I have found myself in several conversations over the past season of my life, where we discuss the pros and cons of social networking. I have taught lessons on social networking. I think there are aspects about this tool that are great and can be effective to a point. But, I also am a firm believer that social networks are just a tool. Social networks have limitations and also significant dangers. As is common, the tool gets blamed for being the bad guy, when I think the root of the issues behind the dangers have nothing to do with the social networks.
Layer on to the conversations that I work for a ministry that is missionally focused on community. It is core to who we are. There was a conversation recently about giving students at our youth camp the opportunity to get away and retreat and not have cell phones while they were at camp. This quickly turned the corner into computers, social networks, and other forms of technology.
I am from the belief that there is really no substitute for real live person-to-person community. Don’t get me wrong, social networks serve to keep me in touch with some of my closest friends that are not geographically near me. But our relationships were built on years and years of live community. I also travel to have real life interactions with those friends. Social networks serve as a tool for me.
I was reading in 2 John the other day (I like books I can read in one sitting…) and I found this little gem:
vs 12 “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.” (NLT)
John was writing a handwritten letter. (for those of you younger folks, it was like an email but without computers) He wanted to experience community. He wanted to visit; face to face. The result of true, live, active community is: complete joy!
There is a story that I have heard many times of a child talking to his father on the phone, who is a soldier deployed to active duty. The child yells into the phone “Daddy, I don’t want to talk to you; I want to be with you.”
Social Networks, cell phones, instant messaging, chat rooms… they will never replace the real thing. Community happens live and in person, flesh on flesh, and with minimal distractions. Who knew that the answer was sitting in a tiny book (or letter) of the Bible?