Thinking Out Loud

July 8, 2019

Talking to People Who Reached Out to You First

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:34 am

“Blogging is so 2010.”

That was a line in a newspaper article I read on the weekend. It could have been worse. At least they didn’t say, ‘so 2005.’

A friend would periodically tell me about discussions he got into on Reddit.com. Great, I thought, Isn’t there already enough arguing going on at Twitter?

Still he got me scanning r/Christianity and r/Religion and over the past year a handful of the stories that appeared on Wednesday Connect came from those sources.

On the weekend, I could stand it no more. I couldn’t keep lurking in the shadows, chomping at the bit to weigh in on various topics.

Someone was asking a question which I felt somewhat qualified to answer. They’d received a fairly good number of answers, but I thought something was missing. I even did Ctrl+F to make sure the keywords weren’t somewhere I was missing.

I pulled the trigger.

Create account.

Nobody on Reddit seems to use a real name. It’s all pseudonyms. The first three I picked were taken. I thought of just using ‘paulthinkingoutloud’ but decided to distance my responses from what I do here.

God has people out there. Just because there’s an information gap in one particular set of answers doesn’t mean I need to take this on like it all depends on me,.

I posted to three other topics. On one, the information I shared wasn’t necessarily a great fit, given where it turned out the person was located. I looked this morning at the page and nothing particularly jumped out at me.

Still, I go back to where I was a year ago. I often said after my friend first introduced me to the site that if a Christ-follower was just sitting at home each day staring at something mindless on their screen, and they wanted to have a significant online ministry apart from blogging, or Facebook, or Twitter, then Reddit would be my first choice.

I just didn’t take my own advice. I thought I had my hands full with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and MailChimp.

Reddit is different. It’s not like “broadcasting” on social media, which sometimes feels like spitting into the wind. People are asking for advice. Your answers are going to slowly disappear into the back-catalog of the forums, but for a few hours at least, you can interact with a wide diversity of people on faith-focused subjects in something closer to real time.

Maybe one or two of you will decide to join me.

 

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February 10, 2019

From the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

My social media worlds don’t necessarily overlap much, but my WordPress world and my Twitter world are closer. Even so, you may not have seen these (and a few retweets) …

January 31, 2019

Generic Responses

Filed under: Christianity, technology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 am

No matter how independent, self-sufficient, or even self-employed you are, you now have a boss. In other words, you’ve probably discovered your phone telling you what to do.

I will get an email from someone and the phone will chime in and offer some quick responses:

  • Thanks.
  • Got it.
  • Will do.

May the day never come when I use this option.

It’s so incredibly impersonal, and so obviously machine-generated.

Or worse, there’s Facebook, which on our business page feels the need to inform me that I “haven’t responded” to something which clearly needs no reply, and if I don’t it will affect our “response rating.” If we know the customer well, I will tell them why I needed to make one more response and ask them not to reply to it. Social media is supposed to be helpful, not obnoxious. Instead, it makes me seem like some boorish person who has to have the last word.

Back to generic responses.

The problem is that now that we know what a machine made response looks like, on the sending end of the equation, we have to go out of our way not to do anything which might be construed as equally impersonal. On the receiving end, it makes us more cynical.

I got a response this week from someone who I’d sent a particular link to a 3-minute video clip. While I lean toward the notion that he did indeed watch it, the response could have been equally written by someone who wanted to be cordial but decided to pass.

There wasn’t the specific response I was looking for. Perhaps we’re all just starting to talk like our devices. The pattern of communication has been disrupted, sort-circuited, rewired.

I’m told we don’t always pray specifically, either. That sometimes God doesn’t answer because we haven’t really asked for anything specific. The argument continues that we wouldn’t know the answer if we got it because we really didn’t delineate what we were hoping to happen.

Additionally, if you decide to comment on this blog post, you’ll see that my comment section begins, “Value-added comments only.” I’m expecting people to want to continue the discussion. If you say, “That was good;” I probably won’t run it.

I guess I’m looking for substance.

In my own responses to emails, you’re more likely to get:

  • Thanks. It was exactly the material we were looking for.
  • I got the attachment and am hoping open it tonight when I have more time.
  • I will do this, but you may not hear back until Monday.

It’s communication. Something we do. Something that separates us from the animals.

