Facebook is a service that I love for many of the things it does for me, but also see it as a necessary evil in other ways. It is hard to separate the personal aspect of Facebook from the great communication tool that it can be for missionaries. And, there is no need to make that separation. Here are some of my thoughts on Facebook and how you can more effectively use it as a communication tool for your ministry.
Facebook Is Not Evil
The guys at Facebook are not out to steal your identity nor your firstborn child. The engineers at Facebook don’t have the ability to give you cancer through your screen regardless of what you may have read on your friend’s wall. Facebook is a tool, not an evil spirit looking to suck the life out of you.
If Facebook is sucking the life out of you it is not the tool’s fault, it is your own. You are allowing it to have the control over you that it does. Shouldn’t we be spiritually mature enough to know how to go to God for help for our needs? If Facebook has become an addiction for a missionary then they need to stop blaming the machine and start looking to their own weaknesses. That may mean they need to step away from Facebook for a while. I promise, it won’t kill you. And, you might find that sunlight isn’t all that bad either.
Facebook Is Evil
Okay, maybe evil is a bit strong, but they are out to make money. You should be intelligent enough to know that they are going to do what is in their best interest, not yours. I suggest that you use Facebook as a tool to communicate with your friends, family and supporters, but never trust Facebook.
It is always safest to assume that everything you put on Facebook will be made public at some point. I know they say that you have control over your private information and they will never share it publicly, but don’t believe it. They have done it before and they are likely to do it again. Remember they are there for their own interests and not yours. This means you should never put anything on Facebook that you would not want your supporting churches to see or know.
Be careful about personal information. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe everyone is out to steal your identity, but you should be smart about what you share. If you don’t want all 200 (or 2,000) of your Facebook friends to know your home address, then don’t put it out there. If someone asks for your personal information, don’t post it on their wall or a public group (which I have seen done numerous times). Do you know all the friends of your friend? Every one of them will have access to your name, address, cell number or whatever you share on your friend’s wall.
Being careful about personal information extends to the personal information of others. Don’t share details about other people that they would not want shared. Recently I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted a picture of me with the pastor. After taking the picture she asked my permission to put it on Facebook. I appreciated the gesture. I don’t care if they post the picture publicly, but it was very thoughtful of her to ask. You should do the same before posting pictures or sharing the information of other people.
Facebook Is For Sharing, Not Storage
Don’t upload all your photos to Facebook as if it were a photo storing website like Flikr, SmugMug or Picasa. Facebook is a great place to share your pictures with your friends, but getting pictures back out of Facebook is disappointing at best. Facebook should never be used as a photo backup system. Use a full-featured photo upload site and make your own backups. This does not mean that you shouldn’t share pictures at Facebook it just means that you should have real backups in other places.
The same is to be said with your status updates and any notes you write at Facebook. Share this information, but if it is important, Facebook should not be the only place that you have this information stored. There is a way to download your Facebook contents. However, like everything else with Facebook, I would not trust that that feature will be available forever. A better way to share your content into Facebook (prayer letters and long form “notes” or blog posts) is to import your website content to Facebook via RSS.
Facebook Is a Tool, Not Your Personal Website
You don’t own Facebook. You can’t control what they will do with the information in the future. You don’t even know that they will exist 10 years from now. What will happen to all the time you invested in putting up pictures and content? You should share things on Facebook, but remember that you don’t control Facebook.
Use the great communication tool that Facebook is to help push people to your own website. This could be a ministry or personal website. A place that you control. Then put links to your website or pull the content from your website into Facebook. Even if people never go to your site and only read the content on Facebook, you at least have the content stored in a spot that you can keep complete control over.