Virtual Church 06 – Virtual Church Liabilities
In the previous Podcast of this series looking at Virtual Church, we looked at together, how a Virtual Church functions. Today, we look at three of the perceived weaknesses of Virtual Church and ways in which a Virtual Church can help overcome them. These three liabilities are internet addiction, anonymity and arguments that insist Virtual Communities are not genuine communities.
Virtual World/Internet Addiction
For some people, there may well be a level of Internet addiction. This could become a problem within a Virtual Church environment. One reason for Internet addiction is escapism from real life problems. Other signs of internet addiction could be the person growing moody and irritable when they are unable to go online. It could also be that they are addiction to an alter-ego in a Virtual Reality Environment that acts and behaves different from offline life.
When discovered, the person would need to be encouraged to seek some form of counselling or be given pastoral care. A cure is possible but a need to recognize the problem is the first step. Other steps to overcome this addiction, would include waiting for the plea to help, rationing, supervision and disposal. Virtual Church operators may need to monitor people’s time spent online. The addicted individual may need to consider the spiritual discipline of fasting from Internet access, in order to regain power over their addiction. If they are unable to do this, then traditional church may well be a better model for them to attend if possible.
Anonymity is a bad thing.
Anonymity of the person on the internet provides the opportunity to escape from emotional difficulties such as depression, stress, anxiety, or a relationship problem. Anonymity can be used for deceitful practices and to prey on the weak and vulnerable. Whilst this is true, at least in part, anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing. Anonymity, within a Virtual Reality Environment, including Virtual Churches, can help people overcome shyness, social awkwardness and instil confidence and be encouraging. Additionally, anonymity does not preclude dishonesty but rather some people are more honest about themselves and more open and honest with others that they interact and have fellowship with in a Virtual Church Community. Anonymity also did not prevent people seeking help, advice and sharing problems. Particularly young people still developing and growing as people, being able to ask awkward questions about life anonymously.
Virtual Community is not real community
Some critics of Virtual Reality Communities insist that all online interaction is purely about the transmission of information. However, when information is being transferred or communicated, this usually has some from of psychological effect and can affect emotions and psyche, in both a negative and positive sense. So to say that it is solely about information transference is endemically wrong. Critics also categorically deny the legitimacy of Virtual Reality Environment communities, because there is a distinct lack of obligation and accountability between people. Within a Virtual Church Community, there should will be terms and conditions for a person to read and agree with prior to registration. Therefore, the person is will be entering into a covenant with fellow users and are therefore accountable to them. Any misdemeanours in Virtual Church communities, should be looked at, and dealt with swiftly.
Real community used to be seen as geographically centred. However, with the advent of the Virtual Reality Environment community, this is no longer the case and etymologically, community has returned to its original concept based on “social grouping and quality of relationship”. All Virtual churches probably will have a wide geographical spread due to its very nature being on the World Wide Web or Internet. This does not preclude however that giving and receiving help and assistance ceases. So Virtual community is far more than information transference, as some may insist, but rather it consists of, amongst other things, mutual giving and receiving of care and assistance.
In our next Podcast, we shall look at the benefits of a Virtual Church. Thank you.
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