Pondering A Digital Afterlife

Have you ever received a Facebook notification reminding nudging you to wish Happy Birthday to a deceased friend? It’s an odd experience, almost as if the internet is nudging you to hang out with an old friend. It’s almost, because any interaction is strictly one way.

What if interaction could feel like its two way, and you almost feel like you could see the one you lost?

The below video tells the story of one guys experience playing a computer game against his dead Dads previous best, and at the same time, giving what could be the best reason to play computer games.

The voice over is pulled directly from a YouTube comment that was under a video called, “Can Video Games Be a Spiritual Experience?” Could the above be described as a spiritual experience?

I sometimes wonder what technology would look like in 20 – 30 years time. If people can have experiences like the above with what would now be consider old technology, what does the future hold?

In fact, is (what we might consider) a future technology already happening?

I read a theory a few months ago, that you could argue that human beings are separated into two separate states. One is our physical bodies. The other is our identities, or our souls.

Most (if not all) religions have a concept of an afterlife. A place where the soul lives on, but what if our earthly identity could be captured?

Eternime is one example of a company with plans to help your digital identity live on. They plan to combine everything you put on social media, photos from smart phone, email, and so on – the aim being to create a digital version of yourself, that will be accessible after you die.

According to the BBC website:

“Depending on the facts it has collected, the avatar will be able to offer anything from basic biographical data to being an engaging conversational partner,” says Marius Ursache, Eternime’s founder.

It is set to launch next year, and according to Eternime, more than 37,000 people have already signed up for the service.

Its not just a service like Eternime where this is possible, there is also Facebook.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, I’m not going to be around for ever. Could there be some comfort in having a “digital dad” available online after I’m gone? But what if the service fails? Wouldn’t that be some sort of “second death”? In fact, at the time of writing this on The Church Sofa, the Eterni.me website is down with the error message: “The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.”

Doesn’t the idea of a “second death” sound creepy?

Does the whole thing sound a little creepy? People I’ve spoken to have commented on how weird it sounds. Is weird, because it sounds unnatural? And is it so unnatural, that we’re in danger of not just playing God, but going full blown Black Mirror? 

If this new Black Mirror future, is in fact now, how would this impact the church and its teaching? Particularly how we communicate about the afterlife? Somewhere between Heaven and Hell, is there a place for a digital limbo dependent on service contracts?

(A version of this post first appeared on The Dads Sofa)

Theological Question of The Week*: The Ultimate Phone Protection?

Gods-Protection-Tempest-Tempered-Glass

After feeling my nerves spike when Little Sofa demanded to go for a walk with my phone, I figured it was time to actually get a case for my phone.

I cant help but feel slightly impressed by the level of safety offered by the screen protectors that I grabbed at the same time time…

I guess it does make me wonder.

If God offered protection for mobile phones. What would that protection look like?

(You can grab it from here Amazon here if you’re interested – affiliate link)

How Churches Can Use Facebook Pages.

A while back, I posted “How Churches Can Use Facebook Groups“, it seemed a little popular, and as our Church in now looking into using a Facebook Page, I thought I should write a follow up to the previous post that is focused on how Churches can use Facebook Pages.

To start with, lets look at what Facebook say a page is:

Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.

The suggestion being that a Facebook page is focused around news or content about an individual / organisation, an organisation such as your church.

If you’re not sure why you should be thinking about this, pastors.com reports that:

80% of people check out your website before attending your church. The second place they visit is your Facebook page to view pictures and dialogue between church members. In most situations your Facebook page is much more telling than your website.

If you’re thinking of starting a Facebook page for your church, or are looking for some extra hints, tips or ideas, you may find some below:

