Last weekend, I traveled four hours in a mom-van to Wildhorse Canyon, to participate in a young adult church retreat. Over lunch on Saturday, the table of eight talked about what we were doing in school (most of the 320 people that went were students), and what we eventually wanted to do. Since I am in school, am an intern (Hi Dr. Kris!) and am working part-time, I had a lot to say. As I mentioned that I work with how the internet is affecting teens’ sexuality, faces around the table began to turn inside out. As a member of one of the many left-leaning Christian churches in our gorgeous Pacific Northwest city, I was surprised by the reaction of a girl directly across the table from me.
Breathlessly, she almost shouted “the church doesn’t approve of the use of MySpace … by anyone!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I played devil’s advocate (while at church camp! Oh no!) and asked her to show me in the Bible where that was mentioned “we are a Bible-based church, aren’t we?” I didn’t really mean to embarrass her, but I did, and she didn’t say too much to me the rest of lunch. Oops! Not the way to get conversations going, Sarah.
Another girl eventually started talking to me (while no one was watching … she couldn’t be associated with one of those* girls) about why she believed MySpace was dangerous. “You have a profile on there, and then perverts can find you and stalk you!” I was a little more tactful in explaining to her that you can have a private account; set up controls, keep strangers out (know my last name? only then can we be friends) and that you don’t have to branch out from your main circle of friends if you don’t want to. I think I know 95% of my friends list from in-person relationships.
I was able to talk to another guy at the table about how MySpace is creating positive opportunities for non-profit outreaches. He didn’t realize the positivity that could come from responsible MySpace use, and I felt really great being able to explain this stuff to these kids**. I offered not only the Virtual Mystery Tour’s MySpace address to them, but also my personal address as starting points if any of them ever got over their fear of "all the perverts". And we’ll see if they ever make eye contact with me at church again.
Really though, I was surprised to see such a different reaction to MySpace from people somewhat near my age group. Rather than experimenting with the internet, these 18- and 19-year-old students were acting like my mom; afraid that a misspelled word in Google would yield such wild pornography she'd never be the same. It makes me wonder whether the media is being “effective” in their campaign to scare the younger generation away from the internet. Time will tell. Until then I’ll be searching Leviticus for “If thine daughter maketh a MySpace account, sell her to the Canaanites.”
*aka – one who not only has a personal MySpace account, but also accesses another for school credit
**I later found out my table was mostly college Freshmen … almost a decade younger than me.