Facebook! What do you make of this "social medium"? And what is it making of you and of us? One of my colleague Unitarian Universalist ministers solicited and collected comments about the Facebook experience from various members of her congregation. Here's a sampling of what they had to say about it:
As a teen I'm looking at relationship differently. Connections are more important. Our lives are build on relationship. In the 21st century, connections are different. We don't write letters, we text and email and facebook.

I'm enjoying this new toy finding old and new friends. I find people on Facebook I thought I'd never see again. It's like a delightful easter egg hunt: each egg is a friends.

I'm a geek. I communicate better online than in person. I certainly communicate more. For many years seasonal depression kept me from sending out Christmas cards. Facebook, though, works for staying in touch with all my friends all over the country.

I really valued facebook and emails when I was in the hospital this year. It kept me in touch with the people I need to be in touch with. But I also really need face-to-face support. I have a tendency to look like I'm coping beautifully with adversity even when I'm not. It takes someone being right there for me to be my real self. I guess there's a time to facebook -- and a time to pick up the phone -- and a time to visit in person.

Long before there was facebook, or internet dating, or chat rooms on AOL, my wife and I met each other through special interest group postings. It was the clarity of ideas in print that drew us together.

Facebook is a modern-day virtual village. It helps me because I work from home. I don't have co-workers in the usual sense. But through Facebook, I have some of my co-workers back, and I can chat throughout my day if I like. I love it. I hope it never goes away. Heck, I can even talk to my minister on facebook if I want.

If you know how to use the medium wisely, you can enact change and bring attention to things in a much more personal and direct way than anything else I can think of.

Facebook lets you see what people you know are up to. It's not crucial. But you stay connected in a small way that would not otherwise be possible. Like: one of my friends' travails with her hair. It's sort of sweet to stay in touch in an unobtrusive way.

Honestly, a lot of it is just a time killer. All these games and such -- inviting people to do digital, virtual versions of real things: poke a friend, or digitally share a beer. I've digitally poked so many people, and they've digitally poked me back, enough to keep me digitally bruised from head to foot for years. But I guess that's OK because I've shared enough digital beers with enough digital people to keep me digitally drunk until the bruises heal.
"Just be yourself," we are often told. So how do you be yourself through these electronic social media? What is your electronic self? What is it that is presented in "social media"? Are you being yourself? How would you know? Which self? Which part of you does the social media magnify, or change?

Let's start with: who are you anyway? Never mind electronic social media. Just: Who are you?

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This is part 1 of 4 of "The Electronic Self"
Next: Part 2: "Blessed Be. Who Are You?"

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