Gospel Choir Preaches: Keep Your Business Off of Facebook

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 19 2013 11:57 AM

Gospel Choir Preaches: Keep Your Business Off of Facebook

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Careful what you put on Facebook

Photo by Manjunath Kiran/AFP/GettyImages

Whether you like it or not, the “Son of a Preacher Man” is no longer the only one who can ever reach you. And you know “This Little Light of mine”? Well, it better not be the shine of your smartphone. Instead, get your gospel 2.0—with its strong rhythm and pure vocals—from some singers whose recent YouTube video is going viral. Their lesson: “you need to keep your business off of Facebook.”

The scene: a church. At stage center: a lead singer and his female accompaniment. He wears a sweater vest and belts out lyrics like, “Sunday you act like a saint/ but your Facebook posts say you ain’t,” without cracking a smile.

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The perils of social media are so familiar that the singers make a strong point without needing to explain their reasons. Of course, social networks are not safe places to share “your business” or vulnerabilities. And it can be exasperating to sift through updates about other people’s relationship woes, midday snacks, or roommate feuds.

There’s the obvious irony that this anti-Facebook video was likely posted to the Internet immediately—before the singers had a chance to catch their breaths. Their message to “tell everyone you know” can best be accomplished through the medium they denounce.

But the video’s other irony is that a gospel choir offers some of the comforts desired by Facebook oversharers. The people who join church choirs and those who post “their business” on Facebook both feel a need for self-expression. They want to be heard. A choir and a social network can both provide a sense of community and belonging—especially for folks who make positive and mindful choices about how to participate.

If these gospel crooners heard my tone-deaf singing, they’d probably tell me to stick with Facebook. But everyone has room for improvement. The person who filmed the performance, which is framed in portrait view, with two slabs of blank space on either side of the screen, might take a lesson from another YouTube hit. A parody of TLC’s 1999 song “No Scrubs” instructs “viral wannabes” to turn their phones sideways when shooting videos so as to make use of the full screen. As it suggests, “when the urge strikes again/ you got to get this moment on camera,” then you have choices for how you’re going to preach your message so all the world can hear.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Rebecca Shafer is a program associate at the New America Foundation. Follow her on Twitter.