Friday, September 16, 2016

On Online Communities and Faith

In May 1994, my husband and I crammed our first Windows computer system into our minivan and brought it home.  Included was a floppy disk for installing America Online software.  We were about to join the internet age. And our telephone bills would reflect that new era.

Before long I discovered online discussion groups.  People with common interests were starting to find each other.  It opened up a new world to me.  For years I had struggled with spiritual questions it seemed no one else was asking.  First AOL, then the World Wide Web gave me access to people discussing the topics that nagged at my soul, people with journeys similar to mine whom I wouldn't know any other way.  I was also introduced to new authors, such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.  I found a new kind of Christianity in postmodernity.  I discovered I already new the fundamentals of the language before I even knew it existed or what it was called.  It was revolutionary!

More than twenty years have passed since those initial adventures in online communities.  Many of my early mentors have moved on.  Social media has become a place of raised voices and contention, especially when discussing politics or religion. In what has long been my favorite community I'm now finding fewer people walking the path I'm walking  I'm relying more on blogs and podcasts for fresh thoughts and guidance down new paths.

One thing I appreciate about online conversation is its pace.  It allows time to think before responding.  And even to edit one's response after further consideration.

It may be time to seek out or form new communities, but I definitely need internet-based communication in my life.  Without it, my world is too small.

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