How authentic can you get on the internet?

In this short post, I’m going to lead you to answer an unfamiliar question: How authentic can you get on the internet?

As an internet practitioner, I’ve seen how it matured from a business communication tool to a personal, social networking monster. When it started in the Philippines sometime 1997 to about 2003/2004, we knew the internet as email, webpages for companies and doing online commerce (otherwise known as “ecommerce”). With the advent of Friendster, the rules have changed.

The internet has become personal. So personal that these days, as I observed, most people ranging from students to corporate employees cannot end the day without checking their favorite social networking site — blogging, adding friends, posting their pictures and sending messages.

You have, Friendster, of course. Then Facebook. MySpace. LinkedIn. Then the microblogging tools like Twitter and Plurk. All these have become our own personal space on the internet.

How personal did the internet become these past few years? You’ll see people meeting online and getting married. You’ll see people fighting over ideologies, religion and politics. You’ll see old friends, high school, college classmates and roommates reuniting. One can immediately conclude that everything we now see on the internet can be real, personal and authentic.

Authentic? How authentic? How real?

Here’s my observation. While the internet has become personal, it is still less real.¬† Authenticity isn’t the popular term on the internet. People can post false information about themselves in the guise of reality. People can choose to destroy people through a powerful tool called blogging — who knows how true can it get? People can cover their insecurities and pretend to be somebody else. Over and over, I saw people arguing about something without really understanding each other — only because they judged based on what is written and not necessarily on how it is actually written. I see friendships broken, relationships tainted because of a blog post or a profile information or a status update — only to find out that it could have not happened if they didn’t interpret it as it is.

And it can even become uglier — that is, if we take social networking tools so seriously and judge people’s character and motives based on their online activities.

– if a person knows enough of the subject that he writes about, does that mean he practices it?
– if you post a picture about yourself, does that mean you “only love yourself” and not anybody else?
– if someone frequently visits your profile, does that mean s/he likes you?
– if you post happy thoughts, does that mean you’re happy?
– if you post sad thoughts, does that mean you’re pathetic?
– if your picture rocks, does that mean you’re really beautiful/handsome in person?
– if you post seductive pictures, does that mean you want to have sex with your online visitor?

… the question never ends. It could be longer and deeper than you think.

Here’s my point: use the internet as a tool for communication. Find new friends. Locate old friends. Share your life. Break new deals. Earn, if you can. Share your problems to a group of online friends. Give counsel. Share Jesus. Give announcements. But don’t go beyond that. Don’t assume. Don’t judge. Because the internet isn’t a replacement to face to face, real world communication. If you do, you’ll be mislead and arrive to a wrong conclusion.

Gmail task manager

Gmail wants us to do everything inside their tiny, powerful application.

They recently released in the labs a task manager. I normally do task management through Mac OS X’s iCal an sync’ed to my Nokia E71. It works well. The downside is, I have a lot of place to look into, when most of my online activities which includes tasks for the business and church emminates from my email. The new Gmail task management makes me work under one environment. It even links the task to the corresponding email. How can I forget!

Really cool app. If you’re a Gmail addict and a busy guy, activate your Labs now (if you still haven’t) and try “Task”.

Google Friendconnect

Google has taken social networking on the next level. Imagine your blog (or any website for that matter) becoming a meeting place of (Google) users and interacting through it.

Any website can become a social networking tool because of Google Friend Connect, which was launched recently.

I have applied for beta testing. Just for fun, add yourself to the “Friend Connect” bar on your right –> :D Make some comments on how you liked it just at the bottom of the box.

“Hindi na po ako Adventist”

* For my non-Filipino readers, the title means “I’m not an Adventist anymore”.

Lately, I’ve been asked frequently whether I’m still an Adventist or not. Maybe because I’ve been reconnecting with my old college friends these days. And, coming from 3 generations of Adventists and studied in an Adventist university, it’s not surprising that about 95% of my acquaintances are Adventists.

So, this small piece is an attempt to explain my answer to this question. For some reasons, I can’t explain in 2 to 3 sentences. So, allow me to use this domain for a few more paragraphs. Pardon me, my non-Adventist readers, you may not be able to relate to this.

So, the common question, “Adventist ka pa ba?” (Are you still an Adventist?) The quick answer is, “Hindi na” (Not anymore). Unfortunately, though, there are some misinterpretations to this answer :

1. So, Reform ka na? – “Reform” pertains to a group or groups of Adventist off-shoots, both liberal or conservative in belief system. Some of these off shoots give emphasis to vegetarianism or Ellen White writings. Some are simply against the General Conference. Some off-shoots I know are the “Davidians” and “Reformed Adventist Movement”.

I never joined any “reformed Adventist movements”.

2. Bakit ka nag backslide? – (Why did you back slide?) This question actually asks what caused me to “quit the Adventist faith”. In my experience (as I have asked this question myself to “former” Adventists), the common expected cause include, a) job related (because there is a Sabbath schedule and the Adventist chose job over Sabbath) and b) spouse related (“She married a non-Adventist, nahatak na sya ng hindi kapanampalataya“)

I wouldn’t say I backslid. I have never abandoned my faith in Jesus. I may have abandoned some Adventist doctrines, but never my relationship with Jesus. I can call it, on the other hand, forward-slide :D More of this later.

3. Sunday ka na pala ngayon! – (So you now belong to Sunday!). I’ve recently received this comment from a college friend who invited me to her wedding. Unfortunately, it fell on a Sunday so I politely begged off because of my responsibility to my church. In which she commented this. If you’ve been with the Adventist faith for a long time, you’re acquainted¬†with the unending battle between Sabbath (Saturday) and Sunday. Adventists explain that since Saturday is the correct day of worship, worshiping on Sunday is, as Ellen White says, the “mark of the beast”. So there’s really a tension between these two days.

It’s really hard to explain in a paragraph why I joined a church that worships on Sundays and has stopped worshipping on Saturdays. I have written quite a lot about this subject 7 years ago. But the quick explanation is this: I’ve never joined “another camp” of Sunday worshippers. I don’t worship the day. I worship the creator of the day – Jesus. Bale wala sa akin kung anong araw ka sumasamba. The important thing is you are worshiping the right God any day you want (for instance, Christians, including Adventists, in the middle east worship on Fridays).

4. Kumakain ka na ng baboy ngayon? (Do you now eat pork?) Eating pork for Adventists are a big deal. It’s like the thing that separates the wheat from the weeds. :D

Opo, minsan po nakakakain na ako ng baboy. May baboy sa hotdog, sa cornbeef (yes!), sa chicharon, at sa paborito nating hamburgers. Yung mga processed meat, ok sa akin. For some reasons, psychologically I think, I still cannot eat foods with visible pork in it like liempo or lechon. And I don’t eat pork intentionally. I eat only if I’m presented with it. I still choose not to eat pork NOT for religious purposes but for health reasons.

So, ano ka na ngayon?

I’m a Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ.

I believe I’m a sinner forgiven by Jesus through his work on the cross. I was saved not because I am good or I joined a religion or said a prayer or did some acts of kindness. It is only by this grace, this love that I don’t deserve that I am saved.

I now serve Jesus through a body of believer in a non-denominational, evangelical church called Grace Place.

What do you think of Adventists?

Make no mistake about it. I love Adventists. I love the Adventist church. Most of my friends are Adventists. Most of my family members are still Adventists. I love them and I have never seen them differently even after I “jumped ship”.

I left the Adventist church not for some disagreement with a member or with the organization. It is purely doctrinal. There are some Adventist doctrines that I now cannot support. And the only logical step is to leave and go where I can best serve God.

So there. That’s the explanation. Whew!