Marshal McLuhan was the one who coined the phrase “the medium is the message” back in the 1960’s. In his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, he explains what he meant:
This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.
What McLuhan was getting at is that there is more to the use of new forms of media than just the obvious ones, i.e., the telephone allowed us to communicate over long distances or the television provided the opportunity to watch a drama in your living room. Though dramatic, these type of changes are the more static ones that these forms of media brought in their day. McLuhan’s thesis, certainly one that is readily observed once we become aware of it , is that new media also dynamically shape the people and culture that use them, often with unforeseen consequences. Certainly Alexander Graham Bell did not want to discourage people in writing letters, allow others to listen in on the secret conversations of others, or to help gossip spread faster, yet those are just a few of the numerous consequences of the telephone. The medium does not just deliver the message, but shapes those who use it in positive and negative ways.
That is why McLuhan saw media as an “extension of man.” You are not just using the computer, smart phone, I-Pad, or whatever device you have that is allowing you to read this post without any impact on you. Being on the internet is not an inert action. Rather, as you give your time, attention, and mind to receiving and responding to this medium, it is engaging and influencing your mind, shaping your thoughts, affecting other people, and even directing your heart more than you like to think. (One article that illustrated this well to me a while back was entitled “Pixels are People” by Nathan Bingham.)
So here are five or six articles on the impact Facebook is having on us. The first just gives the most current stats, the next three some dangers you might not have considered, and then, to end on a positive note, how we can and should use social media in a way that edifies us and others.
39 Amazing Facebook Stats – Though some doomsayers have predicted the end of Facebook, claiming younger users are switching to different social media, with over a billion users it does not look like that will be anytime soon.
Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? – This older article from The Atlantic is still a good one in that it points out some of the consequences of media used poorly.
Could Facebook Be Making You Miserable? – I never even knew there was such a thing as the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, but here it is along with an explanation as to why you may feel sadder after logging off of Facebook.
“Selfie” FB Photos – Before you put that next picture of yourself up on Facebook, this study shows that you may want to think about how it will impact everyone who may see it.
How Social Media Made Me a Better Person – This approach will not come naturally but requires a healthy, prayerful practice of the great commandments as you use Facebook and other social media. How Technology Made Me a Better Christian offers further encouragement in using the tool of the internet in a godly manner.
Though certainly Mark Zuckerberg did not intend the Message of all messages to be spread and encouraged on Facebook, those following Christ can use it to that end.