For good or ill, we are all influenced by those around us. Some – like our colleagues or family members – we can’t choose, but our friends we can.
A friend of mine recently pointed out to me (inadvertently) what a great snapshot of our friendships the Facebook news feed is. This friend, Paul, commented how tired he was of Facebook; his news feed page was always so negative. His friends’ status updates all seemed to be complaints about something or other – they were stuck on the bus, they were having a(nother) bad day at work, they were leaving work late, the weather was miserable – everything they experienced with any of their senses was negative.
My news feed couldn’t be more different. It is filled with people sharing news of their children’s success in scoring a goal or winning an art prize; of amusing, encouraging and thought-provoking quotations; of funny stories about being stuck in a lift or catching the wrong bus; of reflections on the great books people are reading, albums they’re listening to or sermons they’ve heard. It is characterised by people rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. Oh yeah, and it features a few people dusting off their Shakespeare quotations!
I am blessed to have friends of all ages and stages of life, of many nationalities and personalities, living in villages, towns and cities (and on a ship!) all over the globe, but I’m also incredibly blessed that so many of them share such positive, uplifting snippets with the world and thus with me. A trip to Facebook almost always brings me a smile.
If it’s true that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34), it also follows that out of the overflow of the heart, the fingers type. Have a look at your Facebook news feed (or your e-mail in-box, or your twitter feed) sometime and see what shape your friends’ hearts are in.
Is there anyone who needs prayer? Is there any way you can start to shape the messages they are surrounded with each day?
We often complain that the media only likes to report bad news or the negative aspects of a story, but Paul’s Facebook experience reveals part of the reason why – human beings love to focus on the negative. It often takes an act of will not to, but I think it’s worth it. When the culture’s dark, the best way to transform it is to spread your light.