Good discussion tonight even though we missed a number of the regulars (even the Macs couldn't make it due to Jacob's hefty school workload [Jake, I can't decide between a "dweeb" joke or a "geek" joke here. Boom! Roasted.)
In line with our agreed-upon meeting rhythm, this week was centered on another one of our "free-flow" conversations. We mixed things up a bit by starting off with a collective listening of a recent Third Way Faith Podcast by Shane Hipps & Zach Lind entitled, The iGeneration (Archive Episode #7 1.6.09). This particular podcast explores the rise of narcissism [excessive interest in oneself] in our popular culture, especially as it relates to our digital-lives. Shane Hipps generally proposes that the wide-spread crazes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogging, etc. have serious implications on how we as individuals view ourselves, as well as how we as Christians live humbly and relationally.
Hipps points to a study that was conducted across multiple university campuses that tracks the levels of narcissism among our culture over time. The study reportedly saw a remarkable rise in narcissism beginning with the generation that was born in 1982 and thereafter. The correlation is then made between these generations' adolescent years and the launch of these wildly popular social networking Web realities that are now woven into the fabric of everyday life for millions around the globe. During the podcast, Zach offered the observation that "... everybody has that [self-focus] whether you're aware of it or not, and the blogs that I like the least are those that don't know that shadow's there."
The range of our ensuing discussion went something like this:
- Various folks shared their own encounters/experiences with the rise of narcissism among some of those around us who are heavily engaged in these online mediums (another example was even raised regarding pastors whose pious Twittering seems to clash against their role of being a humble leader)
- A number of folks provided countering views that described the many benefits that have been made possible by these Web 2.0 forums. (Take the emerging church movement for example, which has been sustained, promoted, and catalyzed largely in this digital realm)
- The point was made that while Hipps did make strong statements regarding the downsides of these digital mediums, he did not contend that they are categorically harmful. Rather, he is arguing for believers to be mindful of the subconscious effects these mediums carry so that we can be intentional in how we approach them.
- Another point was made about "intentions"... that examining our intentions for engaging in these forums is helpful in tempering our involvement and/or adjusting how we view our participation.
- All agreed that these digital mediums are no substitution for face-to-face interaction, and that by acknowledging this, we are called to be doubly focused on fostering in-person relationships as a community of believers.
- The conversation later shifted to applying the concept of narcissism to the emerging church, which is apparently a common critique from social conservatives. (Parallels were made to the social-gospel adherents...)
- We wrestled with the question, "Can narcissism extend beyond the individual and exist among a collective body of people?", i.e., is their a distinction between "I" and "we" views? [I missed a good portion of this part of the talk, and I'd love to hear more from somebody on this].
I know I've left out A LOT of points that were raised (sorry!). Please jump in the comments, and fill in the gaps that I've left open...
ON THE HORIZON:
- It's not too late to register for the Emerging Church Conference being held in Albuquerque, NM in late March. If you want to jump in at the group rate, you need to let Debbie know by this coming Wed.
- Next week, we're back with Jesus for President. Our discussion will be based on the remainder of Section 1.