Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? part 1


The other day I was present at a men’s breakfast meeting of one of our local churches.

The topic of this breakfast meeting:

 We’ll have plenty to eat and all your questions regarding Facebook, Twitter, the internet etc, etc will be answered!!

The questions were addressed at a panel of experts all involved in IT and internet in daily life. There were a lot of questions from a very basic level as to what are these social networking sites, how do I protect my children from them, to where is Jesus in Facebook, Twitter, Google+? ( I could not help wondering at times that not being “in the know”, distrust and a call for protection went hand in hand).

Christians and the social web: bipolarity appears to reign

The questions came a midst a seeming division of camps in the Christian world. Last year the Pope called out to Christians to embrace these networks as a way to proclaim the truth.

If technologies are used with wisdom, he explained, “they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.”

The “Christian way” of being present in the digital world means being “honest and open, responsible and respectful of others,” he explained. It is a way of communicating that is consistent with the Gospel, supported by actions worthy of the same witness in one’s daily life.

“New and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons (and) new forms of shared awareness” are opened up by new technologies and Christians are also called to proclaim their faith in God in these spaces, the Pope said.

“Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the internet from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others,” he said.

Christ’s truth is not a question of online popularity, the Pope added, rather, it is “the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks.”

While noting that “direct human relations” are always essential to sharing the faith, he invited Christians to”confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.”

Having a Christian presence online is based not only on a desire to be there, but “because this network is an integral part of human life”
Source: Catholic News Agency 

At the same time however

Chicago parish advises churchgoers to keep kids away from social media 365 days a year, the Chicago Tribune reports:

“[Facebook] is exactly the opposite of the Christian culture where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to blot out their sins forever,” St. John Cantius parish leaders wrote in the church bulletin.

The warning was directed at families trying to raise their children in a wholesome environment. It indicted social networking sites for encouraging vanity and dishonesty by providing an outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality. It also pointed out, for example, that acronyms such as PIR (parent in room), POS (parent over shoulder) and GYPO (get your pants off) can lead children far astray.

“God entrusted parents with the care of their children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way ‘to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter.’ Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal.”

In an interview with NPR,Presbyterian pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow suggested worshipers not give up Facebook or Twitter for Lent or any other reason:

If social media is addictive and it’s holding you back from connecting to God and your understanding of spirituality, then, yes, by all means, pull back. But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time is another way to look at it.

There appears to be a bi-polar perspective so typical almost of the Christian world at large. The very relevant question “WHERE IS JESUS IN ALL THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY”  remained rather unconvincingly answered during that particular breakfast meeting. Hence an urge to expand on this a bit more in this series of posts.

Without  a doubt I can agree with the panel of experts that the internet is a great resource, makes it possible to be uplifted listening to worship music while doing other things. I can relate to that, I thoroughly enjoy listening to worship music myself, but in all fairness that is no valid argument to be online, I can go ad buy an album or listen to a Christian radio station for that. I do believe that as a resource the internet has opened everyone up to incredibly good teachers, from a church organisation and preacher/teacher’s perspective it is fantastic that your teachings may be available well beyond the wall of your church. From a personal perspective, I have had tremendous benefits from some of the sites out there with amazing speakers and sermons available to watch, listen, read, to name a few:

And there are of course hundreds more. All great resources all great places to hang out. But that does not answer the question Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? 

The Great Commission

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV

Now the great commission applies to ALL followers of Christ, I think we can agree on that. I think we can also agree that as Christians we are “in Christ.” With that said, you could answer the question “Where is Jesus in all this new social web stuff” with the simple reality that it is in the participation of you and other followers of Christ.

Our participation, the sharing of our lives and thoughts, either publicly or using more private parts of the technology may well be part of that great commission. Sure enough I like facebook to stay in touch with friends, family and my home church Harmony, but over the past years, I have found it an invaluable tool to support others, ask questions, answer questions.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Just as in daily life, the way we live our lives and the way in which we live out our relationship with God will make a difference and the visibility thereof may well be a better way to  “make disciples of all nations”  may well be a better way to teach than trying to be the next ‘sermonizer’ on the net.

From a personal perspective, I think every life is worth sharing; it is not ours in the first place, and social networking sites like facebook are a great way to exemplify and or illustrate what it means to be “in the world but not off the world” (John17:14-15).  Does that mean I NEED TO BE ON FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+, TWITTER, HAVE A BLOG ETC? Not at all, but if I want to be the world than that is part of it, a part I choose to participate in, and I have found it to be the way to get to know others well beyond the boundaries of my own community.

