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What Your Facebook Updates Say About You, Your Faith, and Your Mental Health


Nov 18 2013
New study connects emotional wellbeing with churchy status updates.

While faith does not vaccinate us from suffering or disease, it can make us healthier. It can also provide overriding purpose and hope, two of the requirements for the best kind of life we can live.

This idea flies in the face of Freudian psychology, which treated faith and religious expression as symptoms of neurosis. The importance of faith communities and religious expression are now widely accepted among mental health professionals, most of whom embrace a very different understanding of the mind than what Freud used. The National Alliance on Mental Illness even sponsors a branch devoted to encouraging and equipping faith communities to help.

Ironically, media like Facebook, so revealing in this study, have made flesh-and-blood community rarer and more critical than ever. In an age when emotional venting hums like an electrical current through relationships with both friends and strangers we see onscreen, we need the healthy, transformative community we can find only in being with each other.

We are made for a different kind of life than the one that comes easiest to most of us; a little self-discipline—doing what we already know is good for us—can pay big dividends. In this age, coming together as a community does require effort. It requires us to gather in physical space when we're accustomed to the ease of virtual connection. It requires us to come into close contact with people who have a different perspective—and in a virtual world, we can, instead, indulge the temptation to listen only to those who say what we're already thinking. We know that the power of community can be transformative. History has seen it among every group of people who's made something of the world—they have done it together.

There's a reason Scripture uses the metaphor of a body to describe our relationships with each other. We are made for relationship, both with God and each other, and we Christians are inextricably linked by our common faith and Spirit. This is no less true for people among us who tend toward less emotional stability. "In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care…God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity…If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad" (1 Corinthians 12:22-26).

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