Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Me Too?

October 16, 2017

Facebook’s latest protest meme is for women to post Me Too in a status update if they have been the victim of sexual harassment of some kind in the past.  The idea is solidarity with the women who were abused by Harvey Weinstein.   The intent of the Facebook thingy is to show that the headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, that it wasn’t just a few up-and-coming or hopeful starlets who have been bullied, harassed, abused, or worse.  Women of all walks of life have had moments of harassment that unite them in a common outrage.

I don’t have a problem with something that draws attention to a dangerous and sinful problem that human beings of all cultures and backgrounds have to deal with.  I have no doubt that there are many women who have been mistreated by men, manipulated mentally, emotionally, or physically simply for the gratification of another person.  This is a terrible and awful reality.

The problem I have with it is that in the effort to create unity, there is precious little talk about what actually defines harassment or manipulation.  We’re being indoctrinated to believe that it is possible to speak and act in ways that are completely inoffensive to all people at all times, yet the net result of this indoctrination seems only to be showing how completely and utterly untrue and impossible this is.  Someone is always offended, even if the person accused wasn’t trying to be offensive or was completely ignorant about the peculiar cauldron of experiences and issues that would lead someone to be offended in that moment.

Is asking a woman out an example of a man harassing or intimidating a woman, if she feels harassed or intimidated?  Obviously there are some behaviors and statements that most of us could and would agree upon as patently offensive or blatant examples of intimidation.  But the grey area seems inordinately large.  We can attempt to understand one another better in an effort to communicate more clearly and effectively and mitigate or reduce the number of unintended offenses.  We can be more diligent about protecting those who speak out against those who abuse their power to coerce or intimidate or harass others.  But there are limits to all of these things, and we’re also aiming at a moving target.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim, but it should make us cautious about the self-righteousness of our attempts.

Particularly it should make us cautious of applying definitions and standards we have created today to characterize situations and behaviors and individuals in the past.  Trying people in our past by standards only acceptable and recognized today is potentially unfair, recasting the past in a light that it may not have naturally experienced.  Jokes and innuendos about casting couches have been around pretty much as long as films have been.  Calling out Weinstein and others for their abuses in the past isn’t unfair because there was an understanding in the past that those behaviors were inappropriate.

Is the supervisor at a workplace 30 years ago to be thought of as a sexual predator for asking out a young woman?  Maybe.  Was he intentionally using his position as a means of pressuring her to accept?  Was there the explicit idea that refusal would jeopardize her job?  Foul play.   But not every supervisor who asks out someone in a lower power position is a sexual predator, and we ought to be careful about recognizing this.  Making someone uncomfortable accidentally shouldn’t implicate that person as predatory or bullying.

Hopefully we can all learn together how to be better co-creations of God the Father, seeing one another as someone that God the Son has died and risen from the dead for, and that God the Holy Spirit is actively trying to work within.  We can help one another towards that end by articulating what is and isn’t appropriate.  So go ahead and post Me Too if that’s appropriate.  I pray that there can be some healing and forgiveness in that honesty.  But I also encourage people to try and ensure their feelings and reactions to something aren’t coloring the event, turning it into something it might not have been.

 

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Who to Promote

September 20, 2017

I was raised with solid middle-class, middle-America values.  Children should be seen rather than heard.  Or maybe it was heard rather than seen.  Frankly, the preference was probably that we were neither seen nor heard.  In any event, the idea of self-promotion of any kind has always been anathema to me.  It isn’t that I don’t crave recognition.  I do.  But perhaps as a means of controlling that monster inside of me I’ve tried to avoid the spotlight as much as one can do from the front of a classroom or the front of a church.

I dreamed of being a writer but have abandoned that in a post-literate age where anybody can get published inexpensively.  Some of the folks that follow this blog seem to do so out of a concept of mutual self-promotion that eludes me.  I hope for fame, but expect that I won’t have to be the one telling people how awesome I am in order for that to happen.  It will just, someday, but broadly recognized and I won’t have to push for that recognition.

Is that too hard to ask?

My job is not to promote myself –  my job is to promote Christ, to make him known to as many people in as many different facets as He gives me time and opportunity.  But in order to put his name out there, it can be easy to be put mine out as well.  Given time and a bit of temptation, the desire for my name to be glorified can quickly eclipse the desire that his name be glorified.  On the flip side, excessive self-deprecation and equally result in his name not being shared as broadly as possible.  I’m wondering how to put out his Word without necessitating the inclination most people have (not entirely incorrectly) to want to know more about the messenger.

I’m being asked more and more to share my preaching and teaching with expanding audiences, particularly via the Internet as well as more localized outlets such as pre-recorded and live radio options.  It’s something I’ve been hesitant to do  because crafting a message for an audience unfamiliar with me, my congregation, my theology, etc. is a lot more complicated than just videoing a sermon and putting it online.  In a day where it’s customary to take things out of context, I want to think carefully about what I say before facing criticism either from those who don’t share my belief, or those who think they share my belief to a greater/stronger/more accurate extent than I do.

It’s also a lot of work, and being basically lazy, the idea of taking on additional work is unattractive.

