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Perhaps you have seen the recently released Nielsen report on Internet usage or at least you have heard the buzz. According to new stats, sites like Facebook and Twitter now account for 22.7% of time spent on the web; the next closest activity is online games, which make up 10.2%. 

This information is like gold to marketers and those who watch the trends for the most effective way to reach the public with their messages. Social Networks are being used extensively by many of the major corporations. Corporations are getting it.

There is a lesson for the church in this report as well… we cannot ignore social media. Nothing can replace face-to-face time with people, but I am a fan of both Facebook and Twitter as supplemental tools of communication. I have ministry with students and leaders daily answering questions or giving encouragement using these tools.

But could there be other take-a-ways for us as we study these stats? Let’s take a moment to look beyond the numbers and listen to the message behind the stats. I do not want to build a “straw man” in order to make my point, but I really think there is something below the surface.

I have three observations and challenges for your consideration. If you disagree with me, I do not mind your being wrong… (Ha…Humor). Seriously, I would welcome your comments.

  1. We are entertainment crazy. I know that is not new information but it is worth restating. Based on the Nielsen report about 33% of internet usage is entertainment, which includes either social networking or gaming. We face the task of communicating truth to a consumer culture.
  2. We care about what other people are doing, no matter how mundane. Perhaps the message is, “my life is not interesting, so I need to fill in the margins.” You and I both know people who need to “get a life!” People, young and old, follow athletes, music personalities and movie stars as though they could somehow acquire surrogate pleasure. They often are living their lives vicariously through someone else’s experience. We face the task of communicating truth to people without an identity.
  3. We want somebody to know that we are here. So we create web pages, Facebook personas and Twitter profiles to say, “I am here. Is there anybody out there?” We talk about what we are doing and just want someone to acknowledge us. We are lonely and want to be heard. We face the task of communicating truth to people who are lonely.

Not every person using social media is having an identity crisis, is reclusive or is a certified gaming addict but perhaps there are people in reach of our ministries who feel isolated and need someone to care. The next time they ask, “Is anybody out there?” I hope we will be there to answer.

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