Monday, June 28, 2010

Social Media: Blessing or Curse?

Are social media websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) aides to true community living, or distracting hindrances?  Is it okay to connect to others through technology but to not meet person to person with other believers?

From Ed Stetzer at Ligonier's blog comes this opinion:
Those who attempt to find community exclusively online will miss out on the fullness and authenticity of relationships God intends for us to have face to face. Gathering together (Heb. 10:25) requires feet and faces, not just electrons and avatars. Therefore, when a Christian seeks to be a part of a local church only by live streaming the worship service and conversing on message boards, he is short-circuiting the fellowship of the saints and his own spiritual growth. Yet, I do not believe that virtual community and real community are enemies. I see them more as friends, the former as a help to the latter. Unfortunately, for too many theologically-minded pastors, their aversion to the abuses of social media has distracted them from the opportunity they provide.

While social media cannot replace real-life interpersonal relationships, they can assist in building real community by connecting people in ways that allow them to share both the big and small things of life. Web services such as Facebook allow people who might see one another only during church on Sunday, or midweek in smaller community groups, to continue to share aspects of life they would not otherwise. This allows friends to look into the parts of life we share and respond with encouragement or exhortation.
Jeff Lacine at Desiring God made the following comments on the post quoted above.
This is true. Social media can give us more points of contact with one another, whether through pictures, profiles, announcements, etc. However, we need to keep in mind that gathering with other Christians only one day a week for 1.5 hours, and the rest of the week restricting our correspondence to Twitter and Facebook, is not living out the New Testament vision. Even if we gather for worship twice a week, but do not minister to and enjoy one another more informally over meals, in times of crisis, and as friends, we are not living in the fullness of the gospel community God desires for us.
I have a lot of "friends" on Facebook, but have been suffering lately from a lack of true "face to face" community and friendship.  My wife and I are embarking on a search for such a lifestyle and support network. I do think there is a place for social network technology as a support to community, particularly as an aid to contact with friends who are physically distant.  But it does not, and cannot, replace or substitute for having someone siting in the room with you sharing concerns and needs and seeking the face of God together.  Facebook does not come over with a hot meal when you are sick, and Twitter does not sit with you to mourn when you are hurting.

We need real community, no matter how strong we are.