Unfriend Yourself by Kyle Tennant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book short on pages, but long on thought provoking questions. In Unfriend Yourself, Kyle Tennant discusses both the advantages and pitfalls of social media. He asks questions relevant to the Christian life and our online persona such as do our Facebook status updates amount to bragging. He explains that we attempt to put our best foot forward at all times, and in so doing we may "like" pages of celebrities or bands we've only heard of and have no connection just to make others perceive ourselves a certain way. If we compare ourselves to the online persona of our "friends" we may walk away depressed because we feel our lives don't measure up to theirs. Personally, I tend to try to make my status updates interesting. My attitude is life is an amazing adventure and there's always something humorous or amazing to share. I have had a number of people tell me how entertaining my status updates are. For instance, I recently saw a working payphone. I snapped a photo and asked when the last time everyone had seen one of those.
He also talks about how we can still be lonely even if we have a large number of friends. He mentioned the "just" factor and how we need to rid ourselves of "justs" as in "I'll just text her." Tennant said many times the "just" is a substitute for better social contact such as an in person visit or phone call. He also discussed how he visited a friend in the hospital and how that friend got a large number of texts but few visitors. While in the past those same people may have been inclined to make a hospital visit, but in that instance they "just" texted. This resonated with me because I was in the hospital recently. I enjoyed every e-mail, text, and Facebook message I received. Friends as far away as Russia called me. Obviously they and friends who live out of state couldn't visit, so their phone calls meant as much as a visit to me. However, I posted on Facebook I was in the hospital. While I received a large number of posts, what really surprised me was the people who saw that and then visited. One friend I hadn't seen in twenty years stopped by and brought me tacos. I believe this is the power of social media that Tennant would like to see utilized. I, like Tennant believe there can be positive ways to use social media rather than interacting with a screen. He mentioned creating events for his teen group (he's a youth pastor) and that gives him a pretty accurate count of how many will attend. I believe social media is a boon when it facilitates off line relationships. I recently asked on Facebook who would be willing for me to visit them as I have a free airline ticket that expires soon. I'm visiting friends I never would have thought to toss the idea out to them, but I'm so excited about spending a weekend with them. A group I'm in at church uses social media to send out reminders when there is going to be a change in location of our class. I believe these are great ways to utilize a tool that can be used for good or a great time waster.
Tennant also discusses how he "friended" a number of those who were going to be in his freshman class in college. They had a lot of heartfelt discussions an expected to be close friends when they arrived on campus at Moody Bible Institute. However, those were not the ones he became friends with. He discusses the awkwardness that can come when meeting an online friend. I know for myself, when discussing my social network, I always add the modifier "online" in front of "friend" for someone I've never met. That's not to say that online friends don't turn into friends because they do. Back in 2003 I met someone on a message board. I was in Florida and visited that friend's church, and we still exchange e-mails to this day. We're not close friends, but I am thankful for him and his family.
He discusses the fact that social media will never save nations, but he does discuss how Christians can use social media to uplift others. He encourages a weekend fast of social media while reading this book. I didn't do that as I had extremely limited access to Facebook when I was in the hospital and don't even read everything on my news feed. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.
FTC disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Interested in finding out more or purchasing this book? Visit the Unfriend Yourself page at Moody Publishers