I yielded to peer pressure and have begun to lead a modestly active Facebook life.

Out of sensitivity to Christianity Today's average reader—with all due respect, sir, I could easily be your daughter—let me first answer the question on his mind. Facebook.com is an online social scene that boasts more than 30 million users and a daily subscriber growth of 150,000. The dream of its owners is that someday the site will render superfluous all other virtual hangouts and depositories of data (for example, the photo gallery Flickr.com). There's something healthy about the way this "social utility that connects you with the people around you" helps its users merge their social worlds. It can foster cohesion and transparency: I give an account of myself both to a friend from school whose profile brims with lascivious leers and to a friend who works for World Vision.

But critics see Facebook as a haven for stalkers and narcissists. In their view, Facebook helps people who need attention (doesn't everyone?) get it from others and give them some in return.

Whatever my deep-seated issues may be, I use the site to keep up with people I know personally—to learn what they read, do, see, listen to, taste, and care about. When a friend's status update said she was "grieving the death of a comrade, a young woman who was a noble advocate for peace in northern Uganda," I wrote a note to commiserate. If not for Facebook, I wouldn't have had that chance. I've also joined groups of like-minded people, including my master's degree class, the Wendell Berry Society—made up of fans of the neo-Luddite poet who must have a sense of irony—and This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.

I reserve intimacy for the incarnate realm, but I don't ...

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A Fishy Facebook Friend
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October 2007

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