Thursday, March 24, 2011

Facebook is here to stay & I'm an advocate.

Ok, so Facebook doesn't really need an advocate. I'm sure it will continue to thrive whether I support it or not.

But in some circles, Facebook does need advocates. And not just Facebook, but all social media and technology. I think it's an amazing phenomenon, and although there are downsides and things we need to learn to manage, technology is revolutionising our lives. Whether it's good or bad, don't you think it's amazing that our lifestyle, especially for young people, is even rewiring the way their brains work! This is something we need to know about, not something to ignore.

Technology, and social media, in particular has changed the way we live life and the way we socialise. It's been moving so fast that I don't think we've really caught up with ourselves. In schools, for example, there are policies against using mobile phones and i-Pods in class, but then every student has or is being given a laptop and everyone is trying to incorporate IT into curriculum. The old boundaries are limited, and the new boundaries are becoming blurred, so schools are finding it difficult to embrace. What happens to these individual policies when you have a phone that essentially IS a computer? And where do Tablet PCs and iPads fit? And these new technologies and medias are so much a part of whole generations, that we are neglecting a large part of their lives it we ignore it.

Rather than working harder to ban these things, I think we should be taking a more proactive approach and being at the forefront of how we can USE these things. Young people already are using them, every day. All these new things don't show any signs of just going away, even if people want them to. If we don't get on board with what is happening, it will happen anyway - and we'll be left behind.

I've heard people say "We may wish Facebook would just curl up and die, but it won't." Half of that statement is wrong to me, half of it is right, but as a whole it is completely off the mark.

One, even though I may smile and nod sometimes to keep the peace, I'm not actually one of those people that wishes Facebook would 'die' - I use it and love it. As to the second part - they are most likley right in saying Facebook isn't going to go away - it's firmly entrenched in many people's lives and I think has more going for it to prevent it going the way of MySpace. But that statement is also off the mark - people blame the social media, the platforms. But the truth is they do come and go. They surge in popularity, then die off. But even when they go, that's not the end of it. People haven't all just suddenly logged off the internet never to return - these things die off because something else is replacing it.

Social media is here to stay. Why not embrace it? No media like this is essentially good or bad in and of itself - it's the way we use it. And if we don't get on board, it's still going to evolve and change and grow. It will just grow and change without us, until we are totally left behind.

There can be many benefits of using this media, whether in schools or in ministry - it is such an easy, convenient and interactive way to connect and reach groups of people, such as through creating facebook groups, or Twitter accounts for church announcements.

People argue that we want to create genuine relationships, and connecting through technologies is not genuine. I agree that if you only ever connected with people through technology, then that would be artificial. But used as another facet along with in-person socialising and connecting, I think it is an asset. For a generation of people for whom the online, technological world has become a large part of their lives, ignoring that it is a valid part of their entire worlds is a bit insulting. People are longing for community and connectedness - do we tell them it's only valid if you do it the old fashioned way? Do we neglect this sphere of engaging them?

And of course there are all sorts of privacy issues, and other problems that have been brought up through online presence - but I don't think these issues are new, they've just taken a new dimension that we haven't learned to deal with yet. On the whole, for most people, using common sense and privacy settings is enough to protect ourselves. It's like driving our car in to a huge public parking lot and displaying all our contact and personal details in the window for everyone passing by to see - we wouldn't do that. It sounds ridiculous in that context, so why do we do that in the most giant public space of them all, the internet? And the the issues aren't going to be resolved by us keeping out of it.

The problem is, because of it's rapid advance, we haven't learnt to manage it all yet. But that, to me, is the biggest reason of all for getting involved. Young people already are - they've got a huge part of their lives entwined with technology, but not all adults are in there with them. It's a whole world - and who is bringing them up in it and teaching them how to live in that world? It can't be us; we've got our heads in the sand wishing that it would just disappear. So who's bring them up?

They are teaching themselves and each other what's right and wrong in this world, what's appropriate and safe.

There is a reason kids have parents - because growing up, even the most mature young people are still developing their skills of rationalisation, their ability to understand right and wrong, and the consequences. When it comes to technology, it's a world community responsibilty

If we aren't in that world, not only are we missing out on new and creative ways of connecting with people, were are doing our young people a disservice. We should be setting the standards, teaching young people how to use it creatively but safely. We should be proactive in molding this technology into something positive, innovative and game changing.

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