My church has an own Facebook account for six month now. It was hard to convince the church board of the purpose and sense of this new media endeavor. My point was quite obvious, to me social media profiles are unavoidable in our high technological and interconnected world. We have to rather discuss the HOW than the WHY.
But in general the reservation in small churches and parishes is symptomatic for the whole church scene in Germany. Right now only eight of 19 regional churches have a Facebook profile. Some regional churches just started to hire social-media trainers, but the one single bishop with a Facebook account and a vibrant social-media activity remains the internet geek with a special interest.
What is so scary about the internet and about social media in particular? In our time at the edge of high technological innovations, interconnectedness and networked relationships, we can observe two phenomena:
1. The online culture surrounds us and the internet is omnipresent. With TV-shows that rather mention there web-address than their snail-mail address. With small online startups and networking possibilities for NGO’s to enable them to interact globally. With online university access systems, to enable students worldwide to attend classes or to study online in general. Some people might state they are not “in the internet” or they are not “using the internet.” Burt they are just not aware of all the sub layers of the internet, like the so called “internet of things” and the fact that without “this internet” they would not have access to water, electricity or most of their daily supplies.
2. An Anxiety about the risks and dangers of the online sphere is very distinct. Some People scared of the speed, the internet is taking over old familiar media structures or daily communication habits. Some are afraid of the incapacity to grasp what is going on; about the internet of things or unconscious user behaviors mentioned above.
Is it the world risk society Ulrich Beck is talking about when he systematizes the anxiety with which we approach and deal with hazards and insecurities introduced by modernization itself? Is it our fear to lose control, no have no clue about these new technological possibilities and at the same hand frightening modern hazards?
It is not just the parents of my confirmation class kids (about 10 out of 30) who don’t allow their kids to have a Facebook profile, because of their exposed reputation, when later applying for a job and having to deal with embarrassing party pictures. It is also not only my church board, curious and at the same time anxious – and very concerned about the external presentation and image of our church. And it it is also not most of our regional churches with no Facebook profile whatsoever.
I guess confirmation class parents, church bords and online journalists for our regional churches have one thing in common: They are afraid of losing the capacity to protect their reputation and privacy. And this is not only about the three mentioned groups, I guess it is with all of us.
Charles Lemert, an American sociologist and social theorist worked on the so called new individualization. He states that we try to self-construct in a self-narrative way our identity. This new individuality is possible through modern communication and networking tools.
And in this point of view, Facebook is nothing more than a radical micro-sociology with instant self-actualization and self-reinventions. Identity is sharpened and blurred at the same time by this assault to the boundaries of private and public self in the network of interaction. I guess, this is what makes some people scared.
I am not questioning hazards and dangers, but I am missing an appreciation for the socializing factor of social-media in my official church surrounding. Church members have a high yearning for affiliation and membership and for interaction and communication.
“The internet adds and supplies sociability” asserts Manuel Castell, a Spanish internet culture theoretician. Why do we only use it so little and so scared?
Jesus had only twelve followers at the beginning but they retweeted his message big time…