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19 June 2017

We want to be heard

James Musson James Musson Ministry Leader for Communications
Smartphones on train © Nicolas Nova CC-BY-NC-2.0

This is the second of a three-part series on how the internet changes the way we communicate with one another. In this second post, we’ll explore our desire to communicate.

Why do 1.23 billion of us have Facebook accounts? Or why do 328 million of us login to Twitter each month? The dawn of social media has given each of us a new kind of voice. And we’ve embraced these new media platforms with hours of our time and millions of our words.

It’s because we want to be heard. In our previous post, we saw that God communicates. His words carry the power to create stuff and bring life itself. He is also the God who designed us for relationships. As he speaks to us truth about himself, so he invites us to communicate with him through prayer and in the way we live.

He designed us for relationship with him. And to relate fruitfully to each other. Face-to-face interactions remain the most fulfilling ways to speak and to listen, communicating meaning and nuance through body language and tone-of-voice. This is particularly important for developing key social skills like empathy in children. But how can we harness the extraordinary reach — through time and distance — that new media gives us? How can we use these tools in a healthy way, to interact positively with others?

How would you assess the way you use social media right now?

  • You’re not a user at all. I hope that after reading these posts you may at least think through your reasons again. What is it that has put you off?
  • You’d class yourself as an occasional user. What sort of benefits does being on social media bring to you? What are some of the downfalls?
  • You have a strong suspicion that your use of social media has generally shortened your attention span and even taking in this sentence has required re-reading it once or twice. But, seriously, what value do you get through your interactions on social media? Would you say your social media presence represents a true account of you?
Young men with smartphones © Garry Knight. CC-BY-2.0

It might be said that our culture is one which prizes being entertained. The phrase ‘consumer culture’ often refers to consuming physical things. It could also refer to the extent that we often spend a large amount of time consuming TV shows, films — and our friends' Facebook and Twitter messages.

This is because as we engage in behaviours which we find pleasurable, even for a moment, the brain produces chemicals which reward this behaviour. We want this reward again, so we develop a pattern of behaviour to get it. This is where addiction starts, and it can lead us to spend more and more time online, at the expense of face-to-face relationships. We should at least make sure we ask ourselves the question, ‘Am I honouring God — and others — in the way I’m using my time?’

I’m not being down on social media. Far from it. In fact, I’m trying to highlight that social media are just that — media, or channels, through which we experience and express communication with those around us. The key is what that communication is about.

We want to be heard, and God has given us the desire to speak and be understood. He has given us the desire to build meaningful and fruitful relationships. New media presents a meaningful opportunity for us to express ourselves clearly, widely and passionately — and to do this for Jesus.

  • How would you assess your use of social media?
  • What does your use of social media say about you? Is it truthful, and does it honour God?
  • How does social media allow you to hear other people and speak the truth about Jesus with more relevance? What other meaningful messages could you use social media for?

Let us know your thoughts on the Above Bar Church Facebook page, or mention @abovebar on Twitter. You can also send an email to communications@abovebarchurch.org.uk with your comments.


Photo credits (from top):
© Nicolas Nova. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA-2.0) licence.
© Garry Knight. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) licence.

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