 

 

 

 

January 3, 2019

Worlds Colliding

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where the character of George, played by Jason Alexander, is concerned that people he knows from one context are invading an entirely separate context. “Worlds Are Colliding!” he announces to anyone who might care.

Seinfeld was a big hit, but was produced at a time when our social media was unknown. Today, I wonder the degree to which George would obtain separate accounts for his “worlds.”


You can imagine my surprise when Leonard, a cousin I hadn’t seen in nearly six years showed up at my workplace. When I say “at my workplace,” I literally mean at my desk. He told the receptionist that I was expecting him and without stopping, pointed down a hallway and said, “His office is this way, right?” to which she could do no more than nod.

I was in a conversation with Jake, who manages our marketing about why our East Coast sales are down and Leonard, without even introducing himself, proceeded to tell Jake that all our marketing in New England is being placed in the wrong media. Jake extended his hand and said, “And you are???” but Leonard just kept talking. Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling…

…That evening, Brian, who plays bass guitar on our church worship team unexpectedly walked into our condo tenants’ association meeting and sat next to me with a big grin. The meeting isn’t restricted to voting members so Brian was wearing a name tag that simply said “Visitor.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

He said that I had posted online that I was off to a residents’ meeting in our building and since I had told the world what I was doing, I seemed to be asking for company. He even told the association’s Vice President at the door that I had invited him. I like Brian and I would be willing to go for coffee at a moment’s notice, but I didn’t see what he was going to get out of our 45-minute discussion to change two of our bylaws and discuss parking problems. When we reached the latter, his hand suddenly shot up and he started describing the parking problems at his building on the other side of town.

Like Seinfeld‘s George, I was succeeding in keeping my worlds separate. But suddenly the walls were crumbling. In the case of Leonard, I had to use some tough love. My workplace isn’t a family reunion. In the case of Brian, I tackled the problem at the opposite end and got our condo Vice President to be a little more restrictive when random visitors show up at meetings.

For my part, I tried to analyze how much of my life I was sharing with whom. Should my cousins know where I work? Certainly. Why not? Should they know we have marketing issues along the Atlantic seaboard? No. Not at all. Should my worship team members know I’m the Treasurer of our condo board? Hopefully it sets an example of how we should be involved in our communities; how we need to be salt and light. Should they show up at business meetings? No. That’s ridiculous.

Fortunately some of my social media interactions take place on closed pages. But I also believe in transparency. I don’t want to have to block certain people from certain parts of my world. I don’t want to be perceived as having secrets.

But Leonard, I swear if you ever start giving marketing advice to my boss again, I will give him my blessing to call security. And Brian, next time you want to drop over, let’s make it my living room instead of the common area meeting room, okay?


► So how about you? Has social media meant that worlds that might have previously had a buffer zone of separation are now open-access to everyone? Do you have trouble keeping your life compartmentalized? Or is this not necessarily a priority objective?

 

November 15, 2018

This is For All the Lonely People

Lorne Anderson is a Canadian living in Germany. This appeared on his blog earlier today.

Lonely People

Guest post by Lorne Anderson

As an introvert, I try my best not to overload on people contact. I need space and solitude.

I’ve come to the realization that is one of the reasons why learning German is difficult for me. It is not just that the language is hard, but I was also thrown into a classroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know and expected to interact. Tough to withdraw into your shell in a such a situation.

Despite my preferences, I understand the need for human contact. Living a solitary life isn’t healthy, no matter how appealing it is. When my wife wants to invite someone over, I usually agree. And enjoy myself.

I am introverted, but not shy. I have no difficulty standing on a platform speaking to thousands of people at a concert, as I have had to do from time to time in my radio career. But that is something that comes with the job, not out of my desires.

Most people, I think, crave human interaction far more than I do. And with the social changes of the past 50 years or so, people are getting far less of that interaction than they want or need. As a result, many people are lonely.

I suppose it was inevitable that government would step in to deal with the loneliness problem. The United Kingdom now has a Minister of Loneliness. I seem to recall hearing that other jurisdictions are introducing similar positions. To say I have mixed feelings about that is an understatement.

I applaud that the problem has been recognized, while at the same time decrying the solution. I don’t believe government has the answers to our problems; nor do I believe government is my friend. I’ve worked in politics; if I was lonely it wouldn’t be politicians I was turning to for companionship.

