I know it’s interesting to have a topic like this on a blog, but I wonder about our online relationships and how they impact the Universal Body of Christ. I have developed some great relationships online with people I would have never met otherwise. I have learned a great deal from blogging, reading, writing and sharing online ideas. I think blogging has a lot of validity, but what I want to ask about is community. Is online community authentic? Can we have true fellowship online? Has the invention of the internet created a whole is community?
The most popular social network out there of course is Facebook. I have and use a Facebook page. I have great friends on Facebook; we use it to interact and communicate, keep updated and share pictures. The biggest destroyer of community, in my opinion, is the Facebook status line. We have created the equivalent of the drive by shooting online with the Facebook status. You have seen them, things like “some people need to act like Christians” or “I can’t believe they just did that, they are so bad”. These posts don’t name anyone specifically, they just throw out ideas and create suspicion. It’s on-line gossip at its best. On Facebook, we can create superficial relationships and then destroy them with the click of the mouse. If we are not slandering people in our status, we can write notes about them, we can even click the dreaded “unfriend” button.
Facebook also gives us the chance to address problems without addressing the problem. We have done this for years, but Facebook has make is faster and easier. If someone does something you don’t like, simply post a verse on Facebook addressing the issue, then you are done. Write a note, post a blog, tweet or update our status to address the problem. If it’s really serious, we might post to someone’s wall or send a message to them and take care of the problem. Somehow when Jesus said to “go to the person”, He wasn’t referring to their Facebook page.
All of these online forums have also created an atmosphere in which it’s easy to speak without thinking. We can post things in a safe situation, not face to face interaction. Many of the posts and comments I have seen at SBC Impact I am pretty sure wouldn’t happen in face to face conversation. We have become crass and careless with our words, not focusing on words that build up and edify, but taking cuts, slinging mud and being cruel.
The online relationships we have build are so fragile that it doesn’t take much to break them. If the Facebook and blogging community can really been seen as the Church, we have taken the body of Christ and made it so fragile that it will never be able to stand up in the world. We have created fragile connections, and so often we are not encouraging or supporting each other. We are not iron sharpening iron, we are simply stone chipping away at stone. This should not be so.
So what is the solution? I think much of the issue is when we are on blogs, Facebook or other online communities, we begin to address the person as the problem and not the issue. Instead of saying “I don’t agree with this statement, because”, we just reply with “you’re an idiot”. This is a less than helpful statement when working to build community. We should also take time to get to know our fellow bloggers, after all, aren’t we all here for the same reason? Is not the goal to expand the Kingdom, to Glorify God and to grow in our faith? If we all have that common goal, if we are working together towards the same end, why do we continue to devour each other? I believe because it’s easy to do online, and we have such a fragile structure, that we break it because we can. Never do people become so carnal as they do online. Perhaps the internet has created an outlet for the flesh, can we reform it to be used as a place to bring glory to God? I sure hope so, because I would hate to see the blogs destroy the church.