Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Facebook and coffee tables


Remember when . . . the only time you'd look at someone's vacation photos was at their coffee table? You'd ask about their summer and they'd smile and say, "Here, I'll show you!" and they'd reach under the table and present you with a paisley, cloth-covered album. And for the next thirty minutes or so, whether you wanted to or not, you'd get to see ALL of their photos. I looked at some photo albums today, on Facebook, for about thirty minutes. However, the difference was that I looked at about ten different friends' albums of ten different vacations. Then, I turned my attention back to making dinner.

And I wondered . . . what happens to me during the experience of  'browsing' other people's photos on Facebook?

I love these friends and I am truly happy for them and their vacation. I am. And if I was face to face with them, I would be happily curious to ask them questions and enjoy them and the conversation. But, they weren't there as I looked through their photos and perhaps don't even know that I got a glimpse of their trips. It is as if I broke into their home, pulled the photo album out onto the coffee table, looked through the photos and then left without a word.

What a weird concept.

I am not opposed to Facebook, nor am I wanting to suggest we begin creating blue, paisley photo albums again. I am curious, however, to be more aware of my motives and responses to these virtual coffee table visits.

I  have a feeling that these 'visits' must have an effect on us, perhaps fooling us into a sense of being connected to each other without actually taking the time to engage deeply or get together and just waste some time in each others' presence. Perhaps we are afraid of being left out? Perhaps we feel better (or worse) about ourselves as we observe the perceived happiness in other people's lives? Perhaps we want to fit in somehow . . .

I'm just wondering . . .