would also like to recommend to American Christians that they read an essay on how Christians in other countries are suffering (this month, particularly in Egypt). See “Martyrdom Fantasy Camp” at


4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. People in less economically privileged places are going to have more “hardships”, but I wonder if your experience speaks more to the type of people you know in Latin vs. North America. I know a lot of people around the world, but many of them are missionaries or others working for the sake of the gospel in some way. My FB friends in N. America are a total mix. I’m sure there are plenty of people in other countries that have trivial FB posts, but my friends in those countries are simply more in-tune with basic needs people are struggling with.

    • Hi Eric, I see your point. I may offer three observations.

      My friends in the Two-Thirds World do post trivial things on FB as well, I think that’s what FB is there for in part.

      People I know in, for example, Africa are working with the gospel and are in tune with suffering there in a way that an American businessperson might not be.

      Also, someone pointed out to me that people don’t post really “raw” issues on FB. This is true, and that’s why I included email and other means of communication in my blog.

  2. Thanks, Gary, for this helpful reminder. As a pastor, I know both how hard it is to keep myself focused on what is truly central to the kingdom and also to help God’s people in the States broaden their perspective.

  3. I see your point, however, not to sound cynical, but could it also have to do with Americans not wanting to publicly display their hardships? There are certainly things -hard, deep, severe things – that I’ve known about MANY of my 600+ FB ‘friends’ – but not on the ‘wall’. They message about it privately and ask for prayer or needs. Do you really want to publicly read about one friend’s infection that wont go away or another’s pregnancy that is in danger or another whose child may need to go to jail or another in danger of losing a house?

    I believe that Americans mainly use FB to ‘stay connected’ and sort of use it for relaxation. That certainly does not mean they dont have tragedy going on in life. Also, maybe due to whatever the friend ‘mix’ is, a FBer may not want people the work with or their kids or their parents 🙂 or ex-coworkers, etc, to know the details of their tragedy. I really think it’s NOT that we have mundane, materialistic lives, necessarily, but that Americans CHOOSE to write that way.

    As I said, I do see your point and, yes, we do have things much better than in many parts of the world, but I really dont think that has to do with what is said on FB. Each of the things you mentioned, I have heard friends need prayer for (ok, not the prosthetic, but a needed surgery to walk), or are in ministries as you mentioned. But I heard these things through either a ‘shared’ article or a private message.

    Just sayin’….

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