Could you, would you, should you, leave your phone at home?

This video has gone viral over the past few days – showing the amount people are on social media. Totally backing up what it is about.

But if I leave my phone, on the shelf when I go out – who am I connected with? Who can I find is about? Gone have the days when we all arrange meet ups months in advance (and then stick to them).

I do think this video is worth a watch. I think it’s got some really great points. I’ve seen people sit in cafes on their phones not talking, I’ve been at station platforms with everyone glued to a screen. I’ve been what I feel ignored when I really want a proper conversation and I’ve probably done the same to others too. I am one of them people who pulls out my phone when I don’t know what to do.

Yet in this social media savvy world, aren’t you disconnecting yourself by turning your phone off?

It does scare me at times, thinking about the presence and place social media has. Why is it so prominent in so many people’s lives? What is it about it that draws us in? And keeps us in?

Yes it can take us away from the people we’re currently present with, but it can also bring us to them.

I’m really torn. I know theirs truths in this video, but I think smart phones and social media is life right now and rather than us switching them off, we need to learn how to do life with them well.

As I said, this video has gone viral over the last few days. And what does that show about the impact social media can have? Many people all over the world, coming together to watch one video. Conversations on and offline will and have come through it.

We’ll never be able to 100% weigh up the positive and negative effects of social media. But we can’t escape that this is the world. I’m glad people are thinking about it and that this video will have provoked a lot of people to do so. We need to be aware of the effect technology is having on us. We do need to step back and look at it.

And then we need to think, where can we go from here?

I doubt there will be many that will watch and share this video then delete their fb account…

Technology. Social media. Smart phones. They are life right now. So how do we best do life with them?

Advertisements

Has Technology Changed our Prayer Life?

I’ve just read Mike Reeve’s new book* called ‘Enjoy your prayer life’ and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And with reading that alongside reading books on the advancement of technology, it has made me think, what influence has technology had on our prayer lives?

Now, I’m looking at prayer as communion with God and Mike Reeves talks about this relating it to how we communicate with others. So how do we communicate with others?

Face to face, letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, fb, twitter, snapchat, whatsapp… the list is endless…

And just as we can send an instant message to a friend, we can talk to God whenever and wherever. We can ‘send him an instant message’. Now before an advancement of technology, it wasn’t possible to send these instant messages to our friends; social media wasn’t the main way of connecting. It could take days, weeks, or even months to get a message to someone. People had to wait on information and people had to arrange to meet up to say anything at all to each other. It wasn’t possible to update so many people at one time with something that has happened!

So has technology helped our continual conversation with God throughout the day? Are we sending messages to God throughout the day in short bursts like sending a text or a snapchat? I know this is a way that I talk to God, I find it easier to chat to him as the day goes on, as things stick out to me.

Yet has this effected the quality time we spend with God? Even with the ridiculous amounts of communication we have, it still isn’t possible to have quality time with someone, to really get to know them unless you actually sit down and spend time with them! I think we can often be guilty of this, but before technology was this more common? Are we now worse at setting aside longer amounts of time to spend with God?

These are just a few rambling thoughts. But I certainly think the way we’re used to communicating with friends will influence the way we communicate with God.

I would love to know your thoughts or experiences on this!

 

*(You can get Mike Reeve’s book here for just £2.54!)

Social Media – Positive and Negative Impacts. Thoughts and discoveries on how to live well in a social media world.

Technology is everywhere. There’s no escaping it. It appears to be advancing exponentially and with that being the case we can’t deny that it is shaping the way we do life and changing our day to day workings. Social media is a big part of that; 1.23 billion people are now on facebook[1] and I know that I couldn’t do all I do without it. So when something is such a big part of your life, I think it pays to step back and look at it. How is it changing how I go about my day, my work and my friendships? What do I need to be wary of and what do I need to embrace? Do I know the negatives as well as the positives? These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about and looking into and will try and summarise some of my thoughts and other people’s thoughts on the effects of social media within our lives.

Now I love social media, especially twitter and blogging, I enjoy being connected and being linked to many other articles and blogs and thoughts. I enjoy knowing what’s going on with other CU’s, with friends in different countries or simply what my friends in the same town have been up to at the weekend. I like feeling part of people’s lives and being able to join in with what they’re doing even when I’m not there. Yet I’ve found with social media, especially Facebook, that it’s not really a case of wanting it anymore, or even needing it. It just is. It comes with life. Just like the fact that I can turn a tv on and watch news from all over the world, I don’t ever really think back to what life was like without it. It has just become a part of life, the way that things are done. I know so many people that absolutely refused to be ‘sucked into the fb world’, yet a few years later, all those people I knew that said that, are now indeed with a fb profile.

Neil Postman, a cultural critic and media theorist, says that technology has become ‘mythic’.[2] That’s not in a fictional or legendary sense but in the sense that it has become an assumed part of life and we forget that it hasn’t always been that way. The technology and social media world is how it is for anyone growing up now and there’s no denying or escaping that; however that doesn’t mean that we need to embrace it without consideration, or separate ourselves from it completely, but surely we need to think about how and why we using it? What place does it have in our lives?

