I was starting to write all of the following as a part of my previous post, but I figured I had completed one thought. This is another, new thought, though there are obviously some tie-ins here.
I’ve often said that if I didn’t have a family to support or this affinity for crunching numbers, I would love to own a coffee shop – to sit around drinking a delicious dark roasted Kona while pontificating over the human experience. It would have a stage where poets, writers, musicians, philosophers, theologians, comedians, actors, etc. could come in and share their artwork with an audience. I wouldn’t want to do it to earn a living because margins are so thin, overhead would be prohibitive, there are many substitutes available, and the fact is, I do have a family of 7 children and a wife that depend on me.
Anyway, I am not a sociologist, but I like to play one on TV. The times we live in are changing at such an accelerated pace that I often wonder how sociologists are able to keep up or even decide what sliver of the human spectrum on which to focus.
The advent of the internet and wifi communications has really changed the playing field in how humans interact with each other – particularly when you are geographically dispersed. Growing up, we used to write paper letters to each other. Maybe you talked on the phone (though since you paid by the minute, conversations were usually brief). But to really get into someone’s head (or heart), you certainly had to spend a LOT of time together in person. There are subtleties that you just can’t get in a handwritten letter or over the phone such as what the other person is really feeling /thinking or what their motives might me.
With the internet, we’ve come to expect access to instant information. We’re able to receive and react to information as it is happening. You have a thought. You Tweet or post it on FB. You find a bargain at a local store, post on Foursquare and the place becomes buried under the “swarm” (which is actually a status on 4S).
And . . . you get instant feedback. People “like” your post. They re-tweet. They get on their own blogs and start tearing apart your stance.
And . . . the feedback can come from anywhere in the world. In a weird, kind of cool way, we’ve expanded the borders of the human experience beyond those people we see every day.
There are some wonderful things that have happened as a result of all this sharing. I can tell you personally that the internet has helped me to get to know most of my friends a lot better, and on a deeper level, than would ever have been possible trying to write, call, or catch a minute or 2 together around our hectic schedules. Many of my friends today would not even be my friends if it had not been for the internet.
The other thing is that this instant exchange of information has also allowed me to react to my friends’ needs much more quickly and efficiently than just 5 years ago. If one of my friends is in the ER, I’m able to quickly mobilize and find someone to watch his kids, call his wife, start a prayer chain, look up his symptoms / treatment options online, etc. I can access medical history, insurance coverage, and dietary restrictions. I can start to piece together what happened, who saw him last, what he was doing.
We used to call some of this kind of behavior a form of Exhibitionism. Now, I’m not talking about public flashing or streaking through Pennys. But there was always this negative connotation associated with sharing too much information about yourself with people – especially strangers.
Today, it’s completely turned around. People are sharing EVERYTHING online. What they ate. Where they went. Who they saw. What they were really thinking when they saw that person again, even though they pretended not to notice them. They share photos. Video. Sound bites. (I’m waiting for smell-o-vision).
With anything that involves human relationships, people have mixed emotions that are all over the map and the internet is no exception. Some would argue that there should be no filter and that completely opening yourself up online is REAL. ‘Be real, don’t be fake’ kind of thing. There are others that avoid sharing anything online because they’re afraid of how things might be interpreted, who might be reading, or if it might someday come back to haunt them.
You might have guessed, but I’m basically of the opinion that any grown adult should be allowed to share whatever they want online.
(I won’t get too far into the distinction with children, but suffice it to say that I think the rules are different when we’re talking about minors that don’t fully understand the choices they’re making when using the internet. I will say that it’s not up to anyone to set those rules for my children except me and my wife.)
But back to adults and sharing online. Just as I wouldn’t suggest restricting your freedom to get together with someone to share all of your innermost thoughts, feelings, lusts, desires, anger, hatred, or malice with them, I too would defend your right to do so online. Just as I would be totally against preventing you and others from gathering together in a place the size of Cowboy Stadium to bow to a golden idol, I believe you have every right to promote that activity online.
Some critics of freedom have chosen to focus on the mode of communication – in this case, the internet. For whatever reason, they see the internet as the cause of our societal problems.
I don’t see it that way. If anything, that argument reminds me of a gun control advocate’s logic. All they can see is that people die and guns were involved so therefore, we need to get rid of guns. I would suggest that long before the gun is purchased, the bullets are loaded, or the trigger is pulled – there’s a heart issue of hatred that needs to be addressed. Murder, as Christ revealed, begins in the heart.
Blogs, FB posts, Tweets, and text messages are just vehicles of communication for sharing personal feelings or emotions. If you have issues with what is being written / posted / shared, it has nothing to do with the internet.
I’ll go one step further. I submit to you that all communication — the sharing of our innermost thoughts, motivations, struggles, and successes — only increases our fellowship. If I hate all people from Alderaan and post about it, you now know something about me that perhaps I would not have shared at a party or family reunion or work function. If I start an online anti-Alderaanian movement, you now have more information about me to decide if you want to continue to have fellowship with me or not.
Online communication is a valuable opportunity for us to have fellowship, to learn from each other, to correct and rebuke, or to stand together in solidarity. Christians, especially, need to get out of this façade that everything is fine and happy and start sharing our burdens, confessing our sins to one another so that we can help, pray and encourage the growth and maturity of body of Christ.