Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Invisible Footprint; Do We Trust the Social Networking Scene?

Facebook recently made significant changes to security. Since that time I have not been posting updates on FB. Why? Because I have not gone through the step of making the required “privacy settings” decisions. Members must choose the level of access that they are willing to grant to others. Does everyone in the world get to access my personal information or do I want to restrict that privilege to only those who are my family? Or friends? Or friends of friends?

My wife tells me that I am naïve. I want to believe the best in people, that they do not intend to be hurtful, that they will not use knowledge about me to their own gain and my detriment. That leaves me asking why I should not allow everyone to have access to my personal information. I trust them. And trust is a big issue.

Facebook has raised interesting issues for those involved in social networking and the safety of those who utilize tools like Facebook to stay in touch with friends. As I was reviewing the options, I began to think about how the same issues must be addressed in any community. Trust is paramount. We must have confidence that others will not abuse our transparency. When we take off the masks and allow ourselves to be known, we open ourselves to potential abuse. Someone may divulge things shared in confidence. Or they may hold those confidences dear while graciously helping us to become more of who we were created to be, conformed to the image of Christ.

One thing I know, missional lifestyles are not lived in isolation. Being missional requires relationship with others. Facebook has a limit on the number of “friends” one can have. Ed Stetzer became a “big deal” when his friends numbered 5000. (You can laugh with Ed by clicking here.) In reality, probably none of us could have that many true “friends.” The number of persons in whom we can invest and be invested emotionally is much lower. It is in the smaller group that authentic relationships develop; those that move beyond superficial to significant. Without community we are incomplete. Yet community carries a price tag that is too great for many.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay got it right: “Everyone’s talking about community. Everyone seems to want it, most complain if they don’t find it, but it’s harder to pull off than you think.”(From the introduction to The Tangible Kingdom Primer) Where have you experienced real community? Do you currently have a relational community whom you trust completely? Do the words “church” and “community” intersect for you? If so, how? If not, why?

I look forward to dialogue about “missional community” with people like you who are on the journey at VERGE on February 4-6 in Austin, Texas. I’ll see you there.


Lisa M. said...

I've often wondered if people use social networking to feel connected without actually being connected, without opening up and dropping the mask. Much like eating a restaurant meal used to be dining out and now it's the drive thru.

Missional Church Center said...

Interesting thoughts Lisa. Connected without connection's price?