Friday, May 1, 2009

an important feature missing from "Facebook for Pastors"

A while back, Chris Forbes wrote an excellent introduction to Facebook for people in ministry called Facebook for Pastors. Those who have been on Facebook for a while, or are a bit tech savvy, may have already grasped much of the potential Chris is talking about - but it's still worth a read.

Unfortunately, Chris didn't cover one of the most important features on Facebook - a feature which enables us to combat the problem of anonymity typical of Facebook - the problem, "I have too many facebook friends." This is the feature known as "friends lists."

A pastor friend of mine recently blogged that he had a few hundred friends on Facebook - but those that he considered "real friends" were just a small handful. This is a situation many of us will find ourselves in. With status updates of a large number of "friends," those that we really wish to stay in touch with more intentionally, in deeper community, are pushed down the page every moment one of the people who we have friended, but with whom we don't have the same bonds of friendship.

I have nearly 200 friends on Facebook. Obviously, I can't be praying for all 200 every day, and I don't need to know what each of them is doing every day.

Fortunately, Friends Lists helps this situation a lot. I've created a list of the Facebook friends who are in the Bible study that I lead. This appears in the left column, "Bible study" for the name of our Bible study. When I click on this link, only the status updates of these people, who I want to pray for in a more serious way than all the other friends, appears.

Just click on the upper-left "home" link to arrive at the default page of facebook, and in the left column, you'll see, under a list of links, a link for "Create." This allows you to create a list of friends. Type a name in the box where it says [new list] and then hit return (important! it's return, not "Save"). Then start typing the names of friends you'd like in that list in the box at the top right, and check them, to add them to the list. When you are done (and only once you are done), hit "save."

The name of the friends list will then appear in the column of links at the left of your default facebook page. You can add or remove friends from it later by clicking on its name - the link will turn blue with a white pencil to the right - you just click on the pencil to edit it.

I also like to keep track of what people who are in online ministry are doing - so I've created a separate friends list for them, as well.

This feature is incredibly important for keeping Facebook "sane" and directed at the people you most need to be in contact with, and the people for whom you are praying. Please pass this advice along; I do have the impression Facebook is becoming too much of a jungle for many users.


Karen Long said...

You can also do this as you 'approve' your friends, you add them to a list or create a new list directly from the 'approval screen'. :-) I have many lists... my old 'high school buddies', my 'kids friends', my 'kids friends parents', my 'church' friends, etc... you're right, the lists make it much easier to keep up with those you really want to 'see' :-)