When it comes to navigating the online world, many Christians fall into two large categories; those who view it as a guilty pleasure and those who look at it like the plague. For the first group, social media is, at its very best, a means to stay connected with like-minded friends and family. For everyone else. they treat it as if they were in a plane flying over Las Vegas. They know what’s going on down there, but they refuse to be a part of it. While Christians remain active at attempting to live to the very best of their ability in the real world, nobody seems to be campaigning for a more active digital citizenship.
But our digital lives have become synonymous with our worlds away from the screens. The digital footprint does not get left behind and has an incredible impact on our interactions with others in real life.
Our worlds are colliding and it is a must for Christians to navigate this new world. This will mean a lot more than simply being respectful of other’s opinions in the comments section of your favorite platform. Providing modern solutions to our modern problems will be crucial if we desire to be thought leaders and love practitioners in this ever-changing world.
As the great philosopher, Ferris Bueller, once stated, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So let’s look at the benefits of being a stand-up online citizen making meaningful connections online.
Learning New Skills
Fast pace doesn’t even begin to describe the rate of change we experience in our online lives. Learning new skills is a need that presents itself at various times. When you need to know something, do you turn to your favorite search engine or do you walk across the street to borrow your neighbor’s encyclopedia set? If you’re considering a larger change in your life, then the online education experience is a path you should consider.
We hope you’ll forgive us for what seems like a shameless plug. While the experiences of a traditional college experience are unmatched, the benefits of online education cannot be overstated. After all, if you’re at a stage or location in life that does not lend itself to moving and pausing your life for three or four years, then online is an incredible solution.
The Online education experience at any institution will offer the same expertise you’ll find on its campus. This is why you should check out the campus of any online school you’re investigating. Because a lot of content is recorded and curated, what you will receive from online professors is a collection of the best material they offer in the classroom.
A couple of other factors to consider with the online education experience is the pricing and the pace. The pricing is a lot less because you are only paying for the tuition. Of course, you will still need to stay up-to-date on your rent and buy your own groceries. The pace is another friendly factor. You make your own schedule and set your own pace.
Engaging the ‘Other’ Side of Digital Citizenship
Another benefit of being more active digitally is the opportunity to engage with those who do not necessarily see the world as you do. The online world presents an opportunity to shine the light of Christ to a world that is looking for authentic truth in the form of community through good digital citizenship. At this point, you might be wondering if we’ve ever scrolled Twitter and glanced at the underbelly that is the comments section on a YouTube video or Reddit feed.
We get it. It’s pretty dark and controversial out there in many places on the web. But what if it wasn’t? Is there any method for remaining a decent online citizen?
What if Christians were as serious about engaging their online world in a way that was gentle and kind as they are when confronting sin with their best friend in a coffee shop? Whatever happened to the type of compromise that didn’t abandon our religious beliefs but helped find mutually beneficial solutions to problems impacting us all? We may not agree on every point, but we should be able to find some common ground that helps us progress.
Becoming Informed About New Ideas
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
First commenter: I have very strong feelings about the headline I just read.
Second commenter: But did you read the article?
First commenter: Well, no…
While no one has time to stay up-to-date on everything that exists on the world wide web, one of the aspects of being a good digital citizen is interacting with new ideas in a thoughtful way. This will require the time it takes to read and consider, give and receive feedback. After all, community discourse does not happen in a vacuum.
What makes online learning worth every dollar is that you won’t be left alone to formulate your worldview. You won’t even be left to solely engage with professors. Think of the online classroom as a community of engaged learners who have their own experiences to add. Their stories and lessons learned become practical experiences where you benefit from not having to make the same mistakes as others. Vice versa, you may also discover a solution perfect for your industry from someone else’s failed attempt.
“When we are truly ready to learn, all people and all experiences become our teachers.” ~Anonymous
A Need for Connection
What must never cease to exist in our world as online citizens is the desire to make meaningful connections. If impactful relationships mean anything to us as Christians, good digital citizenship is a necessity that cannot be ignored. There are two obvious examples of how our world is still clamoring for authentic relationships, even as we communicate more with our fingers than we do with our voices.
The first example is how so many people search for companionship. Online dating continues to explode and we are now able to celebrate couples who began virtually and now cannot imagine life without their significant other. Just the existence of the variety of dating sites is proof of how much people desire to find relationships with shared life experiences. This is why for every Match.com and eharmony, there is a Farmers Only and Christian Mingle. We even found a niche site for vegetarians and pirates looking for one another. (Alas, not one for vegetarian pirates.)
The second example is the explosion of online gaming. Who knew you could have as much fun playing video games with Steve from Cleveland and Claire from Phoenix as you do playing the Wii in your living room with your family? The explosion of sites like Twitch and Steam is helping us expand our horizons when making connections.
We’re not advocating that you live your life online 100% of the time. Get outside. Take a walk. Have conversations with people when you can look them in the eyes. But when you are going to be online, be intentional and implement steps for learning, engaging, and connecting.
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