I very much live in the web 2.0 world. I IM, Facebook, Twitter, blog, have accounts with Flickr, Delicious, Digg, and several other 2.0 sites, browse the web via RSS, and probably several other things along the way. As I have jumped into these new waters, I have been struck by the ways that I have grown connected to people in ways that I did not expect. Via Facebook, I have reconnected with a vast array of people from as far back as junior high to as recently as seminary that I had lost contact with. I have been able in many of those relationships to pick up in our interactions in many ways that we did when we were together (especially with my seminary friends). I have been able to play games (Scrabulous and Facebook’s version of Risk) against some of my buddies that bring us back to some of the competitions back in the day. I have also been able to enter into some conversations and interactions with people that I would not have been able to in any other venue.
I began thinking about these interactions as I wrestled with the Scripture passages for this Sunday (Matthew 12:46-50 & Acts 2:42-47) and the focus on The Community and the 2nd great end of the church (The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the Children of God). I have been wrestling with the idea of community and what it looks like in the web 2.0 world. What does community mean to those who are growing up in the net generation? What is community when we have lists of hundreds of “friends” on Facebook? (Adam Cleaveland has some interesting reflections upon this topic as well on his Pomomusings blog – Friendship in a Web 2.0 world.) For those who are deeply living in this new world, what does community look like? Are the connections, “friending”, twitter followers, and so forth similar to those relationships we form IRL (in real life)?
Some studies have begun to show that for many, it does bring about a similar feeling of reassurance, comfort, and strength with these online friends as with those they see face to face. I have a dear friend from my D.Min program with whom probably 90% of our friendship has been developed through email and instant messaging. In the five years that I have known her, she has become a very dear friend and that friendship has been grown through the data we have sent back and forth online. There are many others who can talk of the depth of the relationships they have fostered online and what it has meant to them.
What I keep coming back to as I have wrestled with these passages is the process from connecting to community. I completely believe that community can be fostered in an online environment just as it is fostered in a face-to-face environment just as we can stay at a level of just connecting face to face as simply as “friending” someone on Facebook. But how do we move (online or f2f) from the level of connection to the deeper level of community? As I work through these two passages, I keep coming back to the issue of sacrifice. Sacrificing what we feel is “ours” and giving it over to another – be it time, energies, possessions, finances, feelings, insights, thoughts, openness, prayer, and so forth. Sometimes it is finding ways to be fully present with the other in ways that are sacrificial.
We will explore this further in worship on Sunday, but think about the many levels of connections you have with people in your lives – through technologies (ranging from the simplest technologies of a pen and paper to the iphone) and through the many circles you are a part of (face to face or online). And what do you experience of these connections in the lives of others? What sacrifices do you make to move from just connecting with another to forming measures of community with them? What about your children as they are facebooking, IMing, TXTing, and so forth? How do they express the depth of these connections and communities they are forming? How do we begin to use these forms of connecting with one another to live out this second great end to provide the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God? How can the body of Christ be represented and enfleshed in these new communities being formed?
Update: Good to see that our new President will be able to keep his primary tool for staying connected…CNN reporting this AM that Pres. Obama will get to keep his blackberry…