Internet and Media Where do you start to talk about the internet and media? How about at the beginning. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed a way of connecting computers at CERN but by a model that could be replicated all over the world – this was the birth of the World Wide Web. Websites began very simply – text based, then a few pictures, more and more information available to people than ever before. But that’s all it was. Information. The websites were very flat – very static and viewed solely on Computers and occasionally Laptops. Quite boring really.
Fast Forward to Y2K and the dawn of a new internet era. 2003/2004 saw the birth of Myspace and Facebook and an explosion into a new weird and wonderful world of Social Media…
Communication as we knew it was changing.
The old flat boring websites were left behind as the entire internet began shifting into a form known to nerds (myself included) as Web 2.0. All of a sudden the user was in control. Websites were more interactive, people were able to choose preferences, add content, upload personal photos, videos, details… websites like Wikipedia took off (and now has enough information to publish a 2.25million page book that would take around 123years to read!) comprised almost entirely of articles published by the masses.
Amazon has evolved since the dot.com buzz of the 1990’s to embrace Web 2.0 and actively learn what users like and dislike and suggest tempting things to buy. Google learns trends and patterns and now, somewhat arrogantly, begins to say “did you mean…?”
Web 2.0 is active, it’s engaging and it’s no longer something you can even leave at home – it follows you: in 2011 only 35% of people had a smartphone (i.e. a phone with some sort of internet connectivity) in 2013 that figure rose to 56%. The average age for your first mobile is 13 years old. 50% of those with smart phones use them as their primary way of using the internet. 80% of mobile phone activity (1.8 hours a day!) is app based. And that’s not all. 77% of us now watch TV whilst using another device at the same time – a phenomenon call ‘Second Screening’.
People’s phone is their most important possession. If some leaves the house without their keys, they’ll leave them and wait for someone else to get home. If they leave without their wallet they’ll borrow cash from someone. if they leave without their phone, they’ll go home to get it or else feel hopelessly disconnected all day!
The User is in charge. And with great Power comes great responsibility.
We are so infused with Social Media, and the media in general, that we can’t escape it… there are video’s going viral about ‘Looking Up’ and not being so immersed in case we get sucked into a social media black hole that we can’t get out of… and I don’t buy it.
“We don’t have a choice about whether we DO social media, the question is how WELL we do it.” Erik Qualman.
Social Media is not going away any time soon. It has radically changed the way we engage with other human beings. But I think it mirrors the way society has changed. Social Media is not a bad thing, I think it’s actually a very good thing.
What does the church have to say about it all: Not a lot.
The Church generally hasn’t commented on Social Media partly because Jesus doesn’t talk about it directly and that freaks some Christians out. But what Jesus does talk about is relationships.
Jesus talks a lot about relationships – friendships, marriage, community, loving your neighbour as well as your enemy… He talks about loving yourself, being who God made you to be, having integrity in all your relationships and being honest. He talks about loving God with your heart and soul and mind and strength. But how does this translate into the world of social media?
I want to introduce to you a new word. A word that blurs the lines between internet usage and personal integrity. I give you: Internegrity
Internegrity is the art of being real online. The internet can be a minefield of dangers: from Porn, cyber-bullying, trolling, gambling… and I’m not taking anything away from the seriousness of those things. But most of those things are rooted in deception and dishonesty. Most porn sites offer something they can’t deliver and deceive you into thinking sex is something it’s not. They have no integrity. Trolling and cyber-bullying are generally carried out by cowards who hide behind anonymity and prey on people they consider to be weaker. But you can do yourself some favours buy exercising a bit of internegrity.
Think about the person you are online – are you very different online to who you are offline? Why is that?
I got a message a couple of weeks ago from someone who challenged me about my Facebook profile. They said: “taking a look at your Facebook page I think your helping the enemy. think about what you put up as others are sheep and will become influenced by it because if a minister thinks its correct then its ok for us…” I had seriously wrack my brains to figure out what they were on about, because I am very careful about what I do and do not post online – it turns out it was that I like Family Guy, and I posted pics of my wife Kathryn and I at the Guinness factory in Dublin! But you could visit my Facebook profile right now and I would have no worry about what you’d see.
Internegrity: The art of not being afraid to show people your timeline or your profile because of ‘those’ incriminating pictures. The art of communicating and sharing well with people. The art of making sure the person you are online matches the person you are offline.
We talked a little bit about Web 2.0. The user creates the content, the user is in control; web 2.0 sites are set up to learn the users behaviour and act accordingly (and Web 3.0 is going to take that even further!) That means that we can influence the internet!
We can write good content. We can upload honest content. We can produce content we want people to see rather than those videos or pictures of us a little worse for wear. Web 2.0 puts us in charge. Use Social Media and use it well – I had a conversation with someone the other day who I hadn’t seen in church for a while so I sent a quick Facebook message saying “haven’t seen you for ages, how are you, hope you’re well…” and that really meant a lot to them. Pastoral care via Facebook: It’s possible.
Love your online neighbours by being yourself, message and comment and like and tweet things that demonstrate that Jesus actually means something to you, because this isn’t a fad; this is how we communicate now so all those thing Jesus said about telling people the good news have just been given a new platform from which to broadast.
Let us learn and display a bit of Internegrity.