By Antony Brennan for ISKCON News: There are now more than 500 million active users of the Facebook social networking service. A social networking service is an online website that focuses on building social relations among people who share interests and activities. Internet based social network services make it possible to connect people across political, economic, and geographic borders.
Discussing social networking in an article on Dandavats.com, Dushyanta Dasa said, “There is a high number of individuals aggressively seeking spirituality and genuinely seeking answers to unanswered spiritual queries.”
With so many people around the world using Facebook to communicate with each other it has become a natural field to engage people in Krishna consciousness.
In his article, Dushyanta says complacency in exploring the potential opportunity of outreach on social networking sites like Facebook could be to the detriment of the ISKCON outreach mission.
“Facebook has been a very effective tool for Krishna conscious outreach,” says Nityananda Dasa, a devotee at the Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji Mandir, in Dallas, Texas.
“Every year, I perform temple tours for thousands of college and high school students,” says Nityananda. “I invite these students to add me as a friend on Facebook and then I can continue to communicate with them in that way. I have over 100 contacts that are just from the tours alone.”
He continues: “Every week I post many things to my Facebook page: reading notes, Krishna conscious photos, quotes, links, and more. I also invite those friends to any events that I think would be great for them such as kirtan concerts and major festivals, plays, or seminars. The nice thing is that anything I post on my Facebook page appears on their page as well.”
Nityananda says he has found using Facebook as an outreach tool a lot more effective than sites like MySpace. “Anyone who is curious about Krishna Consciousness can follow along without even having to write,” he says.
The Facebook ‘Like’ button allows people to indicate they are interested in a message, or a photo with a single click. “The ‘like’ button is genius,” Nityananda says. “It is so simple, you don’t have to write anything and it gives the writer acknowledgment and encouragement.”
Other devotees, however, have pointed out that there could be issues for devotees using social networking. In another article on Dandavats.com, Sridevi Dasi says there is evidence that shows social networking can be addictive.
“There are devotees already justifying their presence on these sites,” she comments. “We keep in touch with so many devotees worldwide; we know what’s going on in ISKCON worldwide, but at what cost?”
In a response to Sridevi’s article, Dhanesvara Dasa writes, “Some devotees on Facebook write about being very isolated—not having much association on a regular basis. For them Facebook IS their association.”
Although it can be said that the jury is still out on the true value of social networking, it has also been said that to ask if social media could be useful for religious organisations is like asking, 100 years ago, whether the use of telephones could be helpful.