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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
I heard about Jesse Rice's book, "The Church of Facebook: How the Wireless Generation is Redefining Community" from an interview he did on a podcast. The topic of online community and whether or not it can be authentic is of interest to me.

I wasn't sure what to expect; perhaps a Christianized critique of the whole social networking phenomenon complete with a set of warnings for believers and suggested rules for underage children. Thankfully this is not Jesse's book. Instead it opens with a fascinating story of the opening day on the Millennium Bridge crossing the Thames River in London. The unexpected shaking that day on the pedestrian footbridge is similar to the online spectacle of Facebook and other social networking sites. Jesse uses this and several other stories at the beginning of each chapter to create a historical framework for interpreting our online interactions. Jesse has done his research well and the book is very interesting because of it.

The science of connecting with others, of creating a "home" where we feel safe is the subject of chapter one. This is followed by a chapter on revolutionary changes to society and how Facebook is set up to be, if it not already is, a world changer. Chapter three delves into the controls people have of their online presence, of the information they choose to share online with others on their profiles. He poses the question of what we will do with the power we have to create, to shape society, with our online influence. Chapter four studies the impact that all of the new information has on an individual, understanding that people have adapted their behavior with this new way to connect with people, share information and collect new data. The fifth chapter focuses on the question of community and whether or not it can be experienced online. Are our relational needs truly being met? The final chapter speaks to implications of using social networking and some of the inherent behaviors that could be attributed to living life via an online presence. Jesse suggests some boundaries to keep the experience healthy, balanced and authentic.

Although the book could be categorized as a Christian book by a Christian author, it doesn't come across as preachy or fear-based. As such I hope it will be picked up by readers interested in modern communication, community development, sociology, and human psychology. It broadened my perspectives of social networking and has stayed with me as I've continued connecting with old and new friends online.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2009
In Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community, Jesse Rice writes about the need for community, which is deeply engrained in all of us. He explains how Facebook has exploded in popularity by tapping into our desires for connectedness and a place to call home. And he takes a look at some of the ways social networking is impacting individuals and communities.

Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom contained in the book.

CPA - Continuous Partial Attention - This is the impulse to constantly check Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. It's motivated by the desire to not miss anything. It creates an artificial sense of crisis. It can cause a person to become over stimulated and unable to focus on what's right in front of him. (P 102)

"In affect the hyperconnection of Facebook changes the nature of our relationships by turning our friends into audiences and us into performances... Our actions are often based on what we think our invisible entourage might like best." (P 112)

People can become dependent on Facebook for their identity, self-worth, and decision making. (P 145, paraphrase)

"[Genuine] community is less about `best-friendship' and more about intentional engagement with the people in our lives... maybe it's not the increasingly online nature of our relationships that is affecting our relationships most. Perhaps it is our `relational consumerism' that needs changing." (P 172 & 173)

"Life can all to often feel like little more than a knee-jerk reaction to urgent emails, phone calls, meetings, and decisions." (P 190)

The book concludes with a some good tips on how to manage life in this always-on, hyperconnected world many of us find ourselves in today.

Do any of the excerpts above strike a chord with you?

If so, you might just want to pick up a copy of Church of Facebook. It can help you better understand how Facebook and smart phones may be impacting your relationships and your emotional well-being as well as that of the people around you.

This review was originally posted at the link below. Click to comment & discuss:
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 4, 2009
When I first saw this book, I thought it was going to be about the evils of Facebook and how it is causing our society to pull away from God even more. As I have said before, I tend to make snap decisions about whether or not to read a book. I usually just need to be intrigued by the title or what little of the description I have read. The Church of Facebook was not at all what I was expecting. It is a very interesting look at our need to belong and how social networking sites are bringing people closer together and in turn closer to God through our online social networks.

I am an introvert, a serious introvert, so when I first discovered Facebook, I was thrilled. Not only did it allow me to connect with family and friends without having to pick up the dreaded telephone, but it also has connected me with others who share my faith and has given me a place to share my faith with others. Reading The Church of Facebook reminded me what it is I like so much about social networking. This book is very well researched and thoughtful. I found the author's insights to be interesting and encouraging about the future of the internet and evangelism. This is a good book for any Christian who is already on Facebook for just thinking about it. The Church of Facebook shines an interesting light on social networking.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2010
I'm currently in the process of studying how our new technologies, including the social media are changing us. I've reviewed a growing number of articles and books, and almost all of them have a few useful things to say and contribute to my increasing understanding. But The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice is one of the finest I've come across yet. There is a lot of wisdom in this book about the media we use, as well as a good start in thinking about how we can more wisely use them.

Rice is a writer and musician with a master's degree in counseling psychology who previously served as a worship arts director. He has a bright future as a writer.

