Sociality, community and The Trinity

This is write-up of a talk given by minor PR deity and full-time Ed Miliband impersonator

James Poulter, Lexis PR

James Poulter on the subject of social communications and the church. To listen to it in full – go here.

Sociality and Community

The concept of sociality forms the bedrock of what people are doing in Social Media and simply refers to our propensity to develop social links and foster community.

There has been a social explosion online in the last five years which has seen more and more people engage in micro-streaming, blogging, geo-location tagging, MMORPGs, forums etc etc

  • 50% world’s population is under 30 of which 96% use an online social platform
  • Social has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the internet
  • 1/8 couples in the US met through social platforms

Consequently, there has been a dramatic change in what this means for us as individuals and communities. Primarily this has come about as result of our culture of sharing. Furthermore, the context of what we share has changed due to substance, speed and search.

Substance – we have shortened what we share. No longer are large indigestible pieces of content favourable but instead shorter status updates and tweets. Sharing the minutiae of our lives is ok.

Speed – Mobile has provided us with instant access to these social platforms. Most people under-30 are never further than 4ft away from their mobile at any one time.

Search – Not only can we share, but we can also find. We can recall conversations. Word-of-mouth can now be cataloged and documented making  it easier to share. We no longer have to arrive at an institution and hope to find other like-minds, we can now search for our own communities and subject matters that can bind us together.

The Trinity

Unsurprisingly, our impulse to ‘do community’ is completely linked to God. For – fundamentally – God is a community.

He comprises of three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are separate, distinct, equal, co-existent and co-eternal. They are three different persons, but not three different ways of looking at God or three gods. God is one in essence (in case this is doing a madness to your cerebrum check out this really good explanation of the Trinity). These three persons are bound up in love,  for God is love (1 John 4:8). God constantly loves the Son, the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit is loved by the Son and the Father etc. More importantly, we are invited to join this community of love.

A ‘person’ can only be understood in relation to other persons. God the Father is who He is because of his relationship with The Son, the Holy Spirit is who He is because of his relationship with the Father and the Son and so forth. As God’s creations, we are meant to be a reflection of our Maker hence we find it so hard live as individuals. Rather we are persons who can only be understood in the light of other persons.

The Recommendation Economy or ‘We Are What We Share’

(This refers to a theory entirely devised by James that is currently getting a lot of positive response in the New Media industry.  For a more comprehensive look, go here)

In the consumerist days of yore, we defined ourselves by our purchases. The clothes we wore, the car we drove all said something about us as a person. However, as more of our physical assets are becoming digital, we no longer define ourselves by what we buy or own, but what we like, share and spread on social networks. That is to say, no longer am I the car I bought but rather the music I shared on Spotify or what cause I ‘like’-ed on Facebook.

As Christians then, we should see sociality and social media as nothing new. It is a return to the Trinity being lived out in daily lives and something that is entirely reflective of God. Unsurprisingly then, if God is not at the centre of our communities, they are destined to be diminished ones and it is this that we are to show to the culture at large. In this Recommendation Economy, we are what we share. Therefore: share Christ 🙂

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About jonathanrose

Raconteur. Intellectual. Showerman.
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4 Responses to Sociality, community and The Trinity

  1. Peter Hardy says:

    You are quite vague here but at least that allows you to raise many important issues. Personally I think that the link between social media and the Trinity is rather tenuous; that the ultimate reality is a form of interpersonality may explain why we find interpersonality everywhere, not just online.

    Personally I think that the increasing reliance upon electronic communications in our culture is a very negative thing which is corrosive to deep meaningful interpersonality, rather than enhancing it. Not only does it deprive us of physical presence/contact and non-verbal communication thereby, but it encourages a dangerous superficiality in conversation.

    Of course it has its benefits also, and a recommendation economy sounds like it could be an important one. I expect it would exist in a symbiotic relationship with a hyperconsumerist economy rather than replace it though, but maybe that’s too pessimistic.

    Oh and under ‘Speed’ you’ve got ‘instance’ instead of ‘instant’. MA in English huh?