But more and more I’m being led to see that this bears investigating further.  I went to lunch today with a gentleman who had the main intent of convincing me to think more seriously about radio and podcasting and other means of speaking to a larger audience.  Of course my ego loves this, and I have to try and put that down while still hearing what is being said and considering it as objectively as possible.  We have such Good News to share with a world that is so incredibly hungry for good news.  If we need to be reconsidering and reevaluating how we do Church in a rapidly changing culture, I can’t simply say that I’m not willing to consider other avenues for sharing the Gospel and helping people to understand it better.  Prayers are appreciated!

Bullseye

September 19, 2017

Part of the challenge and risk and reward of having a public presence online is that you never know who is going to stumble across your stuff or how they’re going to react to it.  So it was only a mild surprise when someone posted to a Facebook page I have for campus ministry.  The actual flow of events seems to be that this person found the page, liked the page, and then came across one of my posts there and freaked out.  The post was an open invitation to our Sunday evening happy hour.  I don’t think that anyone locally is likely to find the page and the invitation and request info, but I posted it more in terms of letting whomever know the kinds of things we were doing.

I have no idea who this person is beyond the little Facebook tells about her.  She isn’t apparently local, but has taken it upon herself to call me to repentance for offering a weekly happy hour.  Based on the destructive role of alcohol in the life of her family, she clearly sees it as a sin that should never be encouraged.

She could just be a bored troll hoping to start angst.  But I presume she’s sincere and so I take the time to respond to her and engage her concerns.  It’s not the kind of interaction I created the page for, but it is interaction, a chance to share the Gospel or apply the Gospel to our daily lives.  And I don’t know who else might see the interaction so I want to do so in love along with a good application of Scripture.  Her concerns are valid, based on her experiences.  The difficulty is balancing that something might be harmful and therefore sinful to one person, but not be harmful or sinful to someone else.

Maybe others will be drawn into the conversation.  What I hope this woman realizes is that her concerns are real, but not necessarily the best basis for condemning something as sinful in someone else’s life.  Especially someone she’s never met.

 

More Misjudging Nature?

August 29, 2017

Last week I wrote about how science interprets animal behavior through the lens of natural selection.  Every behavior must somehow fit into this very limited understanding of our world, thereby excluding any other explanations.  Scientists struggle to make sense of things like altruism in humans, looking for evolutionary causes rather than the possibility that we actually are altruistic at times.  And if humans can’t be allowed to actually be altruistic because it has no reliable natural selection explanation, then animals certainly can’t be credited with such complicated motivations.

We are accustomed to assuming that scientists are right, and that animals have no such emotions or motivations, and rather are more strictly and simply motivated by survival instincts that have needed to become masked and made more complicated in human beings alone – for no readily explainable reason.

So this video of two hippos driving off a crocodile about to drown a wildebeest, must have natural selection explanations.  The hippos couldn’t possibly have just decided to save the wildebeest.

The explanations in the article hold the natural selection line by denying any possible altruistic motives.  The croc was too close to the hippos is the first hypothesis, which triggers their aggressiveness.  But it’s clear in the video that this is not the case.  The hippos close on the crocodile from far more than two meters.  The second theory, that the splashing triggered their territorial urges, also seems unlikely.  Most of the splashing occurred earlier, and the hippos were nowhere to be seen.  What size is the territory that a hippo stakes out?  Do two hippos stake out the same territory and work together within it?  If they are sub-dominant males, are they acting on behalf of the dominant male?  Isn’t that his job?  And if they share the watering hole anyways, why would territory need to be staked out if the basic relationship between the two species is live and let live?

Of course, there are lots of questions for the altruistic explanation that are just as slippery to answer.  Why save this wildebeest and not every wildebeest?  But I don’t think the behavior of two individuals in a singular situation need dictate a policy of sorts among hippos.

I don’t intend to (or even wish to!) completely undermine and dismiss all scientific observations.  But it seems to me that the lens of natural selection forces scientists down a very narrow path when interpreting animal behavior.  Maybe it’s helpful to just admit that they are more complicated than we often give them credit for, something that ultimately makes creation that much more amazing.

If You Have Kids….

August 18, 2017

…or grandkids, you need to know that most likely, they aren’t on Facebook anymore.  Most of their social media interaction is taking places on alternate platforms, and you should know about them and determine the appropriate way to guide, inform, and look after your child’s safety.  This is a good list of some of the most popular social media apps.

And if it sounds a bit draconian to be monitoring your child’s social media access, here’s some encouragement.

 

Too Much, Too Soon

August 2, 2017

First off, this is a tragic situation – every parents’ nightmare.  A middle-school girl committed suicide because of bullying – digital and otherwise – from some kids at her school.  The parents now intend to sue the school district for failing to put a stop to the bullying.  They are also considering suing the parents of the specific bullying students.

I have written in the past about the dangers of providing children with unfettered access to the Internet and social media.  I disagree strongly with parents who circumvent age-restrictions for their kids to access social media platforms.  While details of the particular social media platforms involved in this particular bullying case are not provided, most major social media platforms (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – even though kids really aren’t using Facebook these days) require users to be at least 13 years old.

