Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meeting Online Friends and Colleagues

"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: 
now I know in part, but then shall I know 
even as also I am known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

Yeah, I know: King James version and possibly a misuse of scripture? Maybe, maybe not. 

This is the verse that comes to mind and heart whenever I think about how social media transforms relationships. Modern translations substitute "blurred image" or "puzzling reflections" in a mirror for "through a glass darkly."  When it comes to social media, the mirror is also a window. 

Social media has opened up another portal for knowing and being known; seeing and being seen. Reality is tested by digital technologies that challenge us to rethink how relationships come into being and how they're sustained. 

Naysayers claim none of it is "real."  Really? I disagree. What do you say? Let's chat.

A visual I created to illustrate the most common path for face-to-face meetings.


Sophia Agtarap said...

Thanks for this post, Meredith.

Social media has definitely opened up a new way to communicate not just stuff but who we are. For some, it's been a window to let ourselves be known. I know that I've invited myself into a few twitter exchanges and they've yielded great conversations related to homosexuality, media, prayer and more. That's not something that so easily happens in rea life [IRL].

And for others, SM provides a bit of a buffer for those who just need to test the waters a bit before engaging IRL. Some online friends might never meet, but the relationships built through SM carry a different weight. They don't know you other than the short bio and photo you provide. They don't know more than what you're willing to share in 140 characters, but that's kind of the beauty and vulnerability of it: you can be who you really are or want to be.

I've found SM to be a way for people to plug in to who I am, what I'm thinking and serve as an invitation to engage--something not so easily done with strangers IRL.

It's also a mirror, as you say. I've realized in the past few weeks that some people aren't as fortunate to have a community of people who care for them, who can speak truth to their lives, who can be a soundboard to check us when we get too caught up in our selves, which is easy to do. But if we allow ourselves to use SM to experience authentic community, then it can be and has been a beautiful experience.

I've been reading a book by Jack Levison: Fresh Air, and this past week, we talked about the Holy Spirit moving and calling us beyond boundaries of geography, gender, culture. I don't think it's a stretch to say that we've seen the ways She moves in these online spaces. Just look at #chsocm and #unco12 and the relationships and conversations that have developed out of online engagement. It's beautiful and glorious to know that we are not alone.

@PaulSteinbrueck said...

Thanks for the most Meredith. My first thought... well, actually, my first thought is we need to get your blog off blogger ;) But my first thought about your post is how varied and non-linear the "trajectory of engagement" is...

Sometimes it is as shown in the diagram. Sometimes we first meet a person face to face, exchange contact info and the relationship grows online. Often with local friends, colleagues & church members, we're connected IRL, phone, email, texting and social media all at the same time.

Meredith Gould said...

Paul, true: the non-linear nature, not the get me off Blogger. David Hansen pointed out the same thing. Still, for many if not most, this seems to be the way engagement that begins online moves. No empirical evidence, alas. Just anecdotal.