I read this article in the LA Times today about Tila Tequila. I had never heard of her before, but maybe that's because I live in a salt mine (self snark). She had her own show on MTV, and a cultish following on Twitter. The story was a very provocative follow up to the recent Theology After Google (TAG) conference, also covered by the LA Times - which gives you a taste of the spectrum of life in southern California.
Sex. It's a huge issue on the internet and in the post Google world, but I am just now realizing that the TAG conference mostly avoided it. The Times article highlighted how Tila's sexuality had been exploited from an early age first by the online version of Playboy, then the magazine, Twitter, and MTV. Tila very successfully built a loyal fan base, but seemingly at the cost of her own identity. This is an extreme example of the dangers of becoming absorbed into online social media. Tila said that she would be feeling horrible in the middle of the night, then get on twitter and reveal extremely personal information and images, which was a "temporary high." The next day she would have to answer to the media who were having a heyday, sending her into another depression.
Tila is only 28 years old. She is quite young. I am concerned about how life after Google, can so easily exploit and enable young people to exploit themselves on the internet. Theology After Google should speak prophetically, by that I mean: speak truthfully, honestly, and critically, to the places of power on the internet that enable this kind of exploitation. Theology After Google should also speak words of Gospel to young people who geot caught up in such schemes and offer them an alternative way of living. This means being honest with young people and exhorting them to have boundaries and value their sexuality as a sacred gift, not as a commodity.
Young people have the skills and the desire to make connections on the internet. The church must ask itself if we are inviting the voices of young people to be a part of our conversation. Are we? What can the church do to offer a positive interaction and online community that values young people as children of God and vessels of grace?