As a father I will add, it is pretty simply the world our kids grow up in and understanding what is happening around them I see as part of my responsibility as a parent and teacher and last but not least I think it is fun, so why not?  And please be clear I do not see it as a replacement for real face to face relationships but as a complement to those relationships and a door to a wider network of interpersonal relationships.

Does this mean that as Christians we have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, that we have to have a blog: I think the answer to that can be a short and sweet NO, but we can, and I did.

In summary

I think the question as to why participate in all this social media stuff: because you can, because your children and their friends will. As a parent I see it as my responsibility to keep up (as good as I can) so I can guide my children. Besides that because it is one way to be a light in the world and love God and others. It may not be your way but that is between you and God.  I agree with pastor Chow

But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today.

Where Jesus is in all this social media? In the participation of each and every follower of Christ in this new technological stuff.

More in part 2, about the fear and perceived dangers expressed during the meeting.

 

Alzheimers: Google+ and Facebook all good


    

In the past weeks I have been discovering Google+ and what an amazing bunch of people I have discovered there. Some of the best photographers in the world, more on that in another post. Some great artists, musicians, worship musicians and leaders, well it is amazing and never before have I found a social network, social networking site, that tickles my creative tingles than on Google+, and with all the other services available through Google, I hope this will quickly integrate into my own social portal.

For those who have not received an invite yet, leave a comment with an email address here and I am happy to send you one.

Google+ v Facebook v Twitter

In the past weeks many have written about Google+ and especially compared to Facebook and Twitter. I have to admit, my preference for several reasons goes out to Google+ over Facebook and Twitter taken together, but that is my personal taste. At the same time like many I am inclined to break away from both of them completely but there are still so many friends on there. I guess I’ll wait a little while but everytime I go to either Facebook or Twitter, I find it less appealing. With developers picking up on the Google+ enthusiasm, almost daily there is a new extension for G+ or an app  to make life on Google+ even better.

Some are more fanatical in their comments and opinions and urge everyone to leave Facebook and Twitter if they have not already done so, exchange your flickr account for picasa and more like that. I’ll just wait and see, and while my preference for Google+ far exceeds Facebook currently, I also remember how I have enjoyed Facebook and remember how it was such a breeze after some of the other network sites I used to be a member of. Just because Google+ is great that does not mean that all of a sudden Facebook is useless, although some recent changes are less favorable.

Google+ and Facebook all good

In the Star ( a local rag) of last Wednesday 20 July, the Health section had an article by Jolene Williams,  on the matter of Alzheimer’s and the importance of a national strategy. In the side bar on the page there were some pointers as to how to reduce your chances on Alzheimer’s and among them were the use of your brain by playing games and to be social which involves both real life interaction and participation and use of social networking sites.

So then it became all clear to me: Facebook for the games and Google+ for the meaningful communications, the learning new things and the being inspired.

Then I also realized how I do not play online games (anymore) and that brought me the last question: what would keep me on Facebook if all my friends would be on Google+ as well? ACTUALLY NOTHING. hmm.

And for the sake of your mental well being, you now have a good reason to go out on Facebook or Google+ of one of the many many others. But to limit myself to these two, just ask yourself, am I a puzzler, that likes his/her little games, sudoku, scrabble, word puzzles etc or am I always keen to learn more?

 

Start G+ Extension: Google+ + Facebook + Twitter



If the Google+Facebook Extension was cutting it for you (me actually), than this the G+ extension for Chrome will probably do the trick for you if and when  you have Facebook and Twitter accounts and you are a Google+ user.
It adds your Twitter and Facebook streams to your Google+ account and also allows you to simply click once to post something to your Google+, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.  Especially for power-users this will prove to be a timesaver

The Start G+ extension can be downloaded Here >>>

If there are any Google+ extensions you can recommend let me know either here or on Google+ or of course any add- on for Mozilla Firefox, handy for Google+ users.

Google+ the first days


For the last few days I have been trying out Google+ and I have to say I am pleased with what I am seeing. That is not entirely fair as I have always been a great supporter of Google. Not that really matters to anyone but I would like to have it said anyway.

Google+ v Facebook?

