Whether we like it or not, social media infiltrates a lot of what we do on a daily basis. Last night as we experienced the excruciating defeat of our Canucks social media sites like twitter and Facebook were ablaze.
Mostly people were condemning the riot acts and were expressing their sadness that a small group of people could tarnish the reputation of the city. Still others were taunting us, celebrating the fact that their hands aided in the destruction of our store fronts and mess on our streets.
As bad as the situation had gotten, we soon found out that social media had an important part to play. Whether it was people providing tips for reporters, people informing family and other loved ones that they were safe, or people trying to share clear directions about which routes were blocked off.
Many including news organizations, businesses and individuals are starting to catch on to the benefits of social media, but sadly the church is still struggling with it. Maybe Christians see technology as a difficult thing to grasp, perhaps something that is making the world more corrupt.
In a recent open lecture at Regent College, a theological seminary in Vancouver, BC, guest speaker Dr. Krish Kandiah, Executive Director of the Evangelical Alliance in the U.K. delivered a presentation entitled Digital Discipleship: The opportunities and challenges for social media and the church. His opening argument was that we sometimes have a dystopian view of the future instead of a utopian view.
Hollywood definitely does its part to make us believe that the future is bad and full of things to fear about it (think, Book of Eli, iRobot, Wall-e etc.) Because of this and of course our trepidation about facing the unknown, we tend to shy away from technology thinking that it is evil.
For a lot of people, social media is simply overwhelming. Kandiah brought up some pretty interesting points in his lecture arguing that we should change the way we think about social media. Instead of viewing it as harmful and shying away from it, we should think of it in the following ways:
- Social media as a tool. “Our tools don’t just add to our abilities, they change us,” said Kandiah. We need to know when to use the right tool. He used the example of Twitter not being the right tool to use when having an argument or breaking up with someone because of the 140 character limit.
- Social Media as ecology or environment. Kandiah gave the example of putting a drop of red dye into a beaker of water. When one does this, the dye does not remain self contained in a little red blob, instead every molecule of the water changes so that it all takes on a red colour. “What will the church do as the ecology changes? Will we carry on in our old forms or will we be as the church originally was? A fast, adaptive movement of people looking for ways to bring the message of Jesus into new cultural situations,” asked Kandiah.
- Social media as language. According to Kandiah, sometimes the church adopts the idea that the louder we shout, the better we will be at reaching people. We need to become literate in the language that shapes our world. “The church in England in the 18th and 19th century realized that there was a huge problem with illiteracy, so they found a way to teach people how to read and write,” said Kandiah. “They started the Sunday school movement which turned into the public school movement in the UK.” Not only did the church help with literacy, it also helped to spread the gospel.
- Social media as a culture. Kandiah said that often when people don’t understand a culture, they write it off as being “intrinsically dark.” He also went said that, “If Christians become literate in social media we can be a force for good and blessing in that space, but if we evacuate ourselves from it we leave it open and empty to other influences.”
We can use social media for good if we want to. It can be a great tool for connecting, collaborating, and conversing. We just need use it positively.
What are some ways you think the church or individual believers in Christ can use social media for good?
Follow Krish Kandiah on twitter @Krishk