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?

7 comments:

Dave Williams said...

My question would be does your profile reflect Christ in it's content? So many of my friends are Christians but there are those that don't. So is your profile bring Christlike?

Red said...

"... 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?"

OUCH! yeah ok I so needed to hear that. I gave up facebook for lent and felt very smug about it but you are right, it isn't about facebook but about the way I use it...
Redx

gazleaney said...

Cat, once again, I LOVE THIS! I think you're dead on. We so often try to come down on one side or the other, but actually we need to realise the good and bad things, and make sure we're being Godly in our behaviour with/on it.

Facebook doesn't cause sin, but it provides a whole load of new ways for it to be expressed and revealed. There wasn't less sin before facebook, it was just different and more secret. And whether you see it or not, you tackle sin with the gospel. Which is basically what you said...

The question I'm pondering is how we help students to think about their social media behaviour. I suppose the first step is probably to help them to realise that it still counts as real behaviour with real consequences. But how? And then what...?

SubZ! said...
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SubZ! said...
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Cat said...

Dave - Thats a really good question. I guess, what does a Christ-like profile look like? Is it one thats plastered in bible verses and prayer requests? Or is it pictures of someone enjoying a pint of beer and they have comments about their favourite art work? Its really easy to have the "appearance" of Christianity - but again, what about the heart?

Red - I was really challenged by this too. How is giving up facebook going?

Gareth - Thank you for your comment :) how encouraging! I am thinking about this question too. I hope to do a seminar on social networking and behaviour and get them thinking about it, but its so easy to dismiss facebook behaviour as not real...the other thing is that some people just dont think about media, social networking etc so maybe we need to throw the net of ideas out and get them to actually think about it!

mmm I feel like I need to chat and think more about this! Lets keep talking and sharing ideas :)

SubZ! said...

Good one Cat, like it... like you said the social avatars are not much like the real person, as many try to potray the person they wih to sell, the cool person, the ideal guy, the sweetest girl in town, the toughest dude .. etc, was thinking about it since last two days, and had this one idea to Gareth's question "how"... is to have them make a list "what i am not and what i potray my avatar as " this would get the ball rolling. impressed by the topic...