Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice

The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected are Redefining Community by Jesse Rice
Copyright 2009
David C. Cook - Nonfiction/Psychology/Religion
231 pages, including references

I don't know if I can do justice to this book, which I loved so much I plan to reread it and share with my husband, but I'll do my darndest.

"The world is shrinking, one profile at a time," it says in bold lettering on the back of The Church of Facebook. Don't worry, though. Like $20 Per Gallon (so nice of me to provide a link to keep you from paging down a whopping 6 inches, isn't it?), The Church of Facebook isn't depressing. It's a little scary, however, the way Rice describes our shift in social lives, how our worlds have been, yes, shrinking down to little social communities on the Internet.

The Church of Facebook opens with the story of the opening of the Millenium Bridge in London, England -- by all accounts a disaster of engineering that, fortunately, did no harm to those who walked across it on opening day. The author talks about how the people walking across the wobbling bridge altered their steps into a synchronized rhythm and then describes how this story fits into the physics concept of spontaneous order, which oddly can be applied to psychology, as well.

I don't know that I can explain the concept, unfortunately, but the story of how we fall into sync with each other is one heck of a grabber opening. I had to restrain myself to keep from reading because I'm in a discussion group (the quietest discussion group on the planet - only two of us have said a thing) and wanted to hold back. Eventually, I figured nobody was talking, might as well read on.

The first chapter of The Church of Facebook describes our need for connection with other humans and the second describes why we have need to feel a sense of control over our own lives. Facebook and other social networking sites, he says, are not enough. The author describes the history of Facebook, how it and other such networks have changed the way we interact with each other, why we need connection with real-life people and a bit of debate about whether or not such social networks can be a substitute for in-person relationships. He doesn't downplay the usefulness of internet connections; he simply clarifies how they've caused us to become more isolated and indicates that social networking should supplement our interaction with other people, not supplant it.

The author concludes by doling out some advice on how to use Facebook in a positive way, "mindfully" rather than just in "look at me" sound bites.

The word "church" in the title gives you an idea that The Church of Facebook is a book that dips into religion. Yes, there's a bit of a religious aspect and it's Christian. But, Jesse Rice is both a psychologist and a minister and the book veers heavily toward psychology. In order to get his points across, Rice drags you around the world to show specific examples. He is apparently a natural raconteur. I was absolutely engrossed and, in particular, enamored with his sense of humor.

4.5/5 - While the church aspect lost me a bit, for a while, I thought this book was just fabulous - beautifully written, fascinating, revealing, thought-provoking, entertaining. Do yourself a favor -- don't skip this book because of the word "Christian". I'd hate for you to miss out.

In case you found yourself blinking repeatedly, wondering whether a massive number of book reviews (sans chatter) showed up on my blog overnight, you're right. I was going to skip right on over the reason, which I mentioned in the first of the five reviews. But, nah. I'll just tell you. I couldn't sleep because the neighbor's driveway spotlight shines directly through our blinds and into the master bedroom. Nine times out of ten, the neighbors remember to turn that darned light off, but on the rare occasions that they don't . . . no sleep. None. I gave up at around 2:15 and I've been hammering out quickie reviews, ever since. I cannot see straight, but at least I was productive, right?

Many thanks to Audra of B & B Media for the review copy of this book.


  1. Another one that interests me! I love psychology and sociology and have been fascinated by my own eager embracing of the internet...especially in regard to blogging. The internet allows me to pursue interests that most of my "real" friends don't share, but I can certainly see the way that computers have led to isolation for some individuals.

    On the other hand, virtual communities are a great boon to many who are house-bound as a result of age or disability. All in all, the book sounds thought provoking!

  2. Jenclair,

    That's funny -- when I was replying to your comment about $20 Per Gallon, I thought, "Jenclair will probably be interested in The Church of Facebook, too."

    Good point about people who are housebound or disabled.

    I think probably the biggest problem I see with the internet interferring with real-life socialization is the way iPhones and blackberries have become practically an attachment to some folks' bodies. My husband will actually check his email or start punching a reply to someone while I'm talking to him (I stop talking and walk away) and I know there are folks who twitter instead of conversing with people around them. It can't be good that so many of us have built a wall around ourselves with our little electronic gadgets.

