Some Thoughts on Facebook and COVID-19

During the last year or so that COVID-19 has paralyzed much of the world’s economy and forced many of us to stay home, sometimes “working from home” and other times just being at home with nowhere to go and nothing else to do, Facebook, Zoom, Twitter, Youtube, etc. have replaced face-to-face interactions for many of us. This was already happening, but lockdowns, quarantine and unemployment has accelerated and intensified the trend.

Like anything else, this trend has had both good and bad results. The good results have included a massive increase in the number of visits and views by Israelis and others to the sites and videos produced by ministries here in the Land, which has led to a lot of fruitful discussions and new relationships. 

The bad results…well, let’s talk about some of those.

A year of unemployment and lockdowns have meant I’ve spent a lot more time with my family than I had been previously, which is mostly good and has, of course, produced lots of pictures to share on Facebook. One such picture of me and my sons roasting sausages over an open fire went over so well when I posted it on my own wall that I decided to post this pic on a group I had recently joined devoted to the topic of outdoor cooking. 

Before I tell you what happened next, I need to mention that in this picture, both me and my eldest son were wearing masks, in accordance with the laws here in Israel (which, as followers of Christ, we are commanded to respect and obey as long as they don’t force us to violate God’s commands to us.)

With that knowledge in mind, it might not surprise you to hear that there were a few nice comments and a literal FLOOD of negative comments and even a few really vile PMs that people sent me. The sight of a total stranger they’d never even met, roasting sausages over a fire (remember, this is a group devoted to outdoor cooking) while wearing a mask, prompted several people to give vent to what can only be described as hysterical levels of incandescent rage.

I clicked on a few of the profiles of the people leaving these nasty comments and based on what I saw there, many of them were Believers, or at least “church people” as they are sometimes called.

Now, to revisit an earlier point, I very much doubt that these people would have said these things to me if our encounter had been face-to-face in the real world. At least I hope not.

But this unpleasant situation didn’t catch me completely by surprise, as I’d encountered a few similar ones before this.

That’s kind of what Facebook has become, a place where we all try to get some affirmation for what we’re feeling, and the feelings so many of us have are frustration, anger, impatience, and above all else, fear. COVID-19 and the often clumsy, illogical and disorganized attempts by our governments to manage the crisis is at the root of much of this collective angst, which has spilled over onto Facebook. At the same time, masks have become a symbol of all that many of us are unhappy about, and so, masks and those of us who uncomplainingly wear them have become a target of hostility for some, especially on Facebook, where people can say nasty things to a total stranger without suffering any immediate consequences for doing so.

Brothers and sisters, here’s what I think.

The Bible commands disciples of the Lord God Jesus Christ to be “salt and light” in this world and that obviously includes during times of crisis. Facebook can be a powerful tool to cheer each other up, encourage each other and otherwise obey that command to “be salt and light” in this world. Or, it can be a tool we use to be part of the reason things are so miserable.

As a poet once said, we all have the choice to either put fires out or feed them.

The individuals who left a bunch of angry, nasty comments and PMs in reaction to this picture I left on the outdoor cooking page have given us an example of what Believers should NOT be doing in this situation. Sadly, like I said, some of these comments DID come from self-identifying Believers and although I don’t want to point fingers, I think it’s not unlikely that some of the people reading this blog right now might have done something similar on Facebook (or possibly even the real world).

So, if you have sinned by aiding the Enemy in spreading/intensifying rage, confusion and fear in this world via your Facebook page, the thing to do is repent and stop doing it. Remember, it’s one thing to “share an opinion” and quite another to simply spew anger and bitterness which never does anyone any good.

Another thing is just to stop complaining about everything, on Facebook and in real life. Something I was taught as a child is that complaining never solves anything, it just makes everything more difficult. I’ve often forgotten this simple lesson over the years, but the past year has helped me to remember it.

For instance, I don’t like wearing masks any more than anyone else does and I’ll be very happy when we can stop wearing them. But until that day comes, complaining about the necessity of wearing masks won’t help. NOT complaining about it, on the other hand, has allowed me to often times forget the stupid mask is even on my face. Thus, the distress I might otherwise feel about it is much easier to deal with. Parenthetically, ignoring silly fairy tales about all the ways wearing a mask would damage my health and instead listening to the advice of medical experts who actually know what they’re talking about on the subject has also been helpful to me in my struggle with this distress.

These are some good general principle to live by and I hereby offer them free of charge to anyone who might be ready to be blessed by them.

To sum up, if you’re using Facebook as a tool to spread cheer, encourage people and otherwise be “salt and light” in this difficult season of history, carry on. If on the other hand you’re using Facebook to seek affirmation for your perfectly understandable yet completely unhelpful feelings of anger, frustration and fear, than you’ll be doing yourself and everyone else a really big favor by discontinuing this practice. The only one you’re helping by continuing this practice is the Enemy.

Here, incidentally enough, is the cute picture of me and my sons roasting sausages over an open fire. I hope it’s a blessing to you and not a curse.