I’ve sat down to write this post several times now. Each time it’s been slightly different, with a slightly different focus, but ultimately the same thing has happened – I couldn’t finish it.
Even now, as I’m sat in my comfy desk chair in the dead of night unable to sleep, I’m thinking that there’s no point in continuing to write this.
But at the same time, I want to want to write it.
It’s been some time since I last blogged, so this going to need some back-story.
Just before Christmas I was loving social media. Really enjoying it, I had a lot of conversations going, Twitter was always a source of friendship, information and fun. I was blogging regularly, I had plans to keep blogging, and I was enjoying myself doing it.
Then it got to Christmas time. I went home from university, saw relatives, went away and generally was away from the Internet; away from the online community I’d recently enjoyed being a part of.
When I came back I found that it was hard to get tweeting again. It was like I’d broken a habit, and I couldn’t get back into it. So I thought I would blog about it, maybe explore what my month of near Twitter-silence had done to my relationships, both online and offline.
That was the first time that I sat down to write this blog post. I’d found that being offline hadn’t drastically enriched my offline relationships, as I wasn’t always online, but my online relationships – that sense of community online – had suffered drastically.
I felt a stranger to my fellow Tweeters.
This is where I realised a big difference in online and offline communities.
Offline, people notice when you leave. If you go away or don’t show up to work or uni for a month – people would notice! As Christians we know that churches strive to notice when people aren’t turning up anymore, so that we can find out why.
Online, it doesn’t happen like that. The drop-in nature of social media means that it’s hard to keep track of people. Whereas you might get a call from a friend asking where you’ve been recently offline, online you’re unlikely to be dropped a tweet from someone who hasn’t seen you tweet in a while.
I really don’t like this.
I get that the web is impersonal and the rest of it, I’ve blogged on it enough. What I don’t like is the way that the impersonal nature of the web can come across as uncaring.
As a Christian, I like to think that a collection of Christians together makes a church. So therefore, at least in my mind, the large group of Christians who interact regularly online are a kind of Twitter-church, right?
If we acted in this online church like we did in our physical churches each Sunday then we would have so many friends! In church we greet each new person with enthusiasm and warmth, and strive to make them feel as though they are welcome and are of worth in the community. If we found some way to do this online, wouldn’t it just be awesome? And on the plus side, we have that drop-in nature, and the 24/7-ness of the web on our side! It would be like being surrounded by your church family whenever you need to be.
I have no idea if anything like this is logistically possible, but I hope that we can find a way to make Twitter a huge, caring and warm church.
Reading back through this now I realise that it incredibly poorly written and has no real structure or direction. Normally this would eat at me, but today I’m going to let it slide. This was just written as I thought it, my thoughts straight to paper. Or pixels.
I was going to have an explore about the authenticity of online friendships, but I think that will have to be for next time.
I hope that this post, whilst disorganised and dysfunctional gives you some pause for thought.