Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Facebook: Is the Obsession the Root of Envy and Misery?

Original article from MSNBC's online article "Is Facebook Envy Making You Miserable?" posted on 22January13.

By Belinda Goldsmith (Reuters)

"Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." - Galatians 5:26

Witnessing friends' vacations, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness, according to German researchers.

A study conducted jointly by two German universities found rampant envy on Facebook, the world's largest social network that now has over one billion users and has produced an unprecedented platform for social comparison.

...Findings signal that users frequently perceive
Facebook as a stressful environment...
The researchers found that one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives, while people who browsed without contributing were affected the most.  "We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry," researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin's Humboldt University told Reuters.

"From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site," said Krasnova, adding to speculation that Facebook could be reaching saturation point in some markets.

Researchers from Humboldt University and from Darmstadt's Technical University found vacation photos were the biggest cause of resentment with more than half of envy incidents triggered by holiday snaps on Facebook.

Social interaction was the second most common cause of envy as users could compare how many birthday greetings they received to those of their Facebook friends and how many "likes" or comments were made on photos and postings.

"Passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations and socialize," the researchers said in the report "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction?" released on Tuesday.  "The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites is shown to undermine users' life satisfaction."

They found people aged in their mid-30s were most likely to envy family happiness while women were more likely to envy physical attractiveness.  These feelings of envy were found to prompt some users to boast more about their achievements on the site run by Facebook Inc. to portray themselves in a better light.

Men were shown to post more self-promotional content on Facebook to let people know about their accomplishments while women stressed their good looks and social lives.  The researchers based their findings on two studies involving 600 people with the results to be presented at a conference on information systems in Germany in February.

The first study looked at the scale, scope and nature of envy incidents triggered by Facebook and the second at how envy was linked to passive use of Facebook and life satisfaction.  The researchers said the respondents in both studies were German but they expected the findings to hold internationally as envy is a universal feeling and possibly impact Facebook usage.

"From a provider's perspective, our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability," the researchers concluded.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prayer As Worship (Part 1)

By John MacArthur 

    Jesus' long prayers were the ones He prayed in private. 
      His public prayers were perfect examples of  crisp, forth-
      right plain-speaking.

Study the exemplary prayer in Scripture and you cannot help but noticing that all of them are brief and simple.  Prayer that is heartfelt, urgent, and unfeigned must be of that style.  Verbiage and windbaggery are badges of insincerity, especially in prayer.  The prayer of the publican in Luke 18:13 is as short and to the point as possible:  "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  Then there's the prayer of the thief on the cross: "Jesus, remember me when you come in Your Kingdom!" (Luke 23:42). Those prayers are cut from the same cloth as Peter's cry foro help when he was walking on water - sometimes cited as the shortest prayer in the Bible: "Lord, save me" (Matthew 14:30).

Scripture records very few long prayers.  Much of Psalm 119 is addressed to God in the language of prayer, and of course, that is the Bibles longest chapter.  Other than that, Nehemiah 9:5-38 contains the longest prayer in all of Scripture, and it can be read aloud with expression in less than seven minutes.  John 17 is the New Testament's longest prayer.  It's also the longest of Jesus' recorded prayers, just twenty-six verses long.

Now of course Jesus prayed much longer prayers because Scripture records several instances where He prayed in solitude for extended periods of time (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46). When it suited Him, He would even spend the entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12).  It was His habit thus to pray, both privately and with His disciples (John 18:2).  And the pattern was clear: His long prayers were the ones He prayed in private.  His public prayers were perfect examples of crisp, forthright plain-speaking.  

Listening to Jesus pray and observing His constant dependence on private prayer gave the disciples an appetite for prayer.  So they asked Him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).  He responded by repeating the very same model of prayer He gave in the sermon on the Mount.  We call it "The Lord's Prayer." We ought rather to think of it as "The Disciples Prayer," because its centerpiece is a petition for divine forgiveness, something Jesus would never need to pray for.  Like all great praying it is both succinct and unpretentious.  There is not a wasted word, not a hint of vain repetition, and not a single note of ostentation or ceremony in the whole prayer.

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation'" (Luke 11:2-4).  That prayer was a pattern for the disciples to follow, not a mantra to be recited without engaging the mind or passions.  The various elements of Jesus' prayer are all reminders of what our praying ought to include:  praise, petition, penitence, and a plea for grace in our sanctification.  Those are not only the key elements of prayer, they are also some of the principal features of authentic worship.  The parallelism between prayer and worship is no coincidence.  Prayer is the distilled essence of worship.

That perspective is often lost in this era of self-focused, subjective, felt-needs-oriented religion.  Multitudes think of prayer as nothing more than a way to get whatever they want from God.  Prayer is reduced to a superstitious means of gain - and some will tell you that God is obligated to deliver the goods.  Religious television is full of charlatans who insist that God must grant whatever you ask for if you can muster enough "faith' and refuse to entertain any "doubt."  Faith in their lexicon is a kind of "positive confession." Doubt, as they might describe it, is any rational or biblical qualm about whether the thing you desire is in accord with the will of God.  Those, of course, are not biblical definition of faith and doubt.  Nor can anyone's prayer legitimately be called a "prayer offered in faith" (James 5:15) if it is contrary to the will of God.

Charismatics are not the only ones who see prayer as nothing more than a kind of utilitarian wish list.  Plenty of mainstream evangelicals and old-style fundamentalists seem confused about the purpose of prayer, too.  John R. Rice, an influential fundamentalist pastor, wrote a bestselling book in 1942 titled Prayer-Asking and Receiving.  He wrote, "Prayer is not praise, adoration, meditation, humiliation nor confession, but asking...Praise is not prayer, and prayer is not praise.  Prayer is asking...Adoration is not prayer, and prayer is not adoration.  Prayer is always asking.  It is not anything else but asking.