One way to evaluate a new innovation or technology is to ask, ?What does this make possible?? The automobile, for instance, made it possible to live miles away from one?s day job. The combination of highways and automobiles make it possible for a ton of my fellow Dallas residents to live 20+ miles from their jobs. That?s just one aspect of what cars make possible, but it shows us how technology can impact society. As we know, cars have impacted our economy, the environment, our health, our relationships, our personal finances, the location and size of our homes, our media consumption habits, and so much more.?
I bring that up because the news lately has prompted me to think about the Internet and social media and what they make possible.?
The ALS Association was founded in 1985 but the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn?t possible until the proliferation of Facebook, the tagging and auto-play video features on Facebook, and the video camera functionality on mobile phones.?
Police violence against minorities and protestors has been around forever, but #Ferguson (and the subsequent DoJ investigation) wasn?t possible until the proliferation of Twitter, mobile broadband, photo and video functionality on mobile phones, YouTube, live-streaming, and so on.?
The horrific beheadings of two American journalists by ISIS were perpetrated as a means of highly visible (and monstrous) messaging. As many have noted, ISIS is particularly adept at digital propagandizing.?
The terrible scandal involving photos stolen from celebrities and posted online is of course only possible because of mass media (which creates celebrities), social media, mobile phone cameras, cloud services such as Dropbox and iCloud, and the kind of online forums where the photos and shared and this deviance is encouraged.?
And finally, the unraveling of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. The church has always had problems (remember Paul calling out Peter for favoritism?), but this particular story has involved so much online reporting (e.g., Warren Throckmorton and others), leaked electronic documents, online statements made by Acts29 as well as current and former MHC pastors, blogs where people hurt by MHC have come forward to tell their stories, and so on.
I’d be lying if I said I knew where all of this was headed or what to make of it. But what we need to know as we use (and hopefully don’t?abuse) social media, is that now things are possible that weren’t possible before. There’s the possibility that great ideas and messages will spread, and there’s the possibility that terrible ideas and messages will spread as well.