Part 3 in a continuing series on What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church
Let’s just open that can of worms called MySpace. If you haven’t heard about MySpace, you’ve surely heard about the MySpace backlash. MySpace is one of many of social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, Orkut and dozens of others, though MySpace has the distinction of being bought by Rupert Murdoch for $580 million, attracting over 50 million people (many of whom are teens), and being the target of an ugly media backlash over concerns about safety. The safety concerns are justified (just do a Google News search on MySpace), but they’re also overblown and uninformed.
What’s It All About?
The draw of MySpace is that it’s a virtual hangout, complete with easy networking, content creation and interaction. You can blog, post photos, play music, start discussions, post events, chat, add friends to your network and then comment on just about everything. While it has loads of web 2.0 attributes, it’s also not design savvy and it’s borderline bloated. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
What About the Church?
For the church MySpace represents yet another danger or an opportunity, depending on your outlook.
Some churches and ministries are diving in:
Church Related Groups:
- The Canvas (coffee shop run by The Movement church using MySpace’s music section)
- XXXchurch (promoting their ministry to MySpace users, even though they argue against MySpace–of course their argument against MySpace would also apply to the Internet as a whole.)
I set up my own MySpace profile earlier this year after seeing more than a dozen teens from my youth group using MySpace, as well as a handful of other leaders interacting with our teens. I also managed to reconnect with a half-dozen friends from high school.
With all the different tools available on MySpace you could set up your own virtual church web site using nothing but MySpace. It’d be free, you could set it up in minutes, and you could have more community interaction than most church web sites will ever have.
MySpace is the Devil
Then there are the detractors. Much of the hype over MySpace centers around privacy concerns since so many young people are divulging too much personal information. There’s also the problem of inappropriate images, whether it’s a suggestive camera pic of a bikini-clad teen, or a suggestive ad of a bikini-clad “naughty single.” But these are the same problems inherent with any public, community-driven site. For every opportunity to use the tool for something good, someone will do something your mother wouldn’t approve of. The best solution is to be smart and educate anyone using MySpace. With simple precautions MySpace can be a safe place. Jonathan McKee has a good overview and suggestions for how to safely use MySpace.
Then there’s the Christian alternatives. Since MySpace is such a hotbed of sin, a lot of Christians are creating their own Christian social networking sites:
- Dittytalk (MySpace gets Christian competitor)
- Battle Cry (Ron Luce’s answer to MySpace)
Nothing like creating yet another Christian ghetto. If churches, or Christians in general for that matter, want to interact with the world and tell them about Jesus, it’s not going to happen on a sanitized, sanctified, Christian version of a popular social networking site.
MySpace or any other social networking site may be just another tool for churches to use to interact with members and visitors. As with any tool there can be drawbacks and necessary safety precautions, but it still has potential to help churches give power to the people and reach out in a cheap and easy web 2.0 way.