The Circle of Trust

Cyber bullying and social media. We’re all aware of the dangers, and hopefully being as pro-active and vigilant as we can to protect those in our care. But I wonder if we’re always on the lookout for the right thing, or, whether there is a more subtle culture of bullying by exclusion that we are less aware of.

This point was reinforced to me as I read this article, Google+: The Dark Side of the Circle, by Ira Socol on Edutopia. In it, Ira discusses how he has used Google+ in the classroom – in particular, the act of putting contacts into ‘circles’. (In Google+, each contact is put into a circle. You then share your posts / thoughts with particular circles. Some circles will see some things about your life, others, will not.)

Here’s an example of how Google+ circles work.

The problem with Circles, concludes Ira, is that they are closed. There are no sides, “except inside and outside.” So, by adding some friends to one particular circle, and other friends to a different circle, there is the potential there to bully by exclusion. To keep people excluded from what’s happening within a certain circle of friends. It may not be as overt as the bullying we’re all looking out for, but is it any less harmful?

I have also recently had a conversation with a parent who has a teenage child. The parent, aware of the challenges that social media presents had not yet allowed their child to have a facebook account, which of course they have every right to do and should be applauded for making this tough decision. We did, however, discuss the fact that maybe their child could become socially isolated from their peers (most, if not all of whom use facebook) because they are unable to engage in that ‘circle’ of communication. Food for thought on a very tricky decision.

As Christians, how should we respond to this? Should we run, and not use this tool? Should we engage with the tool anyway, and hope that everything will be ok? Hopefully the answer is somewhere in the middle, where we embrace some of the strengths of this particular tool, but focus on maintaining and building healthy relationships with one another. There perhaps isn’t one single answer, but each should prayerfully consider the benefits, vs potential pitfalls of Google+ (and other social media).

But, there’s another problem with Google+, particularly the nature of Circles, and it is highlighted by the video shown above. Google sells the concept of Circles by pushing the privacy barrow. They are effectively saying “Be one person in this circle, and another in a different circle. Don’t let your boss see who you are on the weekends, or your family see who you are with your friends… etc”

We cannot separate our identity like this. We are created in the image of God to worship him. That worship should extend to ALL ‘circles’ of our life. If we are authentic in our desire to become Digital Disciples, there needs to be a transparency across our circles that allows us to be Salt and Light to all of those who we come into contact with.

>> Article: Google+ The Dark Side of the Circle

About Dave

Dave is passionate about the use of technology in education, and helping students to develop a biblical understanding of digital technology. Dave is currently teaching at Covenant Christian School.