The increasing consumption of information leads to insulation in our personal lives while giving an ostensible broadness in our interactions with the wider world. This was the conclusion from my last post. As more information is imbibed, we have less time for that which should be most important and immediate to us. But the exchange of information in increasing manner has another implication.
If you use the internet, your life is archived someplace. Regardless of how careful you are, your personal information resides someplace. Between cookies, IP logs, memorized form fields, and the increasing tendency for social networking to record everything… well, you get the point. My contention: to be a consumer, you must also be a contributor. And that puts us into a quandary as information exchange continues to multiply with each successive generation.
To be a part of the system, I must contribute. And, quite simply, the machine doesn’t allow us the luxary of saying “no” to ever increasing amounts of participation in distributing information about ourselves.
It reminds me of the plot in a science fiction novel I read near the end of high school. The Light of Other Days posits that there will come such a time as mankind can limitlessly view the past through technology. It’s not a book I would recommend per se – part of their observation of the past includes the discovery that Jesus was not virgin born – but the ideas contained therein seem to be prophetic when we look at all that is taking place around us.
In the book there are two contrasting responses: the rejection of such technology by people whose spend their entire lives wrapped in sheets to avoid the public eye, and the wholesale acceptance of it by the masses. Do these responses find a parallel today? It would seem to be so… take Facebook, for example. Facebook’s EULA (End User License Agreement) has increasingly taken the ease and/or option of privacy away from the user. You can opt out for a time, ‘suspending’ your account while all your content remains in limbo. But to truly opt out means all of your content, interactions, etc. are all deleted.
For the average user, this neverending documentary of your life is an acceptable sacrifice. It’s what Facebook is designed to do, after all. But it’s also predicated on the idea that we should be allowed to control the privacy settings on our account, something that appears to be less and less likely to endure. The fact that Facebook records my every move on its site (and Google, and Amazon, etc.) will eventually result in the access of and potential dissemination of that information by means legal or illegal.
Is this something we should be willing to accept? Upon deep reflection, I greatly doubt it. But is there a compromise between wholeheartedly embracing the medium in such a way that it changes our very perceptions of public and private, and figuratively wrapping ourselves in a sheet for our entire lives? I’m not sure, but I want to think through it, and especially how this encroaching horizon should affect ministry.