If you are reading this congratulations! You have been named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” That’s right—they named you, the ordinary person who uses the Internet to read and write and watch as the person who most influenced the year’s events. And, if you’ve commented on past articles you should appear even closer to the front of the magazine. So congratulations for joining with last year’s winners: Bill & Melinda Gates and Bono. Time put a mirror on their cover—YOU are the person of the year! Not bad for simply clicking on this column each week.
Of course YouTube gets even more visits than this column (100 million a day more to be precise), but the thousand of you who come here each day are part of the total picture—ordinary people who create and read and watch stuff on the Internet who are beating the pros at their own game.
I think Time is right. This was the year that two young guys, Chad and Steve, sold YouTube to Google for 1.6 billion dollars just 21 months after creating it (that’s a tidy $76 million per month for their trouble)! They didn’t get all that money for an idea—they got it because we clicked on their videos. And Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp forked over $580 million for MySpace because ordinary people like you clicked there—or at least your kids did.
For instance, take my campus. In 2004, there were 71 seniors on IWU’s little corner of MySpace and that rose to 265 for the 2006 graduates six months ago. Guess where the numbers are now? It is almost unanimous—virtually everyone in my university is on MySpace and it is used for communication by students and faculty alike. (You can’t even belong to our corner club unless you have an @indwes.edu address). It is these students who are the Time persons of the year. Students no longer are captive audiences of Time, or Newsweek, or their local newspaper for news and editorial opinions—they turn to each other, to other user-generated content and to blogs like this one for their window on the world.
Are these reliable sources? Not always. But neither were Time and Esquire and Rolling Stone. You persons-of-the-year are revolutionizing information and power and decision-making. You are introducing a “digital democracy” where ordinary people can express their opinions, influence others and respond to both magnificent ideas and complete nonsense. You are the newspersons of the future, and editorial writers and reporters. A student with a cell phone camera captures and posts a teacher’s off-the-cuff remark and gets the teacher fired. A passer-by captures police brutality on their cell phone and gets a whole mob of cops put on administrative leave. An attendee at a comedy club gets a comedian into a tub of boiling water simply by filming his outburst on a cell phone. We are increasingly living what Russ Gunsalus calls “the documented life.”
But that is not the most important change you’re making to our world. The really colossal change—and one that will rock the church—is the expectation of participation. The Internet is not about broadcasting positions of the elites, but it is about the participation of the masses. You are causing this massive social shift that will turn out to be more significant than the French and the American revolutions combined. You are creating a society where peons can post and everyone gets their say. In this society, the masses are empowered. THIS is what will rock traditional church structures and the governance of universities and the way we worship and preach and decide what our church membership rules will be. “The people” have found their voice and intend to say something. The era of closed doors and back rooms and privileged elites making decisions for ordinary people is in meltdown. The masses will no longer eat cake—they intend to enter the castle and rule as kings.
So that is my question this week. I have already addressed some of the changes I expect in denominations from all this.
But what changes do YOU think we might expect in the local church? In preaching? In worship?
© 2007 Keith Drury
Keith Drury served The Wesleyan Church headquarters in Christian Education and Youth leadership for 24 years before becoming a professor of religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books of practical spirituality, including Holiness for Ordinary People, Common Ground and Ageless Faith. Keith Drury wrote the Tuesday Column for 17 years (1995-2012), and many articles can be found on his blog “Drury Writing.”
Keith Drury retired from full time teaching in 2012. Keith is married to Sharon and has two adult sons and several grandchildren. He is retired in Florida with Sharon and enjoys cycling.