  1. Compared to Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages can be quite locked down. You can control who posts, set language controls, ban users, take a moment to explore the settings page and see what happens.
  2. Dont overload people, don’t post too much too often. You can schedule posts to go live on your page, therefore you can sit down, write a few posts, and then schedule them to go live over the course of the next few days / weeks.
  3. Remember to avoid “Churchy language” that non Church people may not understand.
  4. Get help. Find people to help monitor comments, update the site, and do anything that may be needed.
  5. Remember, if your Page gets more than 25 people liking it then you can choose a shortened address for your Page in the form of www.facebook.com/yourchurchname (you will also be able to use the address fb.com/yourchurchname). This is very useful for putting on publicity and much easier to pass on by word of mouth.
  6. Dont forget you can use the Pages App on your phone to update the page.
  7. Update your Facebook page, when you update the website. Use a wordpress plugin to auto update Facebook when your news or blog pages are updated.
  8. Think about when your posting, some people are more likely to check Facebook during the day than others.
  9. Post about things! Post about upcoming events, sermon podcasts, news items, Bible verses, Bible verses against arty backdrops, Church notices…. anything that may be important and interesting. Remember that schedule feature? Use it to post handy reminders about upcoming events, or any thing the Church may need to be reminded about!
  10. Make it up as you go along. Don’t get worried about what people think. If you get bogged down in rules you may avoid experimenting with an idea that may work really well and connect with people. Be creative.

Any more ideas?

For more info see  churchmarketingsucks.com, pastors.com, and fiec.org.uk.

10 reasons why you shouldn’t have a church website

Trigger Warning for gentle satire.

Picture the scene. You’re there at church, and some bright spark turns around and suggests that you should have a church website. Instead of rejecting the idea completely, here are ten reasons why you should say no:

1. Someone would need to build it.
2. Why would people go to a church website, when they can just come to a Sunday Service?
3. Someone would need to update it.
4. We can’t ask the obvious people who always say yes to things to do another job!
5. We’ll need to arrange a committee to decide how it will look!
6. Don’t we need photos for something like that?
7. We’ll need to decide why we need a website.
8. We have a Facebook group, why do we need anything else?
9. Faith comes by hearing. In person. On a Sunday morning. Not via a MP3 recording!
10. Having a website may upset the person who puts together the church notice sheet.

Any more reasons to say no?

How Churches can use Facebook Groups.

Our church has recently been looking at its online communication, as such here’s a collection of thoughts about how to use a Facebook group for a church:

Probably best to get our heads around the difference between a Facebook page and a group. In the words of Facebook:

Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.

Groups provide a closed space for small groups of people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.

The suggestion being that a Facebook page is focused around news or content about an individual / organisation, while a Facebook Group can involve anyone starting conversations. In fact, if it helps think less of a Facebook Group, and think more of a forum where people meet and discuss maters relating to the groups chosen subject area. For example someone posting about a computer setup may not be welcome on a Knitters group.

Now, I’m aware that many churches have a Facebook Page, I may post some ideas about how to use Facebook pages one day, but for now here are a few ideas for Churches who have gone done the Facebook Group route.*

  1. Ask questions about church events, housegroup programmes, meetings, etc. Be prepared for negative feedback, and be prepared to just accept and not be defensive.
  2. Encourage conversation, encourage people to say what they think, encourage people to share links they feel other people in the church may enjoy.
  3. Fiec.org.uk suggests having a Facebook group for each group within the Church, so a group for youth leaders, worship groups, preachers etc. If you have one group, theres no reason why at least some conversations could be as part of a greater group.
  4. Just had an event at church? Get people to upload and share their photos!
  5. Work on shared documents together.
  6. Share Facebook events on the group – invite everyone on the group to the event!
  7. Ensure you have administrators to ensure that conversations remain civil, and any controversial topics are avoided . Get the group admins chatting on Facebook to each other to make sure you all “sing from the same hymn sheet”.
  8. If there are any controversial topics that people are banned from talking about, make sure that its clearly written on the group, so people have a chance of knowing about in advance!

Is there anything people would like to add?

*Personally I believe if you are to have one or the other, then you should have a Facebook Page, see churchmarketingsucks.com for a bit more information.

Do You Have Christian Vegetables?

Quite a few years ago I pondered about the existence of Christian Chirp, and MyBlab*. I asked why these sites are set up, and what was so bad about Christians being part of things like Twitter and Facebook?

Christian Tomatoes on the surface might be carrying on this trend, whilst it could have been a Veggietales fan site, it does indeed to be a movie review website… possibly similar to the popular movie website Rotten Tomatoes. But where there seems to be a crowd sourced review feel to Rotten Tomatoes, this thankfully doesn’t seem to be included on the “Christian” site, which thankfully just seems to be a group blog at the moment.

I still find myself wondering the same sort of thing. Why do Christians need to mimic non Christian website ideas?

*It seems these sites have now disappeared from the internet.