So, all of Facebook takes place on screens – whether it is on a phone, an ipod, an ipad (as I am writing this on my ipad) or on a computer.    It’s all virtual and there is always a barrier between people.

That can be good and that can be bad.   Let’s call it the “screen effect.”

What’s the bad thing about the screen effect?    There are a lot of things that people say on Facebook that they wouldn’t say if they were sitting across the table from someone.    Politics, morality, parenting, family relationships, governmental regulations, religious freedom, sexual orientation are all issues that get discussed on Facebook.   Most of them quite heatedly.    And in many of them, people say, actually write, things that they wouldn’t say quite so strongly or in such an antagonistic manner.

And that hurts people.   And it hurts relationships.   All because of a screen that’s in between the people on both sides of the conversation.

But there’s a good side to the screen effect too.

It has to do with emotions, with pain, with suffering.   Witth struggling, with depression, with trouble.  With loneliness, with questions……

How can those be good?    There are a lot of people on Facebook who are struggling, who are hurting, who are in need of help.    And a lot of those people are getting the help they need – because they feel comfortable opening up to others because there is a screen in between.    There are countless groups on Facebook where people can join the group and talk about their struggles, their dreams, their pain – and often open up with others who are facing the same things.

The beauty of the “screen effect” is that it enables people to connect with people with similar passions, concerns, etc. that they do.    And most people feel more comfortable opening up with others when there is a screen in between them and when geography doesn’t make a difference.

I’m member of a number of groups – one of them is people who have kids from the same orphanage we do.    Another one is an eclectic group set up by Jon Acuff who are all “Dreamers and Builders” and aren’t satisfied with the status quo.   A third group is one that I’m setting up – it is all adoptive dads in Michigan.

All of them have connections that wouldn’t happen otherwise.   All of them have people who I consider friends who I would not know otherwise.    All of them have opportunities to open up, to connect, to be vulnerable that wouldn’t happen if it would require sitting down face to face.  

So, the screen effect – it can allow people to say things in ways that they wouldn’t in real life – and that can be hurtful, painful and difficult.

And it can allow people to dream, to share, to struggle and to be vulnerable and be supported in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

Screen effect – I’d say the good outweighs the bad even though the bad is much more noticeable.

Tom