Gardner Campbell is a college professor who blogs on technology and education. In a recent post on “A digital skill set for educators“, he comments:
“I think my older students were just over the line of the divide between those who go to the Internet to find or do something and those who go to the Net to meet their friends and do the equivalent of watch TV or listen to music together.” (Thanks to Richard McManus for linking this.)
As the parent of a 17 year-old daughter, this makes sense to me. When she’s home, my daughter “hangs out online” all the time. She multi-tasks. She has multiple AIM windows open, listens to her Zen, and sometimes is also on the phone. The TV is probably on too (Disney Channel, ABC Family, TV Land, etc.) for background noise and an occasional chuckle. My experience as a parent resonates with Gardner’s comment.
This shift in how the Internet is used has great significance for our strategies for youth ministry and young adult ministry. People in their teens and twenties are hanging out online all the time. We’re working on ideas at Church of the Resurrection for how to hang out online with them and join in the theological conversation we know they’re having. For this audience, only a small part of their Internet activity is about obtaining facts (what time is the movie showing?) and accomplishing tasks (buy a ticket). It’s predominantly about friends and shared experience.
When I was in high school, we went to the local McDonald’s to hang out, shoot the breeze, and do the verbal/social equivalents of skateboard tricks. Now it’s the Internet–and the thing is, so much of the world can be assembled at any node (read: any user) of the Internet, that the field of “shared experience” is infinite for all intents and purposes. We can share music, movies, text, images … easily. I agree the implications for youth ministry are enormous, and enormously interesting. Imagine a theological conversation that ends with sharing some book titles and online reading/viewing/listening. If it’s done organically, spontaneously, and personally, such serendipitous moments can truly be vessels of grace.Thanks for reading and responding to my posting. Godspeed!