This week is the 15th birthday of Facebook. The Economist, in noting this milestone, said this: “Few companies have exerted such a strong influence on society, changing people’s communication habits, reuniting lost contacts, shaping their perception of world events and redefining the meaning of the word ‘friend.’ Around two-thirds of American adults use its original social network. At its peak, the average user spent nearly an hour a day on Facebook’s platforms.”
There are those who are obsessed with Facebook, constantly posting, liking, commenting and sharing, with the goal of looking good to their friends, and generally improving their status in the world. On the other hand, a lot of people love to hate Facebook. It is criticized and even demonized—held to account for the decline of civilization, among other things.
There are certainly real concerns about the effect of online-media use on our personal and collective health and well-being. There have been similar concerns about TV viewing over the last 60 years, though those concerns have faded into the background with the rise in online communications.
There were also similar concerns about books in the generations after the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. The concern was very serious and went something like this: “with all these people reading books, we’re losing our ability to talk to each other.”
The reality is that Facebook is neither scourge nor salvation. And, whatever our view of its effects, it is with us and in some form will stay with us.
Whether to use social media or not, how to use it, and what to pay attention to as we use it are all matters of taste or preference. Tastes and preferences are very personal, and we often feel very strongly about our own.
When we feel strongly about what we like, it can be hard to understand why someone else would like something different. Yet this understanding is vital.
The practice of marketing is about trying to develop this understanding. When a marketer is interested in communicating with (or selling to) a particular social demographic, he or she will “walk in the shoes” of that demographic.
The goal is to put aside my personal taste or preferences in order to appreciate the taste and preferences of someone else. We don’t naturally do this—we have to work at it. That’s why the science of marketing has become such a huge business.
This assumes that we have an interest in someone different than we are—that we want to understand them, maybe get to know them, and maybe even invite them into our lives. And we don’t invite people into our lives (or our church!) because we expect them to be like us. We invite them because we love them.
There’s something in the Bible about this.
See you in church!