The Church of Facebook is actually partially misnamed: Rice doesn't relate Facebook much directly to the church or even use the church as a metaphor for Facebook, although he does deal with community (as the subtitle suggests). What he does do (and does well) is to analyze the ways that the social media, exemplified by Facebook, are changing our behavior and relationships. Unlike some of the other books on the topic I've read, Rice has gone beyond the mere truisms that any book on the subject can tell you. Instead, he goes deeper into the hows and whys of how Facebook and other social media are changing us, and not necessarily for the better.

Rice chose Facebook (FB from now on) because it best represents 3 realities that are work in the technologies we use:

1. "There is a force capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, thereby creating spontaneous order."
2. "This spontaneous order can generate outcomes that are entirely new and unpredictable."
3. "These unpredictable outcomes require the affected population to adapt their behavior to more adequately live within the new spontaneously generated order."

Chapters 1 and 2 relate to point #1 above. Chapter 1 on Connection was a very slow part of the book, and I was afraid the book would not get to the point. In Chapter 1, Rice makes the point that everyone is looking for a home and that FB is a home.

Chapter 2, "Revolution," talks about the rapid rise of FB and the changes it has begun to bring. Rice further defines "home" in terms of home is: "where we keep all the stuff that matters most to us;" "wherever we find family," "where we feel safe because we can control the environment," and "where we can just be ourselves."

Chapters 3 and 4 relate to point #2 above. In Chapter 3, Dispensation, Rice begins to examine the more negative side of FB and the outcomes it generates. FB empowers us with an endless number of choices over which we have control. But, paradoxically, too much control generates the same outcome as having not control. Users of FB and other social media are "hyperconnected," and FB leads to relationships that are less mature and less "real." In Chapter 4, "Illumination," Rice explores how FB collapses social contexts so that information and social acts lose their context, distorting our identities. 3 boundaries that get fuzzy in FB are: privacy and authority; peer and romantic relationships; and time management and person identity.

Chapters 5 and 6 relate to point #3 above. Chapter 5, "Adaptation," explores the issue of community, and here Rice persuasively concludes that FB, ultimately, facilitates "connection," but not true, genuine "community." In Chapter 6, "Regeneration," Rice begins by looking at Jesus encounter with the woman at the well and from that derives the belief that to use FB in a wise way requires intentionality, humility, and authenticity. One of the challenges will be to combat "busyness" and "procrastination."

Rice concludes with a list of 5 what might be considered "best practices" for FB and social media in general. This is a good list and a good start, although we all need more discussion of practice and not just theory.

Although The Church of Facebook gets bogged down too much by its anecdotes sometimes, it is lively and essential reading. The book would also benefit from the addition of an index.

If you are concerned about how the social media are distorting us and want to understand better how they are doing so, then The Church of Facebook is a great place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2009
If you are online (which you are since you are reading this), then you should read this book. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was still very good. It really made me stop and take account of how I am using my time and how social networking can be handled properly and for good, not just a waste of time. I learned alot of interesting things about human behavior and really enjoyed the stories/examples Jesse shared in order to flesh out his main points. Plus the book has some great little bits of humor, and that is a rare (and welcome) thing in a genre that can get a little dry. This book was very easy to read, but that doesn't mean there was no substance. I really dug this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2010
If you don't know too much about the social networking scene this book will open your eyes to the extent that social networking is impacting on our world. This is an amazing book. An up to date review of where the world is going and how it is being impacted by the Facebook and other on-line communities. Don't be put off by the word "Church". This is not an in your face book about churches - it's all about the impactof Facebook and other similar sites. Lots of ideas to think about and many concepts not being widely discussed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2014
This book provides insights and examples of what makes trends so popular or successful. Before reading this I had a whole different take on social media and the reason it works but after reading the three key principles; force, spontaneous order, and adaption I have a whole new take on what makes trends like social media successful. This is a real eye opener.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2014
This book has given me a different insight on social media as well as provokes thoughts about why and how we communicate. The book is not only informative but is also interesting to read. The author has done a good job with this topic and it is a good read for those who study or are interested in communications.
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on November 4, 2015
Let me start with a few things theologically that need be addressed:
I cannot endorse the beliefs that people should be accepted by God as they are. God's son united with a person upon regeneration is what allows God to accept man. Apart from Jesus man cannot be accepted by God. I wish this point was a little more clear in the book.
Second, loving oneself is not the purpose God gave man, as the final chapter states. I can understand that self condemning mind sets are merely prideful, as one ultimately thinks, "Surely God cannot help me." But a little more clarity through passages like mark 12:30-31, show God created man to love God and others, not primarily oneself.

That stated, I truly enjoyed and have benefitted from this cultural exegesis on the subject of Facebook and social media. 6 years after the book has been published, there are still poignant truths that address the human social networking condition.

