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Broadcast truth? 12 July 2011

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings, Technology.

Not a blog about the TV news, but more a passing thought about passing thoughts, perhaps. One of the great strengths of the internet age is the ease with which we can communicate with those around us, and those distant from us.

Once there was the letter, the realm of the written correspondence, then came the email. Not instant communication, but at least near instant transmission, even if the receiver doesn’t open it. With such shrinkage of distance comes the need to remind the writer that just because information can be transmitted that fast they shouldn’t expect a response that fast. And that’s without mentioning the need sometimes to write and then wait, to hold fire with the written word lest a message be sent that might be regretted later.

Then there came the blog, the self-publishing for all who will read it, in greater or lesser degrees of public openness.  Usually anyone can read it, but amidst the vast electronic ocean first you have to find it.

Now we have the mature technology of Facebook, social networking and whatever Google+ may become (I haven’t tried it). And now you can broadcast your thoughts to at least your “friends”, who may include many you have never physically met, and maybe many more. Not in safe anonymity, but attributable to you.

Which brings me to my thoughts. Maybe not daily, but certainly weekly, in my trawl through my Facebook friends, I see status updates that make me both sad and concerned. The broadcast to all, so often venting frustration at a partner, friend or institution that reads as a veiled threat, or as a cry of desperation, or for help. As an acquaintance to many of my “friends” I find my reaction a mixture between embarrassment and prurience. As a minister, I find myself concerned, and wondering whether I can, or should act pastorally upon such disclosure.

So often, it seems direction-less, a “prayer gone blind” to borrow a phrase from Roxette. It can’t be a prayer, can it, if there’s no divine addressee? And how often is the one it’s directed at aware of it? How often has the writer (and I must include myself, on occasion, if I’m honest) really thought about what they are saying and what the impact of it might be, as they tell me, and any other “friend”, something that should really be spoken in the intimacy of relationship, rather than broadcast to all?

In the Christian tradition Jesus warns us that God knows all the thoughts of our hearts, and if that isn’t frightening enough, that what is done in secret will be shouted from the housetops, our “dirty washing displayed”  for all to see.

We may (rightly or wrongly) worry about the security of our voicemail accounts, and rail against those who take liberties with them through what now seems to be called “blagging” even if I know it as “social engineering.” But before we do, perhaps we (and I include myself) might do well to think a little more carefully about that which we broadcast for free.




1. kangerew - 13 July 2011

Well said.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to get caught up in the train of other people’s impatience. Saying “Let me think about it” can be regarded as an excuse to prevaricate, for instance.
I try to imagine that Facebook and my blogging is done in the middle of a busy market place: just because most people are ignoring me does not alter the fact that any can see/hear what I am saying or showing.

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