We live in a social media world.
In the last few years, our forms of communication have been dominated by Facebook and Twitter. We are inundated with status updates, tweets, friend requests, and follows. So much so, that our traditional forms of media will report on a tweet or a Facebook status from a celebrity, politician, or athlete as if it is major news. Case in point, was yesterday’s tweet from Rob Lowe suggesting that future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning would retire.
The evolution to a social media world is to be expected. In the last 100 years, we have seen a gradual progression in mass communication that has led to this point. What was once an industry, and a culture, dominated by the written word, we are becoming more and more engaged by the visual and the instant.
Now, this has some advantages. We can get information out quicker to people than in previous generations. We also have more freedom and flexibility in sharing. This comes as a great advantage in marketing and getting the word out to people about events and ideas, especially in the life of the church. The social media platforms gives the church more access to the people it desires to reach. This is a positive that cannot be understated.
However, social media and our technological world comes at a cost. Whether it is blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or other forms of communication, we have lost the personal interaction that is important in social relationships. While social media does well in bringing people together, it can also bring people apart. So often, we can see people on the Internet not as an individual but as a blank avatar. This allows for us to say things to someone who we likely would not say in a face to face conversation, especially if we disagree with something they say. Because we cannot see the individual we feel we have more freedom in criticizing or denouncing one’s views. It’s not the person we are writing against, but their representation on the Internet. This type of approach reduces the humanity of the other. It’s not just being done by those outside of faith, but also by those who are leaders in the church as well. We have all fallen victim to seeing profiles on social media as formless representations instead of a human interaction.
Our social media world also interacts with our personal world. We are becoming a people who struggle with face-to-face interaction. Our dinner conversations are more wrapped up in looking at our iPhones than seeing the face of the individual who is sitting next to us. We are all guilty of this, and I put myself in that category as well. Personal relationships must be fostered through things that social media cannot give. Relationships need eye contact, touch, and personal emotion, all of which we ignore if we focus only on technological forms of expression and communication.
This is not a new development. The past few decades have been a slow decline in the amount of personal face-to-face interactions we share with others. Social media only enhances what has been a growing problem of seeing the self as more important than the other.
Each of us must be willing to place boundaries on how we use the Internet. Some of us have not, and it causes severe problems, especially among our teens with cyberbullying. Parents must teach their children how to set proper frameworks for being on the Internet and monitor their children’s use of Social Media. As adults, we must be mindful of what we would say and be willing to stop ourselves from saying things we would not say in a personal and public setting. In the church, we must balance our engagement with the Internet with our promotion of humanity. If our engagement with social media, or other forms of communication, hinders our call to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ then we must question our motives and our actions on these platforms.
Social media is important and will play a role in our communication forms for years to come. We must engage this platform better than we are, today, and teach the proper usages of this important communication tool. If we do not, we run the risk of continuing the downward slope in personal communication. We cannot lose the personal in our quest for technology. If we do, we must just lose ourselves in the process.