Thursday, August 25, 2011

Healthy Online Neighbourliness

TITLE: Developing Healthy Online Communities
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 25 August 2011

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8)

It is a great time not being connected to the Internet world for a week. Time away from the busyness of life offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with people in other ways. We talk. We slow down. We pace ourselves with one another through friendly chats, and honest sharing. Without the distraction of the Internet, we see more of real faces instead of computer screens. We all need a technological Sabbath from time to time. It is an opportunity to say to technology in the face: “Thou shalt have no hold on me.

Interestingly, when we travel, my kids will ask where they can get WiFi. Sigh. I am also guilty of it too. We can take technology away from our hands, but it is harder to take technology out of our minds. Thus, my week of technological Sabbath is only partially successful. We succumb to a periodic search for WiFi signals that are free or unlocked. It is like technology seducing us, “If you want me, search for me.”

For me, there are downsides to not being connected for a week. For example, I missed out on the HP Touchpad fire sale. Announced about three days ago, the highly revered computer company decided to clear its stockpile of unsold Touchpad tablets at an amazing price of $99 for its cheapest model. That is an 80% discount! Of course, at the magical price of $99, the Touchpad became an overnight bestseller. People sit up and pay attention when they smell a good deal. For me, having worked for HP before, it makes me kind of sad to see a good engineering product just snapped up by people looking for cheap deals. Mind you, the cost of manufacturing the HP Touchpad is way more than $99. Some estimates it to be a little more than $300 per tablet. In a consumerist society, the Internet is a great tool for checking out great deals. We just need to be careful of financial scams and frauds. In an age of scamming, spoofing, and spamming, it is getting more difficult to distinguish truth on the Internet. From being selected for a huge financial windfall, to wonderful offers for the Viagra pill, all kinds of trash are being distributed on the Internet every minute.

Since it is hard to run away from technology, try two things. First, embrace it cautiously. Second, be neighbourly when using it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Virtual Communities

TITLE: On Virtual Communities
Written by: Conrade Yap
DATE: 16 August 2011

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)

MAIN POINT: How social is social media? How can one build community in an online environment? Technologies may change. Not people. The same rules apply when building community. 

Times have changed. A few years ago, the words 'Facebook,' 'Twitter,' 'Google+,' and anything related to the words 'Social media'  are non-existent. Back then, we download emails on Microsoft Outlook or Mac OS Mail to read. We religiously observe limits on our dial-up Internet connection. We play Solitaire on computers. Starbucks means not just an expensive cup of coffee, but moments with dear friends.

Not anymore.

With wireless connectivity, unlimited Internet access, and increasingly portable computer devices, it is more common to see individuals on separate tables, more interested in typing electronic updates on their computers than them sipping lattes. Conversations are slowly been replaced with keyboard typing. People look down intently on their gadgets, sometimes oblivious to people around them. With a few clicks, they report themselves:

  • "Hey! I'm now sipping Latte at ABC Shopping Centre."
  • "That girl on the left outside McDonalds is gorgeous."
  • "Feeling terrible. Need a holiday."
  • "..."
Virtual cyberspace far away seems more interesting than the physical world near them. Perhaps, these people are building communities. A digital kind, that is. One that is short. Sweet. And techno-savvy. This week, I reflect on the impact of online communities, both positive and negative.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Community Spirit

TITLE: Community Spirit
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 9 August 2011
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2)
MAIN POINT: True communities need a common bond. This bond is described in the Greek word for fellowship: "KOINONIA," where people live out community responsibilities while developing intimate relationships.

I have heard the C-word being used very frequently these days. Back in Regent-College, it is a popular word to remind one another that no man/woman is an island, and that we need each other. On campus housing, during the first week of Orientation for new residents, the administrators consistently highlight events for people to attend, to gather, saying that it will benefit 'this community.' In the schools where my kids go to, whenever I attend talks or functions, the C-word invariably comes up. Some schools even call themselves 'community schools.' This C-word is one of those words, where overly frequent usage has turn it into a cliche, such as:
  • How's life? Answer: "Busy."
  • How are you? Answer: "I'm fine."
  • Why support this program? Answer: "It's for the benefit of the community."
This magical C-word works wonders. Upon invoking the word 'community,' treasurers loosen their purse strings. Listeners nod their heads. Leaders score political points. Even at the local Starbucks store, there are 'community' posters where members of the public can post their events, and activities to share with the rest of the community. Unfortunately, the C-word is in danger of losing its relevance. We desperately need to bring back the true spirit of community: Koinonia.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Solitude Is Risky

TITLE: Solitude Is Risky
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 2 Aug 2011

But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:3)

What do we do when we are alone? What happens when we venture out into the wilderness alone? In this week’s SabbathWalk, I shall reflect upon ‘solitude’ by highlighting one of the greatest dangers when we are alone. There are inherent risks and dangers in our walk alone. Let me give you a clue. It begins with the letter ‘T.’

1) Lone Business Trips

When I travel on business trips, there is a feeling of importance. When I make a trip on behalf of my organization, there is a sense of purposefulness. The objectives may be different,  like attending a conference, training, meeting up business partners, or coordinating a critical phase of a project. Different objectives, same effect. Behind each worthy goal lies a sinister temptation. It is that temptation of sinning when no one is looking.