Facebook’d Narcissism

kinnon —  December 4, 2009 — 16 Comments


This isn't the first time I've received one of these messages from Facebook in my email. And each time they crack me up.

The message appears to say;

I want you to become a fan of Me.

Now. I'm not inferring that Brother Jim's a narcissist. I don't know him that well.


We've gone from being Facebook friends to him now wanting me to become his fan.


That's no way to build a friendship, Jim.

Sure. I recognize that evil Facebook forced you to stop adding friends after 5,000.

Quelle domage, dude.

And now if I want to hear from you, I'll need to become a fan.



Can anyone have 5,000 friends.

At least in the friend definition of friend.

And did you ever truly want to be my friend.
[Short pause to get sobs under control.]


Was this just a way to add me to your audience.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

16 responses to Facebook’d Narcissism

  1. Funny…Jim just asked me to be “friends/fan” today as well. I am going to send him your post in response πŸ˜‰

  2. How timely a post! Since this morning one of my facebook posts got me “defriended.”

    I’m cracking up as I re-read this! A whole new definition of “friend” here? Makes me wonder if facebook “communities” are going to become something else?


  3. I have lost track of how many of these I’ve gotten – the only places I’m “fans” of are places where I write. And even then every so often someone figures out a way to beat around the system and tries to add me as a fan anyway.

    IMO, this is the equivalent of hiring a publicist to send out group emails to people who know you anyway. A publicist is needed for radio-TV and major print gigs but a lot of this networking we have to do ourselves or it comes off as cheesy as hell.

  4. I hate to break it to you, but you were probably never really Jim Wallis’ Fb friend in the first place anyway. His Fb page was always managed by a Sojo intern.

    Personally I see nothing wrong with folks like Wallis who are public personalities using the “Fan” function of Fb to delineate between those who are actual friends and acquaintances and those who only know him through his books or speaking. Right now there’s no other way to do this on Fb, and it’s not his fault they call this function a “Fan” page.

  5. The “(Name) wants you to become a fan of (Name)” syntax of these email message is legitimately funny/silly. But I agree with you, Mike – to imply (even in a satirical post like this) that people are being “narcicistic” for utilizing these tools to communicate with their “audience” is, well, missing the point, I think.

  6. Mark Van Steenwyk December 5, 2009 at 12:17 am

    [diatribe]Don’t you think it is worthwhile to critique the use of Facebook for platform-building? Or, perhaps, critique platform-building in general? I realize that it may be lame for me to say it like this, but do we really, honestly believe that what Jesus has in mind is: “Go into the world, utilizing social media to build a self-referential platform so that you can use that platform to make virtual disciples of all nations”?

    Yes, I know that this critique could be self-condemning, but it should be raised by all people to somehow link platform-building with their desire to follow Christ. Instead of just assuming it is an acceptable tactic, shouldn’t we spend more time asking WHEN HOW and IN WHAT CASES it is legitimate to use platform building? [/diatribe]

  7. I want to click “I like” on Mark Van Steenwyk’s comment, but this isn’t fb.

    Brilliant post – Apparently, I got what Mark did out of it.

  8. Would that it was I missing the point, Steve and Mike. Read Mark below.

  9. While I agree some questions need to be asked, I think the critique begins with the assumption that the use of “friend” in Facebook was meaningful to begin with. “Friend” became a verb in social networking, lending itself to a whole new marketed/branded usage.

    Neither do I think most of these guys would equate building their network (or platform) with Jesus mandate to disciple the nations (though it shouldn’t be dismissed entirely as a medium to help towards that end).

    Finally, we are all free to accept or reject their social medium networking invitation. If you feel reduced to an “audience”, then by all means. Some may genuinely WANT to be in their audience, because having been so in the past has been encouraging, challenging, rewarding, etc. Is the medium perfect? Of course not. However, I think I have to stand with Mike & Steve on this one.

    However, that isn’t to say I don’t enjoy being in your audience too, Bill! Especially since I know we are friends of the literal kind. Even if you defriend me for this comment (wink).


