[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat do having a baby, getting run over by a train and catching your fingers in a mouse trap have in common? What if I throw footballing guinea pigs into the mix? Obviously there are videos of all these available on the internet. (Warning: if you insist on looking for them now you have read this, be advised you may well get more than you bargained for). And now, to add to them, here is an animation of a baby which already knows how to video itself even before it is born.
This baby is ‘born for the internet’ and the advert gives a very quick overview of some of the things we use the internet for: getting directions, sharing news and images of important (and unimportant) occurrences, finding information, entertainment…
Whilst we use the internet, the internet uses us. We are constantly bombarded with adverts which, unlike TV ads, are targeted precisely to what we need, or at least what someone else has decided we need; as a single woman in her 30s, facebook assumes that I want clothes, beauty products, weightless ideas, single men near me and even (horrifyingly) abortions. Like many other websites, it gathers information about 30-something women and what they buy and, without knowing me personally (or my weight), determines that I want to buy more of what I bought last week. It’s all about money.
Check out this link:
Now imagine that I’ve lived my whole life in a cave (with internet access). I decide it might be time to go and live among other people and, of course, I’m going to want to fit in so I start doing some research and the internet starts to figure out (through my email profile) that I am female, how old I am, how many social contacts (ie friends) I have, where I live, what languages I speak and provides advertisements accordingly. Am I now going to make decisions freely about what I do next, or is it more likely that I am going to think that I need high heels because that is what appears all over my news feed or internet searches? Now what if I’m not a hermit, but I am an ordinary 13 year old girl or a normal 10 year old boy or even a 7 year old who wants email or a facebook account.
What will be the effect of this constant advertising which is precisely designed to appeal to me personally? Will the internet govern my tastes and decide what sort of person I am going to grow into? And, if that is the case, how will I ever really know myself? On a deeper level, all this marketing might not just change our likes and dislikes but the way we think because it’s not just merchandise which is up for grabs, but also ideas (using examples from my personal list above, these ideas range from ‘I ought to wear more make-up’ to ‘abortion is right and normal’).
This is a very clear example of how we can be influenced by the world as opposed to being influenced by the Gospel. There are two major differences that I want to highlight here:
The first is that the Gospel speaks to us about objective truth. Truth and good are absolute and, unlike targeted advertising, are not based on statistics, demographics or the majority view.
The second is that while the world speaks to us as one among of a group of people, God speaks to us personally. He knows us better than we do, He calls each one of us by name to become fully ourselves, to unfold our talents, and He shows us, in Jesus, the model of how to live. Most importantly, He isn’t trying to get something from us (like all those internet marketing strategies), He simply loves us for ourselves, and wants us to be happy.