The internet's not written in pencil

If you have Facebook or Instagram, this is for you...

Nothing in me wanted to watch The Social Network.  It did not seem like a fun night in.  However, as I sat, submitting to my husband's insistence that I would be converted, I was indeed taken in - fascinated, challenged and excited by the great dialogue and deep themes that ran through the film.  

This is not a film review, it is some thoughts provoked by one conversation in the movie which I think everyone who has Facebook and Twitter should read and think on.

Erica Albright: You called me a b***h on the Internet, Mark. 
Mark Zuckerberg: That's why I wanted to talk to you. 
Erica Albright: On the Internet. 
Mark Zuckerberg: That's why I came over. 
Erica Albright: Comparing women to farm animals. 
Mark Zuckerberg: I didn't end up doing that. 
Erica Albright: It didn't stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet's not written in pencil, Mark, it's written in ink. And you published that Erica Albright was a b***h, right before you made some ignorant crack about my family's name, my bra size, and then rated women based on their hotness. 
Reggie: Erica, is there a problem? 
Erica Albright: [Turning to talk to Reggie] No, there's no problem. 

'As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared'

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is often how I slip into using Twitter - comments, photos on whatever comes into my mind.  I think it's an important challenge to ask ourselves what we put out there and the 'right' we feel we have to publish our every thought.  It's harmless, perhaps, when it's a photo of our dinner, but when it comes to opinions, frustrations and commentary on others there can be a thin line between what's fair, what's true and what's unwise to put out there.  The internet is a forum in which we can now publish our opinions - something which used to take a good deal of editing, ok-ing by professionals and prolonged, processed thought to make possible.  Should we be putting more thought into what we 'publish' online?

'The internet's not written in pencil, Mark, it's written in ink. And you published that Erica Albright was a b***h'

Internet bullying is growing in our country and I don't just mean amongst young people.  This one sentence sums so much of that up.  What is written on the internet can be put there flippantly, in a moment, with no veto-ing process involved.  It is often irreversible and it is published (public).  Once shared, opinion, offensive comments and angry rants can be copied, forwarded, shared and returned to.  Our own comments can encourage others into negativity, insult or distrust.  I see twitter used like this all the time. 

For students starting at university, where everyone is wanting to make friends and many people are finding their way, making mistakes as they do, what is the power of your social media presence to affect that journey for them?  Does your photo of them out drunk send a message they wish hadn't been sent?  Is your re-telling of their encounters last night something they laugh off in company but are deeply gutted about in private?  What impact do the words we share have and are we aware of the power of the internet as a deeply profound form of communication?

Ultimately, I think its about responsibility.  Do we accept responsibility for what we publish and do we accept the impact that it has?

I'm still thinking all of this through and I don't have the answers to these questions.  I believe this is a profound piece of dialogue and that these are important questions to wrestle with.  What jumps out for you in this passage of text?  Does anything resonate with you?

Fusion's latest Fuse magazine addresses the topic of our relationship with technology.  You can read it here.

Pippa Elmes

Ministry Training Leader

Pippa supports those in church based student ministry to do their job really well. She loves challenging churches to work with students and equipping them to pioneer new mission opportunities to reach students.                     

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