  10. Bill, Mark’s comment is a helpful reminder/caution against uncritically embracing social media. I get that. And I think the Church absolutely needs to do more to help people be thoughtful in their engagement of social media.

    But what I read in your satirical post just sounded like a personal critique of Jim Wallis – for demoting you from Facebook “friend” status to simply being a “fan” (two terms which you know Jim Wallis has no control over). You may have intended the broader “platform-building” critique that Mark articulates, but I just didn’t get that from what you wrote.

  11. Mark, I think what you’re advocating for is absolutely essential – a more thoughtful approach to our engagement with social media. Rather than criticizing how others use the medium, however, I’d love to read a proposal from you or Bill Kinnon or others how you feel social media should be used. Obviously you are using a blog, Facebook, etc. yourself, so what are your personal guidelines? That’s what I’d like to read about.

  12. Steve,
    I don’t know Jim Wallis, don’t really follow him on FB (or spend much time on FB at all), not sure how we became “friends” but know I didn’t ask him to be my friend, spend no time at Sojo (though Imbi receives their daily emails) and am not really concerned about our friendship or lack thereof via FB. His was just the latest in X-suggesting-I-become-a-fan-of-X FB emails I’d received – triggering my sarcastic post.

    Humor/sarcasm doesn’t work if it needs to be explained – so mine failed in your reading of it. I should have written this post back when I received this same FB fan request from Brian McLaren – since I at least know Brian (to a degree).

    Jay Rosen wrote a post a number of years ago called “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” which defined a social media universe where the audience had become the creators. (I riffed on this when I wrote the People formerly known as the Congregation.) FB fandom is a recreation of the world of audiences and their stars.

    You say Jim Wallis has no control over the terms used. In fact he does. He can choose NOT to use them. Not to participate in an FB created world that redefines friendship by how we participate in it. By and large, I know or am at least connected to the people I have “friended” on FB. I’m not using the space to market my latest product – whatever that may be. For me, for as little I use it, it’s about two way interaction – not about me being a part of yours or anyone else’s audience. When Jim (or his surrogate) asked me to be his friend on FB, I thought there may be some interaction and accepted the friend request. (I didn’t bother to see how many friends Jim had at that time – or I probably would have ignored the request.) The fact that a Sojo intern plays Jim Wallis on FB speaks volumes to me of the ease with which we fall back into the 20th Century PR/Marketing world. It becomes simply one more place to create an audience.

  13. Bill, I’m just glad you became a “fan” of my book. On Facebook even. πŸ™‚

  14. I would love to read a user-friendly approach to this that takes seriously critiques by folks like Jacques Ellul and others. I know folks have tackled this, but a lot of it has felt fuddyish and/or lacking in real honesty and helpfulness.

  15. Hey Bill,

    I just came back around to discover this great, thoughtful response. Thanks for responding to my pushback with your own. I can appreciate what you’re saying about our choice to even use these tools or not. We give these things power, as you say, by participating in them. Is Facebook really “redefining” what it means to be a “friend”? Perhaps. Is that good or bad? Another good question.

    As I said earlier, I’m all for a deeper, more thoughtful engagement on these questions regarding social media. I think you’re doing that, which is great.

    I guess I’m just not quite convinced that the Facebook Fan page model is simply a rehash of the “20th Century PR/Marketing world,” as you suggest. Do you bristle at Seth Godin’s concept of “Tribes,” as well? A Facebook Fan page is just another way to connect with your “tribe,” in my opinion.

    Or, to put it another way, just because we all CAN be creators, doesn’t mean that we all will choose to be. We can all be communicators, utilizing these new media tools, but that doesn’t mean everyone will. There will still be leaders and followers, innovators and laggards, people with bigger platforms and people with little or no platform. The “level playing field” created by the technology doesn’t completely eliminate or replace the “star”/”audience” reality that continues to be played out on it — it perhaps merely augments/alters it a bit. Again, is this good or bad? I love these questions, and I love this conversation. I wish it wasn’t trapped here in this blog comment space. Maybe we can Skype sometime and chat about it further πŸ˜‰

    Steve K.

  16. I look forward to the conversation.


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