Thursday, 16 August 2012

The blessings & curse of social media

I've been doing a bit of pondering on Social Media recently; I can't quite condense it into 140 characters, but perhaps this will spark a few of your own thoughts as to how you use it...

Social Media is here to stay... Facebook & Twitter may come & go, but engaging with each other in this way will be around for a long time.

Whilst I did know (& enjoy) life without it, most UK teenagers have grown up with "liking" "sharing" "tweeting" "following" "blogging" as part of their everyday life experience.

In itself Social Media is neutral.  It's only one means of communication; a tool to help people interact.  Like a hammer can be used to build a homeless shelter or smash someones' brains out, so Social Media is a tool which can be used positively or negatively, to build up or destroy.  And how this tool is used reveals a lot about the user.

Some challenges arising from Social Media:

  • It can feed the monsters of self-obsession, self-promotion & image management, which lurk inside us all (as opposed to the Christian virtues of self-forgetfulness, humility & authenticity). 
  • It can be a big waste of time.
  • It gets in the way of helpful habits of stillness & solitude.
  • It can hinder the building of community (constant phone fidgeting & status checking can kill the blessing of face-to-face interaction; plus I don't get birthday cards in the post anymore, which sucks!)
  • Some research indicates that it makes you more stupid (reducing curiosity, attentive listening, memory retention & understanding context). 

Some blessings of Social Media:

  •  It's great to enter into someone's cyber world & share their laughter, joy & tears (last Sunday it felt like I had 20 friends in the room as we shared silly/grumpy comments on the Olympic closing ceremony). 
  • It enables a "presence" with people who live beyond our geographical reach.     
  • It can be a blessed waste of time.
  • It can be a community builder; enabling us to share messages, photos & banter and understanding each other a bit deeper.  It also helps me to remember birthdays (so I can send a 140 character birthday greeting).

Some questions (which according to the research mentioned above you won't be bothered to think about):

If we follow Jesus, the heart of His Gospel (Good News) is relationship - love God, love others, love self.  How does your usage of Social Media hinder or advance these relationships?

What are your boundaries? How often do you check your status updates?  What does this reveal about you?  What are you NOT doing when you are digitally connected?

Master or Slave: is Social Media a tool to serve you or are you serving it?

Right I'm off to upload this to Facebook...


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