Yesterday a friend happened to glance at my laptop which was projecting a Firefox window with my Bloglines account. We had a lengthy discussion, and he kindly held off until the ìimportant businessî was discussed. And then he questioned, ìAj, did I see right that you have *254* feeds on your bloglines?î Sheepishly, I had to say yes – and then babble off a flood of excuses, ìWell, some are craigslist searches, and some are mamablogs, and then I have emerging church blogs, and all my friends blogs, plus I like to keep on top of library information and emerging church and Quake world happenings, plus advertisingís been a new interest, and I have to know about tech stuff so I can understand what acronyms my husbandís talking about . . . ì But yes, I have too many feeds I keep track of.
Itís just so fascinating, though. I donít have to go out to all those website – the information comes to me. And I donít even know how I added most of the feeds: one blog mentions another blog which mentions another blog – a sort of ìseven degrees of bloggingî type game. Iíve made friends and acquaintances through blogs – some Iíve met, and some I havenít. Some I read for informationís sake; some I read because I just plain like the folks. I get to know their writing style, their typical content – their good days and their bad – some of who they are, and who they want the internet to believe they are.
Would this be considered community? Can community occur or be authentic without meeting personally?
Those investing heavily in the internet would like us to believe so. Today I came across two new sites:
Dodgeball is marketed as mobile social software. The idea is that you create an account and put in a list of friends and/or ìcrushesî and their mobile phones. When youíre going out, you can send out a text message to your friends to come join you. Or you can be notified if friends of your friends are nearby. Or you can find out if a ìcrushî is going to be where youíre going – or if someone who has a crush on you is coming. All this through text messaging.
Habbo Hotel is ìa virtual hang-out pixelized as a 5-star luxury hotel! Here you can meet up with your friends, make new ones design a room, host a party and enjoy all that Habbo has to offer.î Itís gauged for 13-18 year olds, complete with chat rooms, im clients, and other community/communication features. Gorillaz, a virtual hip-hop band, will be ìtouringî by way of Habbo Hotel.
Itís apparent that online communities are becoming more and more a part of our present society, particularly for the younger generations. What does this mean for intergenerational relationships/friendships? Iím finding such value in my community of mixed generations: itís providing such depth, such variety. But many of the ìolderî generation donít feel comfortable using chat clients or bulletin boards or chat rooms.
Churches do little to engage folks online. My church now offers podcasts and mp3s of the Sunday gathering: I greatly appreciate it in that Iím not missing parts of the ìSunday series.î But this is simply informational: it doesnít allow others to contribute, to offer, to engage. It continues the American predisposition to consume, to take in the message, the potential programs, the details about worship/church/staff/etc. Does our website allow folks, either from the congregation or not, to give, to engage, to create or participate in community? Is it missional – equipping folks of our church body and outside to go out?
The younger generations have spoken: they ache for community, and their creating it on their own terms. How am I and my church gathering called to answer the cry of their heart? Or will they continue to create their communities without us?