(Picture above by james kim, Ekko’s Creative Director)
I was once asked what I felt about social media. The person asking had some concerns about its affect, negative affect, on relationships. Some feel that it is an obstacle for ministers to overcome instead of a blessing and/or tool to use. Here’s my response to this question.
"Great thoughts guys. Here’s my take on this subject, hopefully it’ll add to this conversation in some positive way.
Personally, I believe Social Media (Web 2.0) formats offer more than information. At its peak, information is not the only valuable thing being transmitted. As a matter of fact, at it’s norm, this medium is bringing people together rather than pulling them apart.
This platform is a vehicle for both information and relationships. In a sense it can be both informative and transforming. I say it can be transforming:
1. because it probably would not be argued that it is at least hyper-informative.
2. because any tools that allows for stories, images, motion picture, sounds, etc to be transferred has the power or at least the potential for impact (much like newspapers, telegrams, phones, of the past) and to bridge various gaps.
News is read online, blogs both inform and influence, sports highlights are watched with excitement, and friends share life experiences with each other… as narcissistic as it may seem (and obviously some are definitely self centered to the extreme) it is simply a way of telling our stories. It is a way of inviting people into our lives, to build shared experiences, to connect… basically the stories we tell have found a new vehicle, perhaps a more effective one at that.
"Stories are verbal acts of hospitality" - Eugene Peterson
Facebook, Twitter, Texting, etc are stories verbalized in this generation. We should not deem it inappropriate for Spiritual people nor inadequate in its capacity to bring people together.
To blame technology for separating us or teaching our young people how “not” to connect is to misplace the blame. Technological use for communication is a way of solving a problem brought on by former social revolutions like the Industrial Revolution and especially the automobile revolution (i.e. the “highway binge” in the 50’s).
I don’t have the time here to write all this out but I’m sure you guys are familiar with how the road systems were changed, educational system changed, economic systems, and more, all changed to accommodate the rise of this new industry… literally the landscape of America shifted completely.
(See: The New Urbanism, Toward an Architecture of Community by Peter Katz)
These events in history and with it the relational fabric of America took major shifts that has caused tremendous rifts in our ability to socialize and foster healthy families.
I’m sure technology, including Facebook, can be used to “hide” and “isolate” and become a “loner”. However, it’s often the remedy for the social, economic, and physical landscape and relational dynamics our nation now finds itself in. Therefore, if Facebook and other social mediums are really “problems”, then it’s only the tip of the iceberg… there are generational issues previous to the ones we face today that has caused the problems, if any, to arise in the first place.
Also, we have to consider the fact that the technology used today were created by the “Al Gore” generation. It was the “Al Gore” generation that built the system that the current critiques use to scold this generation. That’s like blaming this generation for the greed of the Industrial Generation that has led to massive drilling and other earth stripping mechanisms. Of course this generation will use all that it is provided, that’s all they know! The real question is: “what was going on inside that previous generation that led to this kind of technology?” Were their relationships truly that much better? Even with face to face time, was it really that intimate, God glorifying, pure, etc? If so, what should we make of the “offspring” from that generation? Although this may be our generation’s problem, it could possibly be the fruit of the previous generation’s sins or maybe it is simply their effort to be innovative and find creative solutions for a world constantly growing larger and apart.
Let’s take the automobile for a minute. Driving these automobiles for transportation will not go away anytime soon. However, the type of fuel it takes can be “repented” of. So it is with communications technology. In and of itself this is not “bad”, but we can “repent” and use it more wisely and more effectively. The question is, are we going to be missionaries who only expose the problem and invite them into our version of “health” or are we going to offer structures of change so that the people can “repent” and live for God in their own world and culture and time?
I believe we as “missiologists”, must approach technology from a different angle. Just stating that it is not conducive for healthy relationships or spiritual formation is only exposing the problem “we” may have with it. Because it in of itself is not a “problem” or a “sin” for that matter. For us to try to change this generation to value some other form of communication is no different than past missionaries who thought it was necessary to change the native’s clothing, language, music, along with their faith and worship. Instead of trusting God with the virus like potential of the gospel, they forced their value system on various cultural structures they found disturbing, ineffective, or simply didn’t understand or like.
(Check Out: H. Richard Niebuhr, has some good stuff on this topic of Christ and Culture… also, check out: Suburban Christian, by Hsu)
In any case, I hope that shed some light on my views… Basically, I like all of this. I like it because it is a clear instrument for communication that my people use. It’s identified and its effective. I want to be skilled at how they, we, communicate so i too can hear their stories and maybe have mine heard as well.”
A MUST VIEW:
Stefana Broadbent /
"We worry that IM, texting, Facebook are spoiling human intimacy, but Stefana Broadbent’s research shows how communication tech is capable of cultivating deeper relationships, bringing love across barriers like distance and workplace rules."
David Crystal / Texts and Tweets
Professor David Crystal, one of the world’s leading linguistic experts, challenges the myth that new communication technologies are destroying language…
WHEN YOU GOT THE TIME, VIEW THESE AS WELL:
Seth Godin / Tribes
NEWS DELIVERY IS CHANGING /
(check out Ekko’s Creative Director’s piece on Proxemics. I remember talking often about this with him and how we want to create more interactive space during and for worship)