The tech billionaire recently likened Facebook communities to the power of churches in bringing people together.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has likened communities on Facebook to congregations at church. And not everyone is willing to bless that point of view.
Speaking at a Facebook Community Summit in Chicago, Zuckerberg told users: “Studies have actually proven that the more connected we are, the happier we are, and the healthier we are. People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and to give to charity—not just because they’re religious, but also because they’re a part of a community. So that’s why it is so striking that, over the past few decades, membership in all kinds of communities around the world has been declining, and in a lot of places by as much as one-quarter.”
Zuckerberg went on to add: “We have to build a world where every single person has a sense of purpose and community. That’s how we’re going to bring the world closer together… We can reverse this decline and we can rebuild our communities and build new ones and work to bring the world closer together.”
In that spirit, it’s unclear what Zuckerberg intends for Facebook, but it does seem clear he’s drawing a comparison between communities on his social network, and the penchant for churches to bring like-minded people together. But any time spent counting the differences between Facebook and going to church will reveal, as rosy as the comparison may sound, that it doesn’t hold much (holy) water.
Here are a few ways that Facebook and church are NOT alike. (Who ever thought we’d actually write that?)
1. No one prays to (or in) Facebook. In 2016, The Atlantic reported that 40 percent of Americans who believe in God pray daily or weekly. Church is an obvious forum for those prayers — an environment that makes many adherents feel safe and at home. But when was the last time you said a prayer to Facebook?
2. Social media is not always positive. People go to church to find reassurance, higher purpose, and listen to a priest or pastor’s words from the pulpit. Facebook might have its share of users who try and spread positivity online, but it equally has its share of cyberbullying. Statistics from the website TeenSafe.com indicate that more than one in three students say they have directly experienced cyberbullying – and social media, Facebook and otherwise, is a sizable conductor of it.
3. You can’t get married on Facebook. You can buy, you can sell, you can invite friends to a party on your rooftop this weekend — but try as you might, you can’t say “I do,” to a loved one on Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth. Yet. That’s still an area where churches have the leg up.
4. Social media can potentially jeopardize your privacy. Okay, going to church may be a public outing whereas logging onto Facebook might take place on your phone or at home — but, aside from showing your face, attending church is still a relatively private activity. You likely haven’t shared your phone number. You don’t have sensitive information out there which hackers might attack in order to steal your identity. When it comes to church, you go, you participate, you leave. That’s all.
5. Excessive social media usage makes us feel isolated. Contrary to Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebook is redefining online communities, a recent study published in the American Journal for Preventive Medicine — which we previously reported on Moneyish — concluded that spending more than two hours a day on social media can double your risk of feeling socially isolated, as opposed to spending just 30 minutes or less perusing your favorite social sites. Now, compare that to 2012 research from Gallup which indicated that those who regularly attend church are, by and large, happier people than those who don’t.
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