  2. jonathanrose says:

    Pete,

    You’re right that this post is vague. In part, this is due to constrictions such as space and time as well as the fact that James’ talk itself isn’t exactly Kant 2.0! As such, this is really only meant to be a brief summation of the talk rather than an exhaustive dissection.

    RE: Interpersonality and Reality. Admittedly a kneejerk reaction, my initial response to your point would be a general appeal of origins – be it of ‘reality’ or any other condition – and argue that they find their foundation (read: creation) in God. I don’t think we have a disagreement here…Also, just to clarify, you’re right > this interpersonal culture can be found everywhere. The point is social media deals with online cultures hence the discussion was limited to that realm.

    Social Media has its pros and its cons. You’ve raised some very common ones, which definitely have merit. My embryonic thoughts on the matter can be found here:

    https://jonathanrose.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/how-social-is-social-media/

    There’s no right or wrong opinion on this – only personal experience. My own concerns are less about diminishing interpersonal contact and more about privacy and safety.

    I agree also about your conclusion about the RE being symbiotic rather than a usurper of our “hyperconsumerist” culture. We’ll just have to watch this space…

    PS Safe for the spelling correction

    PPS You’ll be interested to know that I am intending to do an intensive theological reading of the RE . I look forward to your thoughts!

  3. Mike Ratliff says:

    A couple of thoughts related to your post:
    Do you think the use of male descriptors for the manifestations of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer are culturally and/or linguistically limited/limiting? While it is Biblical to refer to God as Father – even more recent translations which only do this when it is the clear intention of the translated material to reflect God as Father use male pronouns as the dominant way of referring to God in scriptural texts. Obviously Jesus is male and appropriately referred as gender specific. Referring to the Holy Spirit in anthropomorphic terms is more tenuous, and while your writing doesn’t do this directly, the article on the trinity you refer to does specifically (and specifically male). I think this has the potential for being restrictive to the full understanding, experience, and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and while I don’t want to have this detract from your main point – which isn’t the proper gender references of the trinity- it did that for me, and might for others as well.

    In relation to the extension of this discussion to the expressions of humankind and sociality, I would suggest that there is a trinitarian understanding that goes beyond the statement “A ‘person’ can only be understood in relation to other persons.” In fact, if we are understanding God as integral to God’s creation, involvement in the universe, and all that was created by God, we have to understand people in relation to God as well as each other. For me, this competes the trinitarian reference and the suggestion that we should “share Christ.”

    Thanks for your work on this, it provides a theological context for Christian connection through social media.

  4. jonathanrose says:

    These are a great points Mike!

    With regards to the gender descriptions of the persons of the Trinity, there is so much that can be said about it and in truth my knowledge of New Testament Greek and current gender theory means I can’t comment extensively on the topic.

    I don’t know if this is “culturally or linguistically limiting” but having read lots of post-structuralist thought for my MA, I appreciate that language itself is fraught with problems and I agree that our broken, fallen communications can in no way fully encapsulate the majesty of God.

    That said – in the interests of pragmatism – I’d defend the use of male pronouns as biblical since the Holy Spirit is always referred to as a ‘He’ in English translations and to the best of my knowledge male pronouns are used in Greek and Hebrew.
    With regards to the “anthropomorphic” qualities of the Spirit – I feel the article I linked to gives many good reasons to understand the Spirit as a person – rather than an impersonal ‘force’ (i.e. The Holy Spirit grieves, thinks, reasons, understands, feels, will etc) – who is ‘male’. This is only as “culturally limiting” as someone wants it to be. I don’t see it as such, but I can appreciate than others might.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with you point about persons being understood in relation to God, not just other persons. Without a doubt this is the most important and fundamental point of human existence and relationship. The reason I omitted this salient point was just that in James’ talk he talks about a person being defined in relation to another person (e.g. He is a ‘husband’ because he has/is defined against his ‘wife’).

    There is lots more to be said about this Mike – I’m very glad you’ve weighed in on the discussion. I’m hoping to do an theological reading of The Recommendation Economy in the next month, but it might be a shambles so it would be great to have ur corrective input along the way! 🙂

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