I recently wrote an article for Bryan College’s chapel blog about my journey into the internet and social media. I will be speaking on the subject of relationships and social media later this semester at Bryan and I wanted to give a bit of my back story to lay a foundation for that presentation. That article is pasted below. I have also included a though provoking video by Charlene deGuzman about living in an culture saturated with IPhone activity. Don’t be surprised if you want to break your IPhone after you watch it.
There are a lot of ways that I considered introducing this topic of technology and life that we will be addressing in a chapel series this year at Bryan College. I thought about pouring all my research and data into this post and dropping names of sociologists and psychologists. I thought about theorizing about the positive and negative consequences of incorporating technology into all of our relationships. But at the end of the day the most convincing evidence of the power and relevance of technology in our lives that I can offer is a look at my own story with technology.
Along with the good came the bad. The viewing of porn was a common occurrence among guys at college and when I found out that I didn’t need to look at a magazine or a movie to view it in my own dorm, I was guiltily pleased. What used to be an embarrassing process of viewing and buying porn at a bookstore or borrowing it from a friend became an inconspicuous, anonymous, and highly accessible affair. Such is the nature with most forms of technology, especially the Internet. They can be such great tools to further good aspects of life, but they can also make it easier to indulge our demons. By the time I left Texas A&M in May of 1998, I had participated in far more virtual experiences than I ever thought possible. My brother introduced me to Ultima Online, a multiplayer online role-playing game, in which you could create a fantasy character to compete for power within a virtual world. I wasn’t a fantasy genre fan for the most part, but the concept of making a character and expressing my skill and power against “real” people on the other side of the country was extremely satisfying. I was all about expressing my power back then, and the Internet became another way to do it.
When I went through an intense time of repentance in the Spring of 1998, I was drawn to the internet again for new reasons. I could go to these Christian and religious chat rooms and discuss really meaningful matters for hours at a time. On top of that I could use a username that expressed how important I felt in my endeavor to seek and communicate wisdom. I think I logged-on to my first chat room as something like “Polycarp.” It was invigorating! I’d argue for hours about why my view of Christianity was right and why Calvinism or Liberal Christianity was poo poo. I started to become pretty good, in my own eyes, at destroying flawed arguments online. I learned the art of making people really mad with aggressive and passive aggressive emails. It wasn’t that nothing good ever came of my interactions on the Internet, but there was a new learning curve that I had to experience concerning how to control my voice in this new social platform. Not only did I need to control my mouth….I also now had to control my fingers and mouse clicking (Side note: I actually had a computer once that required that I continually move the mouse in order for the Internet to work).
As the years went by I made sure that my wife and I always had a computer and that I was always connected with the latest forms of social media. When beliefnet came out, I was on it. When Facebook was opened up for students at my school, I joined (I looked at profiles on MySpace but always knew it was the devil, so I never joined). I even have a Google+ account…..that I never use. I had owned a smartphone since 2008 or so, but when I was given an IPhone around 2010 things got hot and heavy in my social networking life. I watched a few people use this “Twitter” thing for about 3 or 4 years before I finally saw that it was used by more than just teenage girls and finally made an account on October 5th, 2010. I used my attendance at a Malcolm Gladwell speaking engagement at UT Chattanooga to inaugurate my Twitter-life. I haven’t looked back since. I now “tweet” almost everyday. It is a way in which to interact with an expansive world of ideas and that only grows larger and more accessible to a growing number of people. I’ve developed new personal and professional relationships using Twitter and Facebook (And have learned how to avoid old unhealthy ones. I also made that uneasy decision to relate with my Mom on Facebook). I’ve had deep relevant discussion about pressing issues facing our world and have had thoughtful communication about how a Christian should face these issues. All that to say, it has been a great experience for me…but.