As another report hits the news about the amount of time some people spend on social media I would like to take a minute to stand back and take stock. As a pastor I believe in the social media as a resource for very good things. As a father I am always quite pleased to see my children either engaging with people on Facebook or even chatting in vision with people on MSN.
Let me go back a century and ask you to follow my argument. When Radio became available in homes it was probably the first intrusion into family relationships. A few decades after that Television became perhaps even more intrusive. Or did it? Having decided not to have a television in our north coast home (I have one in the city that belongs to my work) I discovered that radio is actually more intrusive as everyone needs to be quiet to listen. You can watch a soccer match with conversation going on but you can’t easily listen to one! Without doubt though television that has hundreds of channels all on for 24 hours has been the biggest drawback to socialising. The record and later the visual game might have competed for teenagers attention BUT neither were really anymore social.
Which is why I have encouraged the intrusion of social networking. Rather than stopping socialisation it has fought back. I don’t believe that it has dragged people in from socialising in the street to stare google eyed at computers. That had already happened. Due to all kinds of social changes my children no longer have the freedom to roam the city and hang out on street corners with their friends. We have perhaps been over protective but whatever the reason we have a lot of teens with time on their hands.
So my suggestion is that the time being spent on social networking has not been stolen from ordinary socialisation but is actually being stolen from television watching and violent game playing. It is re-engaging a socially deprived generation with socialisation. Rather than watching hours of MTV I would rather my daughters were chatting to their mates on MSN, sending creative and silly photos and just shooting the breeze. I am delighted that conversing on social media is causing teens to ask their parents if they can go and have coffee or a milkshake with the friend they are on MSN with.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many things that need a close watch with this new intrusion. We need to be aware that there are dangers. There needs to be guidelines to make sure it is not abused. We must be careful that we seek out the pitfalls and educate everyone how to use it. Isn’t that like life. God wrote a whole Bible for that! I will unpack the social media in different ways over the next few months but first up – it might just be that social media is a counter force, an intrusion into the intrusions on social relationships!