Kids are kids, and are always going to be pressured to conform to peer expectations.  Sometimes that pressure is going to be abusive and intense.  Other times it will be subtle and insidious.  Handing a child a smartphone with access to the Internet and social media without providing training, support, monitoring, and limitations is just plain unhealthy.  Yes, your child might be mature enough to handle it.  But I’d argue the vast majority are not.  Believe it or not, your child (or grand-child, or great-grandchild, or niece or nephew or whatever) will survive not having 24/7 access to social media.  If they are laughed at or in disparaged for this by their peers, it’s stronger proof that they shouldn’t have it.

The Internet and social media are addicting.  Adults deal with this already, and children are even more impressionable as they seek to understand and discover who they are.  Our kids – and particularly our daughter – frequently talk about how different her friends become once they have a smart phone of their own.  How they talk more about pop culture, about being pretty, and just about how they are constantly checking their phone for updates and likes and other indicators of popularity.

This pressure was brutal enough in decades past, but today’s technology permits it to occur 24/7.  No break.  No escape.  Kids need their parents to be parents – to set limits, provide guidelines, to dialogue and to model healthy digital habits and behaviors.  There’s a lot at stake.

Re-Making Good

April 5, 2017

If you’re worried about your privacy and the security of your personal information in an interconnected, Internet world, you aren’t alone.  The man who first created the World Wide Web is also concerned.  Fortunately, unlike you and I, he’s the sort of guy who might be able to do something about it.

YouTubing

January 23, 2017

I have never subscribed to a YouTube channel.  I likely never will.  But were I going to, this might be the one.

I really enjoy this guy’s musings on weaponry, particularly the medieval stuff.  I have no idea if he actually knows what he’s talking about or not, but he makes sense.  I haven’t been able to find any hard information about him or about his background, even on his web site.

Until shown why I shouldn’t, I shall continue to find him mildly amusing and potentially enlightening!

How Bored Are You?

January 20, 2017

Bored enough to watch snippets of videos people posted to YouTube without necessarily expecting (or wanting) anyone else to see them?  Here is the site for you!

This web site apparently mines YouTube looking for videos that have very few (if any) views, and are unnamed and definitely unedited.  Mom posting a clip of your volleyball game?  It’s there.  Random snippets of news conferences?  Duly noted.  It’s not riveting watching but there’s something appealing to the idea of seeing glimpses of the complete opposite of 15-seconds of Internet fame!

Unsocial Media

January 13, 2017

What does your social media look like?  Not necessarily which one you use, but who are you in contact with through it?  I don’t Twit, and Facebook is my only social media venture thus far.  When I scroll through my friends, I see a broad spectrum of people.  There are two guys I’ve known since elementary school.  A smattering of folks from Junior and Senior high.  A few from college.  Some from many of the places I’ve worked (other than Burger King…oddly enough I’m not in contact with any of those folks still!).  Some from various educational institutions I’ve either attended or worked for.  Some from the congregation’s I serve(d).  There’s a growing number from the bar pool league I play in.  Finally there a few people that I’ve met in various capacities and situations only briefly.

It’s a diverse group, to say the least.  I take this into account when I post on Facebook – which is rarely.

I’m not sure about you but when I’m with any one of these many people, I don’t feel compelled to shout out my opinions on politics, sexuality, religion, or current events.  I may talk about some of these things with these various people, but there’s always a context to the conversation.  I’ve never had a single conversation where I or the person I was talking to simply announced If you hold this particular opinion on this particular subject, I don’t ever want to talk to you again and I hope you die in a car fire.

But I hear the equivalent from people all the time on Facebook.

I wonder about the diversity of their social network.  How many different people are they around?   Do they expect that every single person in their social network should think and feel exactly the way they do?  Have they forgotten that I’m in their list of friends?

It’s easy to think of the people posting obnoxious, rude, and hateful things.  But I’d argue that there are other people doing the opposite of this and it’s just as weird.  Many of the people I interact with on a regular basis aren’t Christian.  It would never strike me as appropriate when running into them at Costco or over a pool table to just shout out a verse of Scripture.  But I have friends that do this as well.  Are they only friends with Christians?  What must that be like for their non-Christian friends?  I can understand quoting Scripture to encourage a brother or sister in the faith, but does it have that same effect on non-Christians?  My experience has been overwhelmingly that it does not.

What is social media ultimately for?  Is it a platform to express my inner thoughts and feelings, even in a manner that I would never consider doing face to face with another person?  Is it a means of fostering dialogue and contact with a great number of people across the span of my life?  Should it only be for and with people who think and feel exactly as I do on whatever topics I make determinative?  Is it a reminder and celebration that even people who are very different can still find value in one another?

How is it that we’ve come to think of social media as different from our face-to-face interactions, even though it encompasses many of the people we interact with face-to-face?  Is it possible to disparage a particular point of view and have any respect for someone who believes it?  Is that the nature of friendship and relationship, let alone the definition of loving my neighbor as myself?

It’s troubling, regardless.