The Social Media: What Changed and How?

Over the last decade the emerging social media–most of which did not even exist before the year 2000–abruptly altered our use of the Internet, itself a medium of only a little more than a decade-plus. Interactive platforms, called 2.0 web platforms, brought us Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. All three of these have experienced phenomenal growth by freely offering us useful tools and technologies that we are only now beginning to understand. These platforms soon began to take control of much of what we do. They dominated the time that many spent online. They have even driven a whole new generation away from email before my generation got settled into the new medium of electronic mail.

On what Rory O’Connor calls “[a] breathtakingly short [time] period, social media become touchstones of modern communicates and culture–and in the process upended entire industries, changed cultural norms, and disrupted both national and then international politics and, to a lesser degree, governance” (Friends, Followers and the Future, 17).

Almost overnight the previous century’s centralized, one-way media reality of limited channels for distribution of news and information was transformed. New methods were becoming available so fast that one can hardly keep up. I can’t and I feel overwhelmed, at times, just trying to figure out how to use these media for the purposes of “empowering leaders and churches for   unity in Christ’s mission.” (This quotation is the revised purpose statement of ACT 3.)

All is not joy, however, in Mudville. Media users produce some of the most bizarre and dangerous lies possible, and these can spread quickly. The good news, however, is that such lies can be easily discovered and corrected by using the same means carefully. The end result, and I believe that this is huge, is that no one person or empire, has the power to tell us the news or anything else. We can “judge all things” (within reason) and make better decisions. But this comes with a huge caveat. We must gain a perspective that stabilizes out lives and roots us in something bigger and grander than ourselves. I believe this story is the gospel of Christ. It is the true story of stories. It makes sense of everything else.

The great threat to our faith is not the social media. The social media has simply created the new context for a much needed reformation; a renewal of faith that could liberate us from the tyranny of human controls and structures that crush our freedom in Christ.

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