MySpace.com isn’t fairing so well lately. PC World reported last weekend a summary of the bad news the site is receiving lately. Granted, it’s the way people use MySpace’s service, not the service itself, that is at fault, but the site could probably do a little more to control what’s taking place there.
Several years ago I sat before a church’s “youth pastor search committee” and mentioned that I enjoyed keeping up with students online via instant messaging. At that time the service was relatively new. Parents in the group had heard of it, but they knew little more than that. After some discussion they seemed pleased that I was using the latest in student culture and technology as ministry tools, something I still try my best to do.
With over 50 million teenage and young adult users, MySpace is definitely a part of student culture. Every student I know has a MySpace account and uses it regularly. However, despite it’s popularity and potential for ministry, I made the decision a long time ago not to move in on this phenomenon and have yet to register an account at the site. It’s a decision I sometimes re-think, but my reasoning for staying away from MySpace is as follows:
1. It generates high scores on my Covenant Eyes report. MySpace is full of sexually explicit images, language, and inappropriate material that I do not need to unnecessarily expose to my mind. Even if I only look at entries that contain clean material, the banner advertisements on every page are often sexually suggestive. What do these advertisements subliminally teach teenagers about sexuality and relationships? Nothing positive! It seriously makes me angry to see the advertisements they have targeting students, as if the 1,300 soft porn images that flash across MTV every day isn’t enough.
2. Maintaining my own mental purity comes first. Even though MySpace has the potential for incredible ministry opportunities (especially through events like Internet Evangelism Day), I must first care for my own soul. I cannot regularly visit a site like MySpace without feeling the sexual onslaught. Taking care of myself comes before ministry to others.
3. People are different. They really are. People will say things online that they’d never say in person. Personally, I value this aspect of online communities because it’s a window into what someone really thinks and feels, not just what they cover up in church. The problem for me comes when people start lying about their age, personality, and physical appearance. Youth ministry aside, how can I trust anyone else on MySpace? When I monitor Internet usage at my other job, I see employees maintaining up to eight real-life romances with people they met on MySpace. Without a single exception, they all lie about their jobs, where they were the night before, what they enjoy doing, and claim that they are deeply in love (sexually) with only that one person. I got so sick of it that I blocked myspace.com on every computer in the workplace. My personal time could be better spent on something better than MySpace.
4. My social networking is already fine. Although a minor detail, I really don’t feel like I need more friends. I have enough already. :)
5. I can use RSS feeds to keep up with students without an account. Fortunately, I don’t need an account at MySpace to keep up with what youth group students are posting on the site. RSS feeds allow me to stream new content from each user’s account to my Feed on Feeds aggregator, even the content users mark as “private for friends only.” (MySpace should probably fix this security flaw sometime, huh?) Although I can’t post comments on other MySpace accounts, I can still keep up with what they write.
Please understand that I’m not condemning MySpace nor am I claiming that Christians need to stay away from it. What other people do is between them and God. The Lord holds us accountable for our actions based on our convictions, not what others tell us we need to do. I’m confident there is a lot of effective ministry that takes place on the site (it certainly has the potential). These are only my personal values and why it is best for me to stay away.
Posted on March 6, 2006