over the last few months the notion has begun to cross my mind that their is an ill effect of the increase in communication technology on the human spirit and our ability to understand the effect of social networking on our spiritual lives.  let me be clear, this effects everyone involved with any social network, online or offline, christian or not.

starting at the beginning, social networks and networking socially are constructs of the human condition and the advent of society.  that is from the very start, we humans have created social networks in one shape or another.  from tribes, to clans, to city-states, to families, to co-workers, friends, class mates, etc. etc.- all of us have social networks that we belong to.

as styles of communication grew, so did the ability for social networks to grow and to thrive.  with the onset of the internet, email, text messaging, and what we now refer to as social networks (online applications) – the growth of communication has allowed us the freedom to communicate with one another in new, faster and more direct (and even indirect ways).

the net effect has been a decrease in the regionalization and compartmentalization of our social networks and the opening of a diverse group of geo-diverse uni-networks within each of our lives (see this google research for an understanding of how social networking (online) has broken down the walls and barriers {http://is.gd/dCZBe}.  it is safe to say, with the web trending as it is (according to the google research) – the lines separating our offline networks are going to be broken down even more.

so what are the implications?  the simple illustration about debbie from google should spark the realization for us all, that everything we do or say online will reach people whether we want it to or not.  what this means is that when we are engaged in any activity that we could call sin, that sin not only effects those around us offline but can have a spiral effect online (after all my network tells me how many people i am one step away from every day – so one thing i say can reach millions of people – literally).  in the sense of overt sin, this is not something new to think about (see again the debbie example).

what is really fascinating to think about is from Romans 14:13-18.  in that passage, paul is addressing the church in rome over a controversy regarding food.  the setting is simple, certain believers in rome did not have an issue eating any food; others who may have been newer to the faith and closely tied in with judiasm did.  so what was happening is that those who did not have an issue eating any food (to them all food was clean) where causing others (of which believed in a strict kosher diet) to stumble in their faith because of this.

paul made an excellent point in saying that, while there may be no real thing that in and of itself is inherently sinful, it is us that make things sinful.  his implication, and overt statement, is that if we do something (regardless if it is sinful for us) and that thing acts to drive, push or pull another person away from Christ – then we have committed sin.  in other words, even if we do something that is okay for us, it might cause someone else to do something that is not okay for them, and if that is the case, the fault is ours.

think about this.  you may say, post, comment, note something on twitter, facebook, your blog, wherever, and it may be something that in and of itself is fine – but there is a ripple effect, it may be taken out of context, it may cause someone to stumble in their faith, it may offend someone… as the ripple increases from a single pebble in a pond to dozens of solitons the effect can grow.

the spiral effect of sin and social networking is not something new, it is just something that has fewer limits and borders, something that can grow exponentially, something that can be bigger then it ever should be.  so the next time you decide to post something, ask yourself, who is going to see this.

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