Dealing with loneliness may become one of the central issues of our time. We live in a world where it is increasing possible to be always connected to others through social media. In theory people should not feel lonely, surrounded as we are by so many others.

Yet social media does not bring with it intimacy. It may indeed discourage it. Your posts are there for the world to see. It makes sense therefore to hold back some of yourself rather than let your personality show, warts and all. After all, others may be judging you. Better to put your best face forward. But is your best face your real face? Do you trust people with the real you? And if not, does that holding back take a toll, isolating you and increasing the chances of being lonely. Just because there are always people around doesn’t mean that you have anything deeper than a superficial relationship.

Which is why I doubt that having a Minister of Loneliness can have positive effects, aside from providing jobs for some otherwise unemployable social science graduates (full disclosure – I am a social science graduate.).  Government no matter how well-meaning, isn’t going to find friends for me, or anyone else who needs them. If it tries, I suspect it would fail – despite data mining, it doesn’t know me that well.

At this point I could make some theological observations about human nature and being created in God’s image, which would be relevant but would also make this post longer than it should be. So, I’ll hold back on that thought, maybe for another day.

One basic observation though. I wonder if the cure for loneliness starts with cutting back on or even eliminating electronic communications? Maybe we would be less lonely as a society if we spent more time fact to face and less time face to screen.

It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

 

October 12, 2018

Another Blogger Lost to the World of 280 Characters?

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

A milestone last night!

Visit anytime at: https://twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson

The nice thing about Twitter is that nobody there is ever angry.

[pauses for ironic moment]

In case you now find yourself wanting to hear the song, here it is:

September 7, 2018

Social Media: What It’s Doing to Us

Some of you may have seen this on Facebook.

That’s rather ironic; since it does not paint the social media platform favorably.

The timing on this is interesting, since I was planning to write about this topic anyway. I’m not opposed to technology, nor do I resent the application of social networking. Rather, I was going to write something like, “I just want to go back in time and use the internet as it was in 2003.” That’s right; 15 years ought to do it.

Anyway, see what you think. Someone put some thought into this, but it hasn’t had many views and no public comments as of yesterday. (Perhaps this isn’t the original post.)

August 20, 2017

Google Now Provides the Information instead of Referring

Like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that increasingly, Google was giving me the answers I was looking for right on their results page, without my needing to make a second click. Appreciating the convenience I didn’t really pay much attention to this, until publishing and media watcher Tim Underwood linked to a piece at Mashable titled, Google is Eating the Open Internet.

The rather opened my eyes to the present situation: Instead of being a site which refers you to people who have the answers, Google is now seen as provider of those answers.

But the affect on the websites from which the information is culled — the creatives and researchers who do the actual work — is devastating. Example:

…Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google’s wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

“It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating,” Warner said. “We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier.”

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random today—let’s say, James Earl Jones—and you’ll get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link…

And later, the broader application:

…There’s also a steady stream of more subtle indications of Google’s inward pull appearing every day—features like on-site hotel booking, restaurant menus, spa appointment tools, and dropdown recipes to name just a few.

These tweaks might sound minor, but Google’s position as the web’s central nervous system means they can have a big impact on smaller businesses that orbit it.

In the long run, though, there seems to be a pretty glaring hole in this plan. That is, as Google likes to reassure wary publishers, it’s not in the content business.

The company ultimately relies on reference sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, and the CIA World Fact Book to compile and update the information it uses.

If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along? …   (emphasis added)

   Then early this morning I caught up with my Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star and columnist Heather Mallick was saying the exact same things about Facebook in a piece titled, Like it or not, Facebook Owns You. For her it gets personal:

…We donate to the Guardian to keep it free for everyone, but remember that we do this because former editor Alan Rusbridger made the numbers clear. In 2016, Facebook “sucked up $27 million (U.S.) of the newspaper’s projected ad revenue that year.”

Facebook was the interlocutor, the middleman who slipped between readers and journalists and siphoned off the money. When I step onto the thing for even a moment, I make money for Zuckerberg. I work for him, not the Toronto Star.

I wouldn’t mind being followed for weeks by ads for the hand vacuum (designed in England, made in Malaysia, which is why I despise Dyson) I ordered five minutes ago from an online retailer with no discernible connection to Facebook.

