Friday, 18 February 2011
Once upon a time in 2003, the beginning of end-times emerged from the now rotting carcass of a beast which would promulgate the plague known as social networking websites. A false prophet by the name of "Friendster" would convert millions of casual web surfers into stalwart clones in an experiment to breed social awkwardness and pave the way for a cyberdystopian future. Once hooked, the true king of deception and misery rose from the shallow waters of punch bowls at social gatherings to sweep up unsuspecting victims and indoctrinate them into Satanbook, also commonly known as Facebook. This was a master plan to decrease church attendance and ultimately doom weak relationships with a reliance on empty titles and cute, tiny heart icons.
Experimental psychologist Richard Beck postulates that Facebook along with modern technology is part of the reason why church attendance has been declining in recent years. Despite Gallup polls showing that church attendance in America has been slowly increasing over the last few years, he brings up some interesting points which are worth reading if you're desperately trying to cling to the notion that Americans are ditching their Sunday best for unwashed undies and a can of Bud Light.
The idea behind this is that the advent of mobile phones and the Internet has stripped away part of the appeal of going to church - which according to Richard Beck, is to socialize and see people en-masse or "in Mass" if you want to get clever. While that shouldn't be the primary reason for attending church, those who are otherwise disinterested or lulled to sleep by the words of God would justify the commute with social interactions afterwards. However, with the reliance on electronic devices to communicate with friends and family, why would these specific church-goers keep attending when they can lounge around at home and send quick messages to their God-fearing buddies? Generation Y or "Millennials" have been shaped by the rise of instant communication technologies and it shows.
Richard Beck writes,
"Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America."
It's not a novel idea, and I can certainly tell you that with a straight face. It heavily borrows upon the reality that the information age has given us tremendous advantages and convenience at the expense of formal social gatherings in many cases. The cause and effect is universal in that the implications for our reliance on technology don't solely affect the church, meaning Beck's postulation is a futile, yet interesting one. It brings forth the discussion of the impact social networking websites and mobile devices have on our society. You see, I'm not disputing the idea that instant communication has caused church attendance to dwindle, but I don't believe it should be looked at as a major proponent when plenty of other valid reasons exist, such as child molestation cases, religious wars and other catastrophes.
We've come a long way since the days of fear mongering when cellular phones were more popular than OJ Simpson's gloves. Brain tumors, remember that? One can only imagine the stories circulating about the dangers of cellphone use back then. While I've seen some strange things in New York City, I'm not walking amongst a society of people with head protrusions just yet. I'm still waiting for these adverse effects to render all cellphone users useless and disfigured so I can sit upon my makeshift throne of abandoned BlackBerry phones. Beepers are a thing of the past, my friends.
The "computer nerd" stereotype is vanishing faster than Sammy Sosa's natural pigmentation and it isn't uncommon for your average person to sit in front of the computer playing shitty virtual Facebook games for hours on end, while telling Emily all about their latest bowel movements. These are hours spent socializing in one of the lowest possible forms while options to go out and meet up with friends or family usually exist in the same instances. It may be a comfort zone for some people, but it's a vicious cycle which eventually weakens social skills which are a great asset to have, especially when interviewing for jobs.
Even your average trashy clubber will devote hundreds of hours to multiple networking sites perfecting their online persona and showing off their drunken, googly-eyed faces in dimly lit pictures. In other words, just because you go out and get wasted on the weekends it doesn't mean that you have good social skills. You'll end up on Facebook during the rest of the week for countless hours again, until you can get inebriated and lose all forms of judgment on Saturday night. Are we living two separate lives? Which of your two lives gets the most of your time?
It seems as if everything imaginable is being affected. Video games have long been an activity requiring you to have friends over for some fun multiplayer sessions. Almost all games feature a single-player campaign, but beginning with the original Xbox, an emphasis has been put on the online features. Now we have game consoles with Twitter and Facebook integration to further keep us glued to our television sets and away from smelly real-life people. While it's undoubtedly cool and totally optional, I feel uneasy knowing that new ways to keep us in front of our sets are being developed every day. I wish I could still call up some buddies for a game of baseball, but they would much rather spend the day text-messaging their hussies.
It has become increasingly difficult to interact with people because they're always checking their phones for messages, or picking up and talking while we're hanging out (I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about). It's a challenge to come across others who can keep up in conversation or learn the art of being tactful or "classy" as they say. In no way am I saying I'm completely innocent because I'm sure I've been guilty of some of these things before, but I make an effort to better myself. We have technology that's constantly advancing and making life easier to manage, but like all great innovations, we must learn how to use it in ways that will advance us as a species. Some of these people out there, though... God help me. God help us all.
Do you blame a disinterest in church on the ease of socializing through mobile devices?
How often are you socializing online, and is it more often than you'd like?
Tell me what your thoughts are on the dominance of social networking sites.