Posted by: riverchilde | April 29, 2011

Our common life and social media

Confession time: I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to watch the royal wedding. Not to pin the blame elsewhere, but I probably wouldn’t have done it if my daughter hadn’t already planned to watch it, and I thought it would be fun to do together. We made British rock cakes (a new family favorite) and tea, settling down under a shared blanket to enjoy the pageantry and see how much of the landscape my daughter recalled from our London visit six years ago when she was 12.

The voices of the boys’ choir were angelic, my heart thumped when those cultivated British voices spoke the word “troth,” and I wished all the world would hear the words of the Bishop of London’s sermon about marriage.

My ears perked up as a CBS commentator mentioned the royal family’s use of social media around the wedding. Her smug words about “rebranding” the royal family so that they were more “relevant” made me want to gag. It irritated me to no end that marketing terminology was used when language about connection and communication and inclusion was so much more appropriate. The former creates gulfs between people while the latter has the power to unite. And unity was what this wedding was about–not just the union of two people, but the common life that we share as members of a nation and a world. Whatever their flaws, the British do the “common life” well (#proudtobebritish was one of the top Twitter trending topics). And in most cases, helping individuals feel part of the great ceremony and the pomp leading up to it was social media’s goal.

For most, that is. British security forces’ concern was for the dark side of social media.  The new possibilities for linking those who wish to join the couple’s celebration also presented new possibilities for those wishing to disrupt the proceedings.

Whatever one’s reasons for using social media, the royal wedding was proof that the landscape of our common life has changed radically, not just since the wedding of Diane and Charles (which I did not watch), nor just since the wedding of Charles and Camilla (which I did watch, having just returned from London a week earlier), but even since the engagement of William and Kate was announced.

Which, of course, makes me wonder: How well do we use social media in our common life as Christians? Do we use it to unify or divide? Do we use it as a “marketing tool” to “rebrand” Christianity/the church, or do we use it as a means of connecting, including and ultimately communicating the Good News?


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