Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Redeeming the social avatar

A couple of days ago I spoke about repainting ourselves online and how we express ourselves differently. On the otherside of that, Emma Scrivener wrote a really great blog about social networking and how it can be used in a dishonest way.

One of the challenges that was raised in our discussion of social networking were the dangers and uses of social networking. There are many dangers of facebook and twitter and other such social networking sites. But that flags up a challenge for us as Christians. What I notice so often is that as Christians we like to say "no". That is one danger of social networking for us - we will brand it as "evil" and abstain from it and we will feel good about it, in fact we will feel holy.

Don't you feel righteous when you can say "no" to facebook? Where you can give it up for lent? We just get a real sense of holiness that we are not entrapped by this new fad. That is a huge danger and I think we need to steer away from that and actually turn this all around because the reality is that the world is using social media to connect with people and you may argue that this isn't right - but it is how people are creating communities and as Christians we can bury our heads in the sands of time or we can can actually use this social media for good.

So I ask this question - "How can we redeem social media for Christ?"

Social networking isn't a sin, but what I find is that I struggle with it because it highlights or projects sin more clearly onto its blue and white pages. But the problem isn't facebook - those sins are in my heart already. So maybe I need to think about how facebook can expose my sin and how am I going to deal with that sin in my heart? (i.e take it to Christ and repent). Here is a picture of Mark 7:14-23 - what defiles a person is what comes from the heart! So if I see myself putting up statuses that I know will feed my pride and give me attention - then social networking will project that, but the sin comes from my heart first... 

So lets redeem this social avatar, let social networking be a platform of displaying Christ. Lets think about how we use social networking - for who's gain is it for? Mindless gossip? stalking? attention seeking? or opportunities to bridge gaps in communities, to share the Gospel, to say encouraging things, advertising gospel projects or events, connect with people and to open our lives to people on one level?

But also social networking has a big arrow to the desires of the world - to be wanted, to be loved and to be a part of a community. Social networking fulfills that on one level and on that level we can get opportunities to share Christ and redeem all our activities on social networking for Christ. But then there is another level - the offline level, where real community is at, where we eat together, share life together and have face to face conversations. The social networking world is thirsting for authentic relationships, so then as Christians we need to fully give that when we are offline - in our church, in our street, in our job and in our relationships. There is no point offering a community and a relationship only through social networking and then ignore those who are next door to us!

I guess my concern is that we so easily open up when we are in front of a screen, but will we open our doors to those in need? Will we share the Gospel with those next to us on the bus? Will we invite that lonely person round for dinner? Will we open and share our lives with those around us? Will we eat with them and invite our non Christians friends to be a part of a community that loves, enjoys and encourages one another? Will we be that community?

What a challenge. What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Repainting my self portrait

Where do I hang my self portrait? Where can the world admire or scorn it, comment on it and "like" it?

With each stroke of the brush and tap of the keys I upload my profile with quotes, captions and images. Here I am in written form - my self portrait on display. Social Networking is the gateway to all our own self portraits on display - its a gallery of creative musings, expressions and life. The question is whether its real or not? 

At team days we had a discussion on social networking and the challenges and implications of using this type of media to connect with people. There were some debate on whether social networking allows us to hide behind the screen and re-invent ourselves online so that we could be whoever we wanted. And I could if I wanted to - I could pretend that I was an amazing tea-drinking musician that wears victorian floral dresses. The problem though is that my real friends would know that this isnt true and therefore would question me over this. 

Perhaps we are all too suspicious? We think everyone is a fraud, trying to woo us to believing they are someone else, causing us to mistrust them and therefore we never enter into any deep relationships because we dont want to get hurt.

Lets turn this around.

Perhaps the portrait I project onto the social networking sight is the real me, perhaps its a space to invite others to see another side of me? Maybe social networking allows another way of being creative and connect with people which doesnt have to be disconnected with real life. What I say on here, is what I say in real life - let there not be a divide in "real life" and "social networking life". We need to be accountable in both and not separate them. 

My self portrait is up on the canvas of social networking. I could repaint it, but people would know and challenge me. I could move to another country and repaint myself, pretend to like new hobbies and dress differently, but in reality my heart is still the same - I cannot run from that. My heart is still the same on a social networking sight and yeh for a while I could be someone else, but in the end I cant sustain that and why would I want to? And why do you expect everyone else to be an alias? Maybe we are all expressing ourselves in different ways that capture a particular instance of our identity that is projected onto our self portraits of facebook. 

Not so different from self portraits of Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and Andy Warhol...
All expressions of how they see themselves and none of them I would say are repainting themselves to be something they are not.

"My painting is a representation of life, my own life above all, which has been very difficult. So perhaps my painting is very violent, but this is natural to me." Francis Bacon Quote

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Coffee on a Postcard

UK Coffee Week is approaching (4th-10th April) and below are a collection of postcards of the London Coffee Festival, which I love! I wish I could be in London and see it and be a part of it. However I will drink more coffee instead. Perhaps those close to London will blog about it?