Guest Post: How to Use Facebook and not be Used by Facebook

So this guy is no stranger on this blog. But Nils isn't just my brother and a guy I totally look up to. He also happens to be a leader in the social media field, particularly in the church realm. Nils writes regular columns for My San Antonio and has been interviewed again and again in other publications wanting to pick his brain. I feel like I don't need to say much else about Nils because I've written about him here (and here and here and here and well you get the point). I asked Nils to give us some insight on Facebook because I've heard so many people complain about what a waste of time Facebook is and we should just quit the whole thing... and yet we are always sucked right back into it. So I hope this helps you find some balance.

Over the past few years I have heard a lot of negative things about Facebook and why Christians should not use this site.  Some say it is a waste of time with no value and others go as far as to say it is the cause of affairs and other horrible things.  As the New Year has hit I have heard many people who have made it their resolution to quit or take a break from Facebook. 

It seems to me that the problem isn’t Facebook itself though, but how people are using the Social Media platform. 

Facebook is simply a tool to help people stay connected.  That’s it!  It is a FREE platform that allows you to post pictures, videos, announcements, send messages, video chat, and so much more.  You can share this with whoever you want (your choosing) and befriend who you want connecting with them.   It’s much like a telephone many years ago except in my opinion it’s way better! 

Just recently my sister-in-law had her first baby and it was so fun to watch her share this experience with her friends and family from all over the country.  She gave updates from the moment her water broke to a picture of the baby just minutes after she was born.  It was a beautiful moment for her and amazing for her friends and family members to all feel apart thanks to Facebook.

No that I have given my sales pitch for Facebook, I have to admit that there is a dark side.  Many many extra marital affairs have been initiated on Facebook, bullying has occurred, identities have been stolen, and many people are spending way too much time on the site and disconnecting from their every day activities continues to occur.  

Despite all of the negative things that have occurred through Facebook, I still believe that it is an incredible tool to connect people and the problem is not the site but those using it.  These things will probably not stop happening on Facebook as they have not stopped happening using telephones or email.  You can though do a few things to help prevent them from happening to you.  Here are my suggestions:

1)  Accountability.  Have some accountability when using Facebook and have 1 or 2 people that have your login information and can randomly just check your messages and activity on the site.     If you are married I can’t find one good reason why your spouse should not have your login information.  Even if you’re single I encourage you to do the same in finding 1 or 2 people who you can share this information with and can hold you accountable to both your in person relationships as well as online interactions. 

2)  Privacy.  Understand the security/privacy features that are available on Facebook and set them to a level that you are comfortable with.  You don’t have to share with you pictures and information with anyone that you don’t want to.  Here’s a link where you can get more information about Privacy settings: http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy.

3) Schedule. I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan and he often talks about telling your money where it’s going to go instead of your money telling you where you’re going to go.  We should do the same with our time.  We can often think that we are going to login to Facebook for 5 minutes and an hour has passed us before we go.  Try deciding what times and for how long you will login to Facebook in advance and see how much better you maximize your time on the site. 

Nils Smith is the Social Media Pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, TX overseeing the online community of CBC Online.  He is also a husband, father, sports fan, blogger, and has an amazing sister (OK, I, Becky, added that).  If you want to know more about Nils and his ministry you can visit his website at http://NilsSmith.com.  


What have you already done in your every day life so you aren't USED BY Facebook but instead USE IT? I'll share my thoughts in comments too.