Friday, October 14, 2011

The Next Story - #3

Now we move into Part 2 of The Next Story where Challies unpacks six ways life, churches and society have been changed by digital technology.

These 6 ways are in the areas of:
  • communication
  • mediation
  • distraction
  • information
  • truth & authority
  • visibility and privacy
I will do one post on each. WARNING for skim readers: it's worth trying to read the whole post. Some will be long, but there are good things to think about in each. If you can stick with it, I think you'll find it worthwhile.

You will find I have summarised each chapter. At the end of the series I will come back and draw some threads together, and share how this has made me think about technology and my interactions with it.

So, on to communication.

Communication (Chapter 4: Speaking, Truthing, Loving, Living)

In the past, much of our behaviour was modified because we knew people were watching us (neighbours, colleagues, family) and what we did. Challies notes that one of the greatest challenges of the digital explosion is that we now spend much of our lives beyond accountability though visibility. No-one sees what we look at, where we give our attention, and how much time we spend doing so.

Communication is a key part of life

We live in a world of constant, pervasive communication.
If it’s true that we can tell about a culture by what it’s people carry all the time, then the fact that there is a cellphone in nearly every pocket tells how much we value communication. (17:37)
Something is becoming an idol can be when it takes an inordinate amount of time and attention, and when we feel less than complete without it. The need to be in constant communication resembles a form of addiction: our inability to turn off the phone, feeling withdrawal without Facebook updates, the need to reply to texts immediately, etc.

Some of the idols we may have are related to communication:
  • Idol of productivity – the need to feel productive, answering work emails all the time, etc
  • Idol of significance - the number of Facebook friends, followers on Twitter, subscribers on our blog becomes a measure of our success. Popularity becomes something that can be measured.
  • Idol of information – as if it the key to a good life is to have more information, more news, etc.
  • Idol of communication itself – we love the the constant flow of words and information.

The decline of face to face

Many people engage online to a depth they cannot maintain in person.
In some contexts, digital communication has become the more natural form of communication. It feels easier, safer and more efficient than talking face to face. (29:55)
Do you find it’s easier to text than call someone? I often do. As time goes on, I am trying to call before email and email before text, but it’s a challenge.

Taming the tongue

Taming the tongue is even harder is this age of constant communication (hence my previous post!)

We must control our communication, be slow to speak (James 1:19) and tame our tongues. We want our conversation to be seasoned with salt (Col 4:6). All of this is especially relevant in our digital communication. Our tongues (and our typed words) show our hearts. (Matt 15:18)
The caution that marks our speech must also mark our texting, our emailing, our commenting, our blogging and our tweeting. The fact that we communicate at all should cause us to stop and consider every word. The fact that we communicate so often today and do so before so great an audience should cause us to tremble. As we communicate all day we give ourselves unending opportunity to sin with our words. (39:55ff)

Speaking, Truthing, Loving

Just as there is risk, there is great opportunity. It can be for evil and for good. So, Challies says: let’s take up the challenge to speak the truth in love. (Eph 4:15)

As Christians we have more reason to speak than anyone else. We speak because God has spoken. We are the speaking followers of the speaking God. We must continue to seek the truth of God, growing in our knowing of Him. At we speak of the truth of God, we must also speak of the love of God.
“Truth and love are the twin pillars that should uphold all of our communication” (56:44ff)
Some suggestions from Challies:
  • Be visible, no anonymity. Live a visible life. God sees everything.
  • Be accountable. Let friends/family know what you are doing online. Ask someone to watch your blog or Facebook status, and give them permission to ask you about what you are saying.
  • Be real. Don’t fabricate an identity that is different from your real-world identity.
  • Be mature. Commit to what God tells us to do and turn from what he tells us to avoid. Commit to bible reading and prayer, serving others, living in community.
  • Always distrust yourself. Check your motives. Be slow to speak. Think before you post. Consider your response to an antagonistic email.

Things to think about (based on Challies’ questions):
  • How much of your digital life is lived visibly?
  • What kinds of boundaries have you placed on your communication? Are you in constant communication?
  • Is your communication low in quality but high in quantity?
  • How could you communicate less in order to communicate better?
  • How can we intentionally use words in ways that really matter?

On Monday: Mediation (Chapter 5)

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