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Feb 10 2011

Gentlemen in A Digital Age

Gentlemen in a Digital Age

Author and filmmaker Carolyn McCulley, author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred writes today in her blog on the topic of online relationships via social media.  Her post is an insightful look at the impact of social media on dating and should be must-reading for both guys and gals.  This post is directed primarily to men, though ladies will find it helpful in further developing their own internal dud detector.

After opening with a look at how the mate evaluation/selection process used to work, she compares it to today’s online version:

Fast forward two or three centuries, and we run into the thicket of New World social media. A young man no longer needs to run the gauntlet of a local village’s stern gaze. Everyone he could possibly desire to meet is at the other end of a Facebook account or a Twitter address. In the unblinking blue gaze of his computer screen, he can be anybody he wants to be, connecting to anyone he seeks. And he never even has to dress up.

Seems a lot better, right?You could argue that we are better connected, but the thicket of electronic relationships could hardly be called a best practice. Even in a highly wired world, intimacy is still a byproduct of face time. You can trade text messages or e-mails all day long and still not really know who is @ the other end.

Therefore, when the whole world can access you digitally, discernment becomes a highly prized quality. Is that new comment on your blog a spambot or a real person? Is that person who winked at your profile trolling you from an Internet café halfway around the world or a credible potential date in your own town? Is that new Facebook friend a sexual predator or truly a random friend-of-a-friend?

…Therefore, the core of who we are is still what we think and do in the real world. We are who we are in community, not in isolation. It means very little if a man proclaims he is a “people person” in his various online bios. You’ll know it for sure when you watch how he handles the interruptions of real life that come through family needs, neighborly interactions, church service opportunities and so forth.

McCulley reminds us that Proverbs is a good place to start where wisdom is concerned:

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him” (Proverbs 20:5–7, ESV).

These verses address motivations and deeds, both of which are revealed in relationship. Integrity is revealed in the walk, the trajectory of a lifestyle revealed over time. Motive is revealed in conversation, the trajectory of the heart revealed in words. Neither of these things is adequately assessed in the monologue of social media.

So what does it look like to be considered faithful and righteous in cyberspace? I think the answer is found in thinking about the person on the other end of the digital blob. The righteous will not hide behind anonymity to issue sinful speech online. Nor does he or she selfishly solicit and discard relationships. The standards of God-glorifying behavior don’t change just because there’s a computer delivering the messages.

Read all of it at Gentlemen in A Digital Age – Radical Womanhood.

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