But I do mind that my salary was effectively lower this year because Facebook knew this, its targeting having destroyed the print and online ads on which the Star itself relied.

I take a dim view. With less money, I’ll buy fewer things advertised on Facebook, but it doesn’t care. It’s in the business of attention, not retailing. Its hands are clean.

Of course they’re not. They’re loaded with lucre, and they’re taunting people individually and en masse, damaging quality of life and eating freedom. You are owned…

For my Christian readership at this page, this is important. Obtaining the “answers” or “results” one is looking for without clicking through to see the full context of the page from which the mighty search engine derived them could be devastating, especially as the field of material offered grows to include things of religious or theological interest. At best, all of our online sites are somewhat subjective, including this one.

But I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

 

August 1, 2017

The World of Online Discussion: An Apology

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:55 am

Missing the Point

The article resonated with me from the moment I saw the headline. It also reminded me of something else, a parallelism to the stated subject worth mentioning. Furthermore, I also had a source I could quote that would certainly make an impression.

So I left the comment.

Not even twelve hours later, I’m looking at the comments which followed mine and realized something: I had completely missed the main point of the original post. I had wandered into the land of the tangents.

The author of the blog is an author, an academic, a theologian. I tracked down his email address through the school where he was teaching at the time. I told him that I sincerely believed I had something to contribute to the discussion but now realized my comment simply didn’t belong and humbly asked him to please delete it.

Which thankfully he did…

The word nuance applies in more locations and situations than we realize. It’s possible to see the surface of something but not really grasp what’s going on. Like Asperger’s kids we can miss the sarcasm. Or perhaps we simply didn’t hear the latest development in an ongoing story and aren’t getting all the references.

On the surface of it, I can be a surface person. One girl described me as shallow. (She lost any chance of a date at that point.) But I also love to go deep. My other blog’s tag line is, “Digging a little deeper.” I love double entendre. I love it when someone writes a word or phrase which is a homage to an obscure book or song or movie. (I was going to write an homage, but it seemed pretentious.)

But there is a time to be Captain Obvious as well.

One of my constant criticisms of my wife’s social media posts is that they’re too cryptic. I get what she means because I was there when it happened, but others might not. I am constantly telling her to, “Put the cookies on the lower shelf.”

But then I will do the same thing, only I justify it in my case because I’m making concessions to certain readers or followers who are in on the thing vaguely cited.

In other words, when I do it it’s right and when she does it it’s wrong…

I’d like to think the theology professor appreciated my candor in requesting the comment’s deletion. It was a reminder that some things, while they may not be above your pay grade, are above your realm of experience and education.

 

 

 

February 11, 2017

Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

Occasionally I take a day to simply reproduce Tweets here for those who don’t use that platform. For those of you with slow loading times, we’re just doing text, but you’re encouraged to visit me at Twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter “i” to number “1”) or simply click here and bookmark.

  • Fun car game: Flip the radio to various Christian stations carrying preacher programs and see who can first guess what major Bible story they’re doing.
  • ♫ This ban is your ban |This ban is my ban |From the Syrian desert | To the streets of I-ran… | …This ban was made for you and me. ♫
  • Attn. Middle-aged worship team members: If you wanna do all those songs which come out of youth culture, simply let the youth worship team play ’em
  • [Drew Dyck] When it comes to end times prognosticating, the trick is to change up the antichrist candidates while keeping the 1980s designs & graphics.
  • Buffalo newscaster just said, “If you go out without your gloves, you’re going to have some cold hands on your hands.”
  • The people making Christian giftware do know there are other scripture verses besides Jeremiah 29:11, right?
  • Ever wonder what’s hot and what’s not in Christian publishing? This link takes you to a pdf of the full Top 50 list
  • What does it profit a man to gain the office of President of the United States and lose the entire populace? [Mark 8:36 amended]
  • How tattoos work: Once you chose Option #1, you’ve automatically eliminated Options #2 to 999,999.
  • [Youth Group Boy] Rather than build a wall Trump just needs to talk to my church – they’ve kept minorities and those who are different out for years.
  • Need to rethink the classic Neil Diamond song: ♫ On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America… ♫  — not anymore!
  • [Diane Lindstrom] “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

 

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