For about nine years I participated in online social interaction via IRC, Internet Relay Chat. The last several years I helped out as an admin, having responsibility for personnel, policies and content. Although I recently resigned in order to focus on other priorities in life, the lessons I learned from that experience inform my opinions for this post. During my tenure on IRC, new ways of interacting on the web sprang up elsewhere, rendering IRC a dying breed, even obsolete unless someone figures out how to make it relevant again. More on that in a moment.
The new modes of communication are legion and I doubt I am aware of many of them. But let’s consider the most prominent of which I am aware and in which my readers likely have some experience: Facebook (annoying applications, but mainstreamed for parents and youth it appears), Orkut (google’s app, never used it), Google Docs (pretty cool, may use it more in the future) Myspace (I personally don’t like it, but it is very popular by both good users and not so much, if police blotters are any indication), Wikipedia (content-based, but highly user interactive), Tweeter (and its many addons, 140 characters to say what you mean briefly, a necessary feature for someone who likes them thar big fancy seminary words), and Instant messengers (there are many such as Yahoon, MSN, AIM, etc. I have one that I use for a few friends, but I don’t use it for social networking), and Skype, a very cool web phone tool which allows free long distance around the world. Gotta love that!
Among all these tools, the one I am most frequently using is Facebook, with Tweeter running a close second. Tweeter is cool because I can learn from highly skilled and wise colleagues in ministry. Mostly I listen, learn and keep my mouth shut. And when I do post, I try to be appropriate but real.
Facebook is a different animal. I am still figuring it out. Several parents and youth from my church are on it. I enjoy encouraging them from time to time. It is fun to see what is happening in their lives throughout the week. It is interesting how much people will choose to reveal about their thoughts and behavior. This can be a positive thing, but sometimes it is possible to reveal too much information. From a pastoral perspective, it serves as a reminder that being a disciple of Jesus does not mean we are yet perfected in our character. Jesus is still working on us. This is especially true of me. It gives people an opportunity to see that there is more to my life than simply doing children’s ministry, as important as that is. I suspect this is an eye-opener for folks, if they care to look.
Back to IRC….I think IRC can have potential to add a dimension to the social networking media. Currently Facebook features a cheesy peer to peer chat client, but there is no ability for groups of friends to chat. I would like to be able to chat with more than one at the same time. Aol features this in their AIM client. It is different than an IRC client in that there are not permanent chatrooms controlled by Chanserv or a bot. I am not referring to AOL’s regular chatrooms in this case. I am talking about the ability for AIM friends to create a unique room to hold their discussions. My point? Someone needs to do this for Facebook, and add voice and video capacity, plus a whiteboard and/or powerpoint feature for presentation capability. :) Now that would add value to those Facebook groups which want to use the client as their destination for online meetings. I can envision parent meetings on the fly this way, or meeting with my children’s ministry team, or interacting with people who do not know Jesus. Limitless possibilities. :)
What are you thoughts? Am I off kilter? Do I need another hobby? Sound off, all you tech gurus. I would like to hear what you have to say.