An article from sojo has Julie Clawson taking NT Wright to task for bad mouthing Social Media. The following quote attempts to use a Pew Study to dispel the notion that people spend less time face to face and instead spend more time online.
Letâ€™s just get it out of the way: The warning that Wright and others give is that social media takes people away from actual face-to-face interaction. If we spend too much time blogging and tweeting, we will reduce our time spent with huggable (Wrightâ€™s term) people. The problem is â€“ that just isnâ€™t true. A recent Pew Study busted that myth. It reported that, yes, about 6% of the population are isolated and asocial, but that is a number that has stayed steady since 1985 â€“ before the widespread advent of the Internet. The study also found that people who spend time on the Internet are actually far more likely to go out and be with real live people than those who donâ€™t use the Internet.
What I wonder is how these figures are tallied. If they simply ask people about it, then I am skeptical. A majority of folks are not going to admit or even recognize that they spend less time as face to face social beings.
Now I am not advocating for a particular size of the time-slices of the total time spent pie. At least not in this post. But I get the distinct impression that Julie jumps on those survey results a bit too quickly.
I am not ready to say that there arenâ€™t SOME online experiences that are of better authenticity than face to face encounters. There are certainly way too many face to face encounters (including and especially â€œin churchâ€) that are thoroughly bested by SOME online experiences. This is the main bit of experience that leads me to advocate for social media usage by churches, church orgs, and individual Christians. But the converse (that SOME face to face experiences have elements that we eschew to our social/spiritual/psychological peril (maybe peril is too hyperbolic; maybe â€œwe miss some crucial ingredients of fellowship and social/spiritual communionâ€ is more accurate).
This whole argument about â€œwhich is betterâ€ : online community or face to face is inane. There are layers of social being, and online relationships bring in some new and often enhancing elements to the social mix. I just wish we the church could give some indication that we are the least bit interested in such sociological issues , which I think have crucial theological and spiritual implications. It seems I am left in most every case to turn to â€œsecularâ€ studies that ask the kind of questions that knock on the door of deeper socio/theological elements.
I get Julieâ€™s point, and agree with most of what she writes, especially how the online conversations can introduce us to people we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet, and the online encouragement we get from people who like what we have to say is particularly valuable for people (like me too) who often feel themselves hesitant to articulate certain ideas in person. Online community has lifted my confidence when I receive positive feedback about what I share online.
And yeah, Wrightâ€™s statements come off as extremely stodgy and luddite.