The author writes with great wit and flow. The book is not difficult to read, and it is clear that the topic has been well researched.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the tying in of real historical events that emphasize and lay a framework for the topics of the chapters. The Samaritan women example was excellently tied into humans being thirsty for something to satisfy, and seeking out places to quench that desire. The other examples of the millennium bridge, Hubble telescope, and even Oliver sacks story of Virgil, we're all well placed into the logical coherence of this book.

I have already recommended this book to friends and others who work in the youth field, as well as coworkers in the IT department I work in. It is a valuable easy read, and I look forward to using the wealth of knowledge I have gained from it in my ministry and relationships with others.
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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2010
How many people among your friends and family have a Facebook account? I bet the number is growing. About a month ago, my father announced his initial foray into the internet when he sent me a friend request. "I bought a computer today!" he emailed. It's his first, and he'll be 70 years old next year. No longer a fad of the teens and twenty-somethings, sharing information through electronic media is here to stay. Furthermore, Facebook is quickly becoming the the preferred method for staying connected. Jesse Rice, author of The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community, wears many hats: writer, musician, counselor, speaker; but his passion is for people. According to his website, he enjoys helping people utilize technology in "life-giving ways." In this book, he explores a person's need to connect with others, how people connect, how our online connections impact real-life relationships and emotions, and how Christian Facebook users can redeem their time on Facebook.

Rice uses stories, humor, events in history, and his background in counseling psychology to help explain Facebook. First, Rice explains the three realities that are always at work:
1) There is a force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, thereby creating spontaneous order.
2) This spontaneous order can generate outcomes that are entirely new and unpredictable.
3) These unpredictable outcomes require the affected population to adapt their behavior to more adequately live within the new spontaneously generated order.

What's interesting to Rice is that Facebook "is a radical example" of spontaneous order. In a very short span of time, "Facebook's membership doubled from one hundred million to two hundred million people from August 2008 to March 2009...In the first quarter of 2009, five million people joined Facebook every week." Why? As Rice explains, people were created with a deep desire to feel connected to the world and people around them. Without that sense of connection people begin to break down. It's not just any connection, however, that we desire. What lies at the core of a person's well-being is authentic, or deep, connection. These connections help develop a person's sense of home. And it is this sense of home, says Rice, that Facebook is offering. Through Facebook, people create their own "homes" on the internet in which they can share bits of their lives, photos, updates, and play games with their friends. (I even played Mafia Wars for a few months because a "friend" relentlessly begged me. I'll keep to myself how many "crops" shriveled and died before I finally quit Farmville). People feel comfortable sharing their beliefs, political ideology, favorite television shows, opinions, likes and dislikes. Facebook users can ensure their comfort in sharing these bits of trivia because they can "control" who enters their digital home.

New and Unpredictable Outcomes
These new "homes" on Facebook are affecting our "real" homes. Rice writes, "Facebook profiles do indeed serve as a kind of self-portrait. After all, Facebook allows us to arrange the elements of our page around its very simple framework, as though it were our own blank canvas. By the way we arrange our canvases, we can invite observers to notice certain aspects about us even while we keep certain other aspects hidden. We can highlight our successes and downplay our failures." This sense of control in the connected world impacts individuals and "our shared relationships." Rice explores some of the most recent articles and observations regarding the consequences of being so hyperconnected on one's daily life and sense of self. Rice demonstrates wisdom in this area as he considers several unintended outcomes: the dangers of being "tethered;" the dangers of certain boundaries between people becoming "fuzzy;" the dangers of being always-on; living for the status update rather than simply living in one's moments; and the co-dependency in not being able to make a decision without first consulting one's friends.

Adapted behavior
The question Rice wants to answer is Is online community real community, or is it simply connection? To answer his question, Rice turns to an online conversation among several well-visited bloggers, Anne Jackson of, Shane Hipps of Out of Ur, and Scot McKnight of The Jesus Creed. He also draws from the writings of Dallas Willard and Mark Scandrette. It comes as no surprise to Rice that the younger generations see no real difference between relating face-to-face with a person versus relating via electronic medium. To a young person, "It is simply another way of relating. After all, they have mostly experienced relationships as always having contained a strong online component. Theirs is a world where an intimate conversation is just as likely to take place over email (or on each other's Facebook walls) as in the locker room or a coffeehouse or a church building..."community" is not understood as a dichotomy between "real" or "online" relationships, but as a composite of both." Obviously, this attitude reflects an immature view of what it means to live in community. To combat the immaturity and lack of commitment to a real community, Rice offers several ways in which Facebook users can adjust their online behavior so that they maintain integrity and authenticity.

I appreciate Rice's work in The Church of Facebook. Though it felt like it took too long to make a point, Rice uses interesting stories well. I can imagine the difficulty in writing something about the ever-changing internet world. Rice asks relevant questions, uncovers unfortunate realities inherent in online communication, and offers specific strategies for controlling internet use that will be helpful to future generations of the web.
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