The digital world is driven by its entrepreneurial and ideological pioneers and cheerleaders, and they are a multitude. The numbers are staggering. The World Wide Web is, for all practical purposes, less than twenty years old. It now reaches every continent and country, linking over 2 billion people.
There are now 5.9 billion cellular subscribers, and that means 87% of the world’s population. Cell phones, originally the toys of the very rich and powerful, are now more popular than landline phones in the poorest regions of the globe. The telephone pole will soon be an antique.
The blogosphere was unknown to humankind until the last fifteen years, but just one blogging platform (WordPress) logs over 300 million users each month, who blog more than 2.5 billion pages. The world now turns to Google before even thinking of reaching for a dictionary or encyclopedia. Most Americans under age 30 cannot imagine a time when you had to go to a brick and mortar library for information.
The central fixture of social media (for now), Facebook, was launched in February of 2004, and now links more than 900 million users worldwide. Twitter, the micro-blogging sensation was launched in May of 2006 and boasts 140 million users who post 340 million tweets each day. Even more amazing is the fact that more than 1.6 billion search queries are performed on Twitter each day. For many Americans, Twitter represents the leading edge of news and communication.
The digital kingdom is massive and transformative. Older media are migrating to the Web, even as social media increasingly supplant voice technologies. Smart phones are actually small computers, used occasionally for voice calls.
The digital world is the wild west of information sharing and conversation. Just about everything can be found on the Internet, usually within a couple of mouse clicks. This includes everything from preaching to pornography, with politics and entertainment added to the mix.
The Internet and digital technologies connect people, and disconnect them. So much information and entertainment is available so instantly that it seems that the entire globe is developing an attention deficit problem. At the same time, these technologies have led to the greatest democratization of communications since the advent of spoken language. Christians can take the Gospel into China, leaping over the “Great Firewall,” as many Chinese citizens refer to the efforts of their government to keep information out. North Korea struggles to isolate its people from the outside world, but cell phones (from Egypt!) are increasingly common, though illegal.
But the Internet has also disrupted the stable hierarchies of the old information age. A teenager with a computer can put out a blog that looks more authoritative than the blog written by the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation – and perhaps read by more people as well. Most of what appears on the Internet is unedited, and much of it is unhelpful. Some is even worse.
And yet, if you are not present on the Internet, you simply do not exist, as far as anyone under 30 is concerned. These “digital natives” rarely receive and even more rarely write letters. They know nothing but instant information, and studies indicate that they multitask by instinct, utilizing several digital devices at once, often even when sitting in a classroom.
The digital world is huge and complicated and explosive. It contains wonders and horrors and everything in between. And it is one of the most important arenas of leadership our generation will ever experience. If you are satisfied to lead from the past, stay out of the digital world. If you want to influence the future, brace yourself and get in the fast lane. (1)
There are many who hide from life in a computer, on the Internet, or in a game. They aren’t happy with life, so they attempt to create a virtual life that takes them over. More and more time is spent in this “virtual reality” and before long, which life are they living? Which life will amount to something?
Modern society has become so obsessed with entertainment that it becomes the ultimate goal of every other activity. People are unhappy, so they look to entertainment to make them happy. Technology is a tool for people’s entertainment as well. Where is this going to get someone? Will all this entertainment help them reach heaven? Or maybe it might be the stumbling block to prevent them from reaching heaven? Entertain- ment is not a bad thing, but in moderation. Balance is important. Our service to God is important. We are expected to be “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). We will have to give an account to God for what we do, and for what we don’t do. How will He look at your activities?
Yet with every strength and opportunity with social media there is a corresponding weakness and danger. False teachings are often promoted through social media (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3). Just as we can seek to reflect the Lord Jesus and promote the Gospel through social media, the danger exists that we might turn people away from the Gospel instead. Many times pictures and messages are posted or shared that do not honor the Lord Jesus but promote the gratification of the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). Some seem more interested in bashing or praising politicians and political parties than in promoting the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:20-21). Social media relationships can prove rather superficial and are no substitute for substantive, deep relationships with other people in real life, especially within the local church (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28).
Christians have the liberty of using and enjoying social media. Do we seek to honor Jesus through social media, giving reason for others to glorify God, or does our use of social media expose us as hypocrites, giving reason for others to blaspheme? Let us reflect the Lord Jesus through social media, and honor God!
I want to make one final point about all of this. Staying in touch through technology has been great. I wonder if we don’t lose something though. We lose the “personal touch” when this becomes the only avenue we use to reach out to others. We need a bond with each other. An email can be impersonal when someone needs more. Let us not neglect each other for the sake of convenience.
Technology has changed our lives so much. Let us be careful to be certain these changes are for the good of our souls and our brethren!
(1) Albert Mohler "The Christian Leader in the Digital Age", www.AlbertMohler.com
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary -- the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.