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Here's a thought for Feb. 3

February 3, 2012
By the Rev. Paul Wolf , Marshall Independent

Facebook looks to be traded openly on the stock market by its owner, in which he will make billions of dollars and its three thousand employees to make millions of dollars. What did we do before we had social media? It is here and we are not turning back. I myself have a Facebook account, rarely used, as well as other media and technological equipment to aid and organize my day.

Huge ethical questions are being raised and more ought to be raised! The implementation of Facebook's Timeline has shown, for better or for worse, just how much information people relinquish to social media websites. It's mind boggling that the average Facebook user has put so much into their profile (and posts). The site can now produce a well organized compilation of all activities, relationships, friendships, etc. for each person on the network, and this collection of data is available with little protection from the public eye. Never before has there been a way of documenting the lives of individuals so perfectly; this can be both a blessing and a curse. Depending upon the quality of the content being shared, there will be equally positive or negative implications for the user.

There are a few key ethical questions that come up when you consider the difficulties of the profile protection. First, do we own our social identities? Social media seems to be thrown about into the same disorganized mess of all other types of information. Does this mean that this type of information has no more protective priority than any other? If it does not, is the freedom of personal information necessary to avoid "over-controlling" the internet? Furthermore, how much influence should our social identities have on our real world selves? The legality of using social media has been a highly controversial issue in recent years. Should users be legally and ethically responsible for their social profiles (and posts)? The answers to these questions are unknown, but the problem is clear: How do we establish a system that allows people to not only manage their social identities (and view points) but also defines the connection between the virtual and the physical?

Further issues of "wellness of person" arise which include the spiritual. Questions such as: Do we lose our identity as a person simply because we follow the stream and fail to reflect on who we are as a creature before God; a mass of people simply following the next trend and failing to become reflective and grounded in what will give life? A second question: Has the social media become a god that we worship and give our whole being too? Again, not to say that we will ever go back and have life without social media, but has it become an addictive relationship that clouds our time, talent, and treasure in response to our true God and to family, friends and others around us? It might be wise for each of us to step back and look at the time that is devoted to twitter, Facebook, technology in lieu of older means of conversation such as: face to face, or, picking up a land phone, sitting down and actually speaking to a person and giving them your full attention. Also, take a look at the amount of talent that is lost due to responses that need to be posted multiple times during an hour in lieu of true work and productivity that might make a real difference if attended to, such as a term paper, projects of science, music, or art. Also take a look at the amount of resources that are allocated for the next new item that is on the cutting edge, in lieu of making a difference in the person that is right next door and that could use any of the amounts of time, talent, or treasure that we might be able to give them.

Is there life after social media? Can we survive if the internet goes down? Technology in our world is here and it is not going away. How well do we use it for the greater good? And how well does it rule us? We enter shortly into the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a time of reflection and journeying with the Lord into the ultimate quest for life. Life with God, who is relational at its very core: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Like all of the "stuff" of this world, including technology, does it aide us in our journey or detract, does it bring us closer to God and others or drive us further apart? Each one of us will stand before God; will God know us because we have formed a relationship with God or not? Who or what is our God? And do we use wisely the "stuff" of this world to build that relationship, that is lasting and forever.



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