The History of A Friendship

We are online, but are we in touch?

Mark Zuckerberg promotes Facebook as helping to create a more open and connected world.  Openness for Zuckerberg is about “more transparency, being able to share things and have a voice in the world,” while connection is “helping people to stay in touch and maintain empathy for each other.”  On this view social networking furthers human development, solidarity of friendship and community, and civic participation.

But others disagree. For instance, Zadie Smith questions the quality of the connections and relationships fostered through social media. In a recent article, Smith points out that for Zuckerberg, “Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important.” Similarly, in a survey on the future of online socialising, The Pew Forum found a common concern among respondents about whether we are fostering shallow relationships based on minimal cost and time.  Malcom Gladwell also raises a related concern.  Focusing on the approach of the community to civic participation, he argues that social network “activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”

These concerns are fundamental, stemming from the human need for friendship and community, and resonate deeply with the Christian faith – which holds that relationships rest on a foundation of love, in the image of the perfect love of Christ. This year’s Veritas Forum at Oxford will examine these human needs, asking: What is community? What is friendship? And how are they affected by  social media? The event will be a dialogue among leading academics and commentators on the social media revolution, discussing these issues and the relevance for this of the Christian tradition. We are online, but are we in touch? (The Veritas Forum at Oxford University)

The Social Net(works?): Friendship, Community, and the Social Media Revolution

June 1, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, OX1 3AZ

Presenters:

Graham Ward, Fergusson Professor of Philosophical Theology and Ethics at The University of Manchester
Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology in the School of Anthropology, and a Fellow of Magdalen College at the University of Oxford
Jenny Rutherford, Head of Strategic Marketing, IMVU, Inc.

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