The fact that God created the world with all these elements that have created the technology we have today, is amazing. It also suggests to me that there is no inherent bad in technology itself. God created the world ‘ex nihilo’; yet we can’t create out of nothing. Technology in all it’s vastness and advancement has come from what God has created for us and he has given the skill and the creativeness to the people he has created to do something with it. So thinking about this, technology in itself is neither good nor evil, yet how it is used in the hands of fallen human beings gives it a status and shapes whether it is used to glorify God or to use for our sinful selves.

I read an article in the news on the increase of cyber bulling with children as an effect of social media. Childline ‘saw 4,507 cases of cyberbullying in 2012-13, up from 2,410 in 2011-12.’[3] This is heart breaking and is just the amount of reported cases; this certainly shows effects of social media used in the wrong way. There is discussion of the need to bring in new laws of enforcement to be able to persecute cyber bullies and ‘Children will soon be taught how to stay safe online, including cyberbullying, from the age of five.’[4] This might seem like an extreme example of a negative effect of social media, yet there are more discrete examples of changes in how we relate to each other as a result of being able to continually be connected online. I can often feel that I know everything that has been going on in someone’s life as I have seen it posted all over facebook, how often are we in conversations where something has come up and we say ‘oh yeah I saw it on fb/twitter’ and then that’s it. It can actually take away from day to day conversation and ‘catching up’ with each other. But are we being completely honest online? Or are we guilty of just presenting the parts of us that we want other people to see?

Katie Rolphe has observed that ‘Facebook is the novel we are all writing.’[5] She says that ‘Somewhere in the gap between status posting and the person in their room at night is life itself.’ How much of what we post or what we see is true to how we are really feeling? Do we try to make our lives seem more exciting? And only post all the good bits? I know I wouldn’t just have any old photo for a profile picture, it’s chosen because I like how I look on it, or I look like I’m having fun or it’s with people that mean something to me or has got some sort of story behind it. We choose what we post and how we present ourselves to people around and in that way we can often be creating this person that is actually different to the person that is truly us right now.

Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell, have described this self expression on social media as ‘the narcissism epidemic’. ‘A self-promotional madness driven, these two psychologists say, by our need to continually manufacture our own fame to the world.’[6] Andrew Keen puts it this way (borrowing words from Jeremy Bentham) by observing that ‘as a society, we are, becoming our own collective image.’[7] And Jonathan Franzen goes to the extremes of saying ‘To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of mirrors.’[8] So in this world where the social side of the internet has become an integral part of life and people are constantly ‘recreating’ themselves online, how can we live honestly and openly on social media and have real life relationships not shallow ones where people only see the parts of you that you want them to see?

There’s something to be said about the amount of time that social media consumes. 76% of Facebook users log in every day.[9] Facebook can often be seen as the new ‘hanging out’, spending time with people online has become the new norm of catching up with people. Yet, I know I value face to face time, there’s something special in having a few hours out to really talk to a person. Face to face seems to me more real, you can’t hide how you feel about something, you can’t edit and delete what you’ve said. I know I reveal so much of myself in facial expressions and body language. In fact it is thought that body language is to account to 50-70% of all communication.[10] I also reveal a lot about myself in the things I don’t say, in the silences and times when it is clear I need to think about the answer. It is often in those times that people can see that I am challenged and get to a deeper level of what is going on underneath. This is important on an accountability and supervisory level and also in true friendships. Communication online cannot replace face to face relationships, yet I believe it can be used to add to them. You can easily ask someone how something went, encourage them even when you don’t see them and arrange to meet up with them to truly see how they are doing. It’s also great for keeping in contact with friends and family far away, sending them messages, sharing pictures and stories and helping them to feel more involved in your life.

I think through doing relationships well online, we can actually be presenting the gospel. Through encouraging someone, showing you’re thinking about them, or saying you’re praying for them; church family can actually show a way of interaction throughout the week that others might not be used to. It can also be used to share thought provoking quotes or articles or bible verses. I know that can often be a personal preference, I personally wouldn’t want to bombard people with bible verses or things out of context, but yet I will post links to my blog that will use bible verses in more context of my life and what is happening. That way you don’t end up with big debates on your wall or people commenting unhelpful things. I am wary of joining in conversations like that and would much rather message someone to ask if they wanted to discuss it more, than have an open conversation for anyone to see and join in on, that way you can see if they just want to say their point or if they are actually interested and want to know more.

Praying for people has seemingly had a big impact on social media. Take the hashtag #PrayForMuamba for example. Within 24 hours of Fabrice Muamba collapsing on the pitch, #PrayForMuamba was trending. This brought people from all over, into one community of being behind Muamba. Whether they were praying or not, this hashtag was influencing people who had no faith and may not have even thought to pray before now. Tottenham defender Kyle Walker showed some of the impact of this in a tweet, ‘Doesn’t matter who you support. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t a football fan. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba.’[11] It’s undeniable that this will have had some form of impact on many people, Muamba’s story of recovery is nothing but miraculous and everyone following it will have seen people coming together in prayer and the hope of recovery with an incredible outcome.