  3. Okay, must be time for my review now. I'll come back with my link in a few days.

  4. Bonnie,

    Might as well, since the discussion group appears to have been a bit of a bomb.

  5. This sounds very timely, as I've become quite addicted to FB! I try to curtail my addiction by "hiding" friends whom I haven't kept in touch with for years and years. I'll occasionally pop over and see what's new with them, but I could easily spend (or should I say waste?) hours keeping up with the hundred plus people I know as "friends." I'd rather read. Or walk the dog! Or blog-hop.

    Funny you should mention your hubby's BB. Mine just got a smartphone (had one a while ago and had to give it up, but got another this month). Anyhow, it really irks me when he checks his email when we're out with people. He says he has to keep up on the server alerts at the office. When did we become so connected that we can't even enjoy an evening without an interruption from a cell phone?! I rarely use mine. Can barely send a text message without a magnifying glass! ;)

  6. You write some pretty great reviews in the early morning hours. lol :)

  7. Les,

    "Very timely." Definitely. The author actually mentions the fact that most of us end up with more than the peak number of friends that we can balance. Most of my older friends from HS/College days don't see to be on FB, so my friends list is pretty nicely under control and I can safely drop in once or twice a day without missing anything. I guess hiding is the only way you can get people off your FB list -- no unfriend feature? I still feel like a FB baby.

    Yes, see, that's our problem with the blackberry. With a phone that has email/internet connection, there's never any down time. We had one very, very bad vacation when my husband spent most of his time on the phone or emailing because he didn't make himself unavailable to people at work. Now, he tells them he'll be incommunicado during vacation time. We'd probably be divorced if he didn't, by now.

    I'm the world's worst with a cell phone. I leave mine in my purse, so it's never handy. And, I refuse to answer if it rings while I'm driving. I don't text. I don't know how to read a text. I think I'm better off that way, to be honest.


    Thank you. I was still pretty alert, I guess. Around 4-5:00, last night, I hit the wall and couldn't even fathom how to formulate a reply to any of the blog comments I'd approved. So, I was in bed by about 5:30 PM, got up for a short time at 10:30 and then went right back to bed for the night. I ought to be well rested, by now!

  8. Im sure I would love this book. I don't really get all the FB stuff - or have somehow managed to control my interest in it. FB is great for a check-in everyso often and I love that new stuff is displayed in emails so I can decide to open FB if i want to. UNLIKE goodreads where I MUST OPEN to see what is said when I get those e/m notices "Bookfool has commented on your goodreads!" I do see a Twitter obsession developing and have decided that TODAY I won't go on and check it.
    I have SOOOO many online friends in bookblogging but still wish I had fun IRL friends to DO things with. whining, I am. :)

  9. Care,

    I like that about FB, too. I tend to read the replies, link through, comment and then close a window. I don't feel obligated to say something, every day, but it's fun to check in once or twice a day to see what everyone's up to.

    I take days off twitter, too. It can be very addictive. You just have to keep refreshing constantly to see what everyone's talking about! Ack! Nix that.

    I'm shy of IRL friends, too. That's why you need to move next door to me, pleeeeease.

  10. There is a way to unfriend someone, but I just hide some so their daily chatter doesn't show up on my updates. If I'm interested in seeing what's new in their lives, I can go to my list of friends and click on their names. It cuts down on the number of updates during the day.

    I'm not big on cell phones (or phones in general), either. I have a basic cell phone and never use the camera. Rarely ever text (just to Amy or Rod). Probably talk on it a half dozen times a month. And, get this, it's my only phone. We dropped our land-line over four years ago. Don't miss it one bit! :)

  11. Les,

    I added someone who isn't technically a friend and then regretted it and hid the person. That's why I asked. It was a whim. Otherwise, I'm low on friends so FB isn't really a problem. In general, I check in a couple of times a day and that's about it.

    You sound much like me with the phone, except we do still have a land line - mostly for internet, but I also like the fact that if I get a phone call on the cell it's from family, period. I don't even give it out to friends because I'm so bad about not answering if I don't recognize a number. And, I'm usually home, anyway, so they can call me on my home phone.


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