I recently read a short blurb on Twitter which mentioned how important it is for religious leaders to use social media because, if you’re not online, you don’t exist to anyone under thirty. This reminded me of a discussion I had with my friend Joey Reed concerning Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media and how people of faith use them.
First, I’d like to point out every bit of new communication technology has had its detractors. From the Guttenberg press granting the unclean masses the ability to learn above their station to television rotting the minds of our children, complaints have been loud and forceful. It’s the same way with social media and the Internet.
Interestingly enough, the complaints about modern communications echo those of the past. I’ve met a number of educators, teachers, and religious leaders who complain about the availability of information on the Internet. Many whom I’ve met have been annoyed that anyone (the unclean masses) is able to learn without the need of a traditional lecturer. Some, it would seem, are upset because it takes them out of a position of power. They are no longer the arbiters of knowledge able to hand it out as some special mystical gift to the “chosen ones.”
Others complain that social media is ruining the minds of our children. It keeps them online too much. They’re engaged with online activities to such a degree they’re not able to interact with “the real world.” It sounds exactly like the same thing my parents told me when I was a child. “Derek,” they would say, “you keep playing those video games and watching TV all the time your brain is going to fall out and you won’t know how to deal with other people.” My mom is gone now and the Technological Age has left my father behind. I love them both very much and they were right about a number of things but, on this, they were very wrong.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Both of these areas do need direction and guidance. For example, we need to be effective guides who will show others how to find good sources in a world of free information. As web 1.0 came on the scene, I learned the hard way that there was a great deal of horrible information out and about. Much of it was deliberate misinformation because geeks and nerds such as myself love to mess with people’s heads.
In the areas of consuming media, we have to also teach people how to be discerning. This is one reason I’m studying signs and symbols. I’m a huge believer in grace and try my best to see God in what would be considered by some the darkest and dirtiest corners of what is often loosely referred to as entertainment. I do not recommend this for everyone. In fact, I don’t even recommend it to myself where everything is concerned. There are some things even I’m not ready to handle.