I've been having a lot of discussions recently with Christian friends who have chosen not to use various forms of technology (mostly Facebook, but even email came up!) because of the negativity that they have seen or experienced with that technology. Cyber-bullying, narcissism and voyeurism have come up, along with inappropriate relationships and affairs.
Listening to Vicky Beeching yesterday on BBC radio 2 she reminded us that all technology is neutral. The printing press was invented neutral and has been used for good (production of wholesome literature and textbooks for education) as well as bad (pornography and propaganda that fuels wars). Even fire as a discovery is neutral, there is no inherent morality in the tool, what we do with it (cook food, or burn down someone's home) is what makes the difference.
I was so refreshing to meet so many like minded people at the Christian new media conference who are using neutral technologies, like twitter, Facebook, wordpress and blogger, in such a positive way. Our pastor this Sunday, talking about something completely different, said this:
The opposite of abuse is not no use; it's right use.
As Christians, we are called to bring God's presence wherever we go. How can God's presence reach people through social media if His people are not present within social media? Our answer to cyber bullying cannot be to turn a blind eye and not get involved, we have to stand up, call out our friends on poor behaviour and encourage those who feel like they are forever ignored or abused.
As a mum of young children, I can't travel quickly or easily, so sometimes these connections are the only way I get to interact with friends who aren't local. Nowadays, my face to face interactions seem to happen at church or my husbands work. But I still love my friends from college and university, and I still want to communicate God's love for them, even if I only get to do it by taking five minutes and commenting on their status update or sending them a private message of encouragement.
As the church we need to work out what right use of new technologies is and implement it; not abandon it in fear of abuse.