Human ingenuity is an amazing thing. Just yesterday, I connected with at least ten people who are geographically dispersed and complete strangers to me. All with one search on a twitter directory website.
Technology has made the world a smaller place. You can find people who share your same interests in a matter of seconds. Then you can read what they have to say on their blog, get minute-by-minute updates from twitter, and even interact with them through facebook, e-mail, online chatting, and on and on the list goes.
But one of the insidious side effects of this social networking revolution is that it has such a potential to draw us into a reality that isn’t real. I think of the teens that I interact with on a weekly basis and how many of them have no context for life before facebook. The challenge becomes being intentional about differentiating between online friends and real-life friends. Because there is a difference.
As my wife wisely said to me yesterday, God created us with a need for community. But that doesn’t mean “online community.” I don’t mean that online community or facebook or twitter are bad things. I don’t believe that they are. But when these online venues become our only place of interaction with other humans, something is out of balance.
When we are not intentional about our purpose for blogging, tweeting, facbooking, or whatever it is, we put ourselves in a precarious position. At least in my experience, it can be so easy to let an interest in online community become its own world where my mind lives. RSS feed updates. Facebook friends. Clever twitters to impress people I don’t actually know. The online world becomes the focus of my attention, while the real world is ignored.
The Reality of the Gospel
One of the wonders of the Gospel is that the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection grounds us in ultimate reality. It is not just a story, but real occurrences that have implications for my life at the deepest levels. Jesus died as an atonement for my sins and rose again, vindicated by God the Father. He demands that I live life with specific purpose in response to what Christ has accomplished. I have a mission to go and make disciples that transcends online communities.
Beyond this, the Gospel should give us an eternal perspective. Although we live in the moment, we have a view that each moment is building toward an end, when we will be reunited with our King, Jesus. But online community tends to militate against an eternal perspective because it puts such a focus on the here and now.
I know that technology can be used by intentional people for the glory of God. I’ve read John Piper’s reasons for using twitter. And if the goal is glorifying God in the lives of other real-life people through twitter or facebook, then the internet and technology are just mediums through which to fulfill our God-given purpose.
But when the medium becomes our reality, we are in danger. The Gospel grounds us in a historical reality with present implications and an ultimate destination. We must never let ourselves be drawn from that.