Late one Saturday evening I was sitting in a cafe with my 70 year old father and my 92 year old grandmother. We had just been to the cinema and were discussing our favorite actors over a late night cappuccino.
"Ingrid Bergman was unforgettable in Murder on the Orient Express. You know she's won more Oscars than any other actress in history," said my grandmother.
"No, I am pretty sure Katharine Hepburn won more Oscars," Dad replied.
"I think you're getting mixed up with Audrey Hepburn," I said. "Actually I think Bette Davis has won the most."
I reached into my pocket, grabbed my iPhone and said, "Let me prove it."
Ooops. Dad was right. Again!
For the rest of the evening we talked about how much the world had changed. That we could be sitting in a Bondi cafe late on Saturday night and be able to find out almost anything we wanted to know. Dad summed it up by quoting Spock from Star Trek, "It's life, Captain, but not as we know it."
We live in a time of unprecedented change. For the first time in history we have access to the world in our pocket. The Internet has changed everything. The way we work and learn, communicate and connect has dramatically altered. And while some may argue that this is not good, it's here and we can't turn our back to it. How can we possibly ignore the billions of people who use social media every day?
This raises many questions. One of the most important is how will the church adapt to make the most of this new situation to advance the mission of Jesus?
Always on, always connected
More than 2.4 billion people across the world use the internet. Most of them use it daily. While 78.6 percent of Americans are online, where I live in Australia we have the highest rate with 88 percent. That's not a typo, 88 percent of us Aussies are online!
Worldwide, we send a whopping 144 billion emails per day. That's 60 emails per person. But wait for it, email is not the number 1 online activity. That title goes to social media where people spend about 3.2 hrs per day on their favorite platforms. In America 88 percent of those who use the internet also use social media.
Facebook now has 1.1 billion users worldwide with 159 million in the US. If it was a country it would be the 4th largest in the world. The average Facebook user has over 200 friends, and surprisingly the fastest growing segment is 55-65 year old females. And get this: 28 percent of 18-34 year olds check Facebook before getting out of bed. It really is that important and addictive for some people.
Twitter has 554 million accounts and contrary to popular belief the fastest growing age group is 55 to 64 year olds. And then there's Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and on and on it goes. There's no denying that social media is a significant phenomenon. It is not a fad, it affects everything. It's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. And an opportunity for the church to engage the world like never before.
Our adaptive challenge
As always with new technology, businesses were the early adopters. They were the first to embrace social media to expand their cause. Next to jump on the social media bandwagon were the nonprofits. They were slower to see the opportunity but were fast to pick up the pace.
Last out of the gates, the late adopters, you guessed it, is the church. And while both the business and nonprofit sectors have grown their cause through social media, the church is yet to significantly expand its influence through this medium.