I see that there is a lot of speculation going on about whether Google+ is going to be the new Facebook. I will not look at this from a business perspective but all I can say is that so far I can imagine both having their own charm. At the same time, looking at all the other tools that Google already has, I could imagine a that in the future this can all be brought together to have yourself you own social portal. A place to share, read, work, be in contact with your friends, follow the news and all the other things that Google has made available.

At the same time, I like Facebook as well and over time it has proven to be one of my sites of choice both from a social and business perspective (although admittedly these two are harder and harder to separate lately). However with the Google+ to Facebook app, I can follow and update everything that’s going on Facebook. The immediate convert can go for even more drastic measures and export his or her photos from Facebook to Picasa for sharing on Google+

Google+ Features

Personally I have not seen anything on Google+ that can not also be done on Facebook, with a little more or less work. Facebook has lists, Google has Circles. Sure enough I am pretty simple when it comes to matters like privacy or being overblown with comments etc, it’s all fine.

Profile

The Google plus profile page is nice and clean, with not to many distractions. I am curious to see how that’ll pan out after the official launch and when the advertisements are incorporated. So far all good.

Circles

Circles is what the lists are in Facebook, a way of organizing your friends business network, family and whatever you may come up with. It is handy and at the same time I can already see how it is very easy to get over the to with. I could imagine some good use for it, but at the same time nothing too new under the sun here.

Stream

Stream shows you what everyone in your network is posting and sharing. I am particularly happy with the ability to filter out according to specific streams and like facebook those that overdo it and crowd your stream too much can be blocked or hidden.

Further Features

Further features include the possibility to share photos, videos, post status updates and more. There is a buzz option which shows you stream from twitter, wordpress blogs etc works great and a +1 button which I do not quite get yet but seems to be similar to a like button.

For the immediate convert there is already a number of facebook related apps available such as the option to see and update your facebook home page, an option to export to your facebook photo albums to (picasa) google+, an app to export your facebook friends to your google+ account.

Looking Back

Looking back on the first experiences I am pretty happy with it and so far Google+ is seems to be the one with the least amount of deep sighs in trying to get things to work the way I want it. Whatever the experts say I could see this proving to be serious competition.

Looking Forward

Given all the other things Google I already use: email, calender, search, specialist search, docs, picasa (as a backup for flickr), google earth, google reader, notofications, google sites, you tube, google talk and translate I could imagine a merge of all these functionality and see myself having one big social portal with everything in there.  For the time being, Google+ has won my heart.

Want an invite? leave your email address as a comment.

The Google Art Project


Here you are trying to view a major work of art like a Van Gogh, a Picasso or a Dali to find yourself surrounded by so many others that the experience is hardly possible. All those around you want exactly the same that

The Google Art Project offers an alternative way to view some of the world’s most famous artworks, in greater detail and with a better view than you very likely would often achieve when viewing these works in real life.

Some believe Google’s Art Project will allow thousands more people to view and appreciate works that they may never get the chance to see in person. Others believe that no matter how impressive, technology can never replace the experience of viewing a work in the flesh and some commentators wonder what sort of implications this kind of project will have on people’s need to visit galleries or museums in future.

More about it in the video below

I think this is pretty cool and at the same time it will never be able to replace the real life face to face thingy. I so well remember, that after having looked at (detailed photos of) Starry Nights by Van Gogh, coming face to face with this painting was as emotional as reuniting with an old friend. No computer experience can in my view compete with seeing a Dali in larger than live size. It is in that experience that you get a real appreciation for his sense of detail.

At the same time I could imagine that the Google project is adding extra dimensions  because of its level of detail. Whatever the pros and cons, I think it is a great idea.

The links below feature some interesting views on the project:

  1. The Work of Art in the Age of Google
  2. Behind The Scenes At The Google Art Project
  3. The Problem With Google’s Art Project
  4. Google Art Project: the 7 billion pixel masterpieces (slideshow)

I from my side a curious what your thoughts are on this project and on watching art online. I’d be keen to hear what your thoughts are.

Google Launches Chrome to Phone Browser Extension and Android App | WebProNews


Google has launched a new Chrome extension for Android users called “Chrome to Phone”. What it does is allow you to easily send a link from your desktop to your Android phone.

So, for example, if you wanted to look up driving directions on Google Maps on your computer and then take them with you via your Android phone, you could use this extension to do so. You could also get a phone number from the web and send that to your phone.

Read the rest via Google Launches Chrome to Phone Browser Extension and Android App | WebProNews.