Social media can be used for so much good, we have indeed never had a platform like it before where we have the opportunity to be different to such a wide audience. Through this we can proclaim the gospel in so many ways and we need to think about how we can go about that in the most effective way.

I’ve definitely started thinking more about why I post something, resulting in what I post. In the spur of the moment we can post something that doesn’t represent Christ and how we are to be living differently and glorifying him. This came to my attention when I posted a status complaining about replacement buses the other week, I realised through being spoken to about it that not even just the issue behind the complaint was the problem, but there was a problem in that I am a leader and people look to me as an example. If this is the case then I need to be aware of not just how I go about things physically in life but how I go about living online too. It is a representation to so many people and I am becoming more aware of intentions behind postings and comments and I’m trying to use it well, to share things with people I think they will enjoy or find helpful, to post encouragements or positive comments and to actually be true and honest to myself and who I am. I’m also trying my hardest for it to not be the first thing or last thing I look at in the day, but that my bible is, or talking to God is. That way I can keep my priorities right, I can focus myself on God before anything else and pray that things will then flow out of that.


[2] Neil Postman cited in ‘The Next Story’. 2011. Tim Challies.

[6] Jean Twenger and W. Keith Campbell cited in ‘Digital Vertigo’. 2012. Andrew Keen.

[7] Jeremy Bentham cited in ‘Digital Vertigo’. 2012. Andrew Keen.

Is Connection Conversation?

I’m conscious that I’m never far away from being connected with people. Without me wanting to make too many assumptions here, I’m presuming the fact that you’re reading this blog means that you’re probably on the same page as me. You’re waiting at a bus stop, or you’re on a train and you don’t know what to do, so you reach for your phone yeah?

You send a txt, read an email, browse fb or twitter. That is the normal way of filling pauses in life right?

But is this connection with people actually conversation?

How much do we think about a response, edit, delete and retouch messages?

In a conversation with people, this just isn’t possible! You can’t process everything you’re going to say before you say it. You can’t edit, delete, or postpone you’re response. Yet this is what we’re constantly doing when we’re responding to people through technology every single day. Is this just cultivating mere connection rather than conversation?

And how many people dislike the fact that people can know when you’ve read their fb message. I don’t think I’m the only one to postpone reading a message then it doesn’t have that dreaded ‘seen’ yet no response…

We are so in control of what we say and I think we like that. Yet this is so far from face to face conversation. I know for me it’s often in the reflex answers or the hesitations that I reveal the most about myself. It’s probably very often in those times that people really see me.

Can we be connected honestly and openly? In a way that helps us to get to know someone better? Or are we all just in control of what we say and who we communicate with?

This Ted Talk by Sherry Turkle is really great and it’s what got me thinking… It looks at some of these thoughts and furthers them to think about how lack of conversation with others is effecting the abiity for us to have conversation with ourselves resulting in us not being able to be alone. I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen!

 

Real Life?

I was sat in Starbucks for a few hours writing a talk the other day. There was a table near me that was proving a popular table, as soon as someone left then more people chose it as their table. Yet I think I heard, at the most, 5 sentences exchanged between the 4 different pairs of friends that came and sat there.

But the amount of sentences written on their phones was non stop. I genuinely couldn’t believe these people going for coffee to just then sit on their phones. Who are they really socialising with? Surely that isn’t going for coffee??

How much of your life do you spend online? And is it really ‘real’ life?

How much do we disappear into our phones, looking at fb, twitter or blog posts, seeing what is going on in the world, communicating with people everywhere and in that being distracted from the person you are actually with.

And what is it that we are actually putting online about ourselves? Is it true of who we are or are we creating an image that we want others to see of us rather than our real image?

I was challenged the other day when I listened to a talk that said if the thought of giving up social media for a month is something you couldn’t do, then you’re putting something of God in it. You’re letting the wrong thing control your life. And truthfully, the thought of giving up social media for a month does freak me out…

I think it makes us feel something of sovereign, it makes us feel like we know so much about so many different people and topics. It makes us feel connected to people near and far, in constant communication. It’s turned into the first and last thing I check each day.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not all bad. I could produce an endless list of good things about it… It’s great for being in contact with friends and family near and far, for organising things, for learning a lot about different topics that people are posting about, for making connections you couldn’t normally. But what is it about it that hooks people in so much? How has it become such a major part of people’s lives in realistically a really short amount of time?

And is it not only taking over lives but actually creating a double life?

I think we need to think about, not necessarily how much we share, but what actually are we sharing it for? How are we using social media as part of our real life?

And not ignoring the people in direct contact with you at the time… (which I definitely am guilty of…)

 

I listened to a great talk with Tim Chester on using social media to enhance, not replace relationships the other day. Check it out here… I would definitely recommend a listen. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/hour-revival-evangelists-podcast/id626198781

(And this is ironically posted on social media I know!)