Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Internet is a real place for real conversation

Dateline: THE INTERNET - (it's a place, you know...)

Today I've been thinking about one of the built in contradictions when it comes to living in this digital age. This is, as the book Megatrends predicted a quarter of a century ago, "The Information Age." We have so much at our disposal that helps us to communicate... yet we seem, so easily, to continually miss one another by a country mile.

Just yesterday a passage from one of my books was posted by Upper Room Ministries on its "Daily Reflections" page. A friend in Atlanta found the quote and posted the link on facebook. Later, someone else responded with a "comment" that was negative, antagonistic to faith, and unrelated to the point of the "Daily Reflection."

Next, in an astute observation, another reader took the writer of the negative comment to task,"Your critique is rather simplistic..." he wrote, then went on to explain. And he was right.

So here's my "A Life Examined" thought this morning: We now have all this technology at our disposal, designed to keep us connected, to expand our connections, and even capable of facilitating virtual community with people all over the United States. We want to communicate, yet so much of the time we find ourselves hemmed in by the limiting protocols of the exact same media that connects us. How is it possible to offer much more than a "simplistic critique" when we're relating in a "comments" box, bouncing "status updates" around the world, or twittering at 140 characters or less?

Or... and I'm thinking out loud here, it's what I do in this space, maybe the narrow parameters of the comment box - or the text message - or the tweet - work more positively, and serve to allow those on the periphery the freedom to even begin the conversation - because we are in some way protected by the brevity. We know there is no danger of going too deep (because there's no room) but at least it's an entry point of sorts...?

I choose to think positively. For every person who is hiding behind the sound-bite, or using it as a vehicle to pour scorn without honest dialogue, there are two or three more who are using the limits of the media as a way to - tentatively - enter the conversation.

At least the person who routinely (tiresomely, predictably, unimaginatively...) makes comments that disrespect faith with a mind that appears closed and pre-conclusive... at least that person is at some level paddling around the edges of the possibility of a deeper connection.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. - John 1: 10-13

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