I’m a sucker for social media. I like knowing what’s up with my friends on an hour-by-hour basis. I like keeping tabs on those I don’t have the luxury of seeing often. The best usage of Facebook I’ve ever seen was a prayer chain initiated through a simple status update of someone in need. The outpouring of solidarity and support was immediate.
But then I read something fascinating this week: research by British anthropologist Professor Robin Dunbar has indicated that a human being can maintain no more than 150 relationships at once.
Part of me wonders, If the number reaches 151, can my brain explode? Because at last count, I have 945 Facebook friends.
Then it hits me: I don’t have 945 real friends. I mean, they’re real in the sense that they are other human beings, but I’m not invested in each of their lives. I’m not, as Professor Dunbar would say, maintaining a relationship with each individual one.
All of this begs the question in my mind: when the Early Church–that go-to example of beautiful Christian community–was in its prime, how did they function without social media?
Acts 2:42 tells me that they devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.
Acts 2:42 does not tell me that they devoted themselves to RSS feeds, Twitter followers, iPhone apps, or Facebook photo albums.
Which tells me that teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer should probably take precedence over social media as a tool for building the kingdom of God.
That might be a bold statement, and it’s possible that Facebook has helped develop small communities of Christians supporting one another, but at some point, you have to take the relationships offline, right?
There’s a challenge in Acts 2:42, and it’s as much mine as it is yours: are you devoting yourself to meditating on the word of God, to being accountable to other Christians, to doing life side-by-side with your community, and to consistent communication with the God of the universe?
If you, like me, are more apt to write on someone’s wall than to have a open, vulnerable conversation with them, maybe it’s time to ditch the 945 friends in favor of real face-to-face relationships. Maybe it’s time to show by our online actions that we are intentional about our offline lives.
And I don’t think that’s the Twitter talking.