Everyone Has an Online History

Online moments help shape who you are—so let’s trace those moments.

Bridging Two Lives Together

When we talk about sharing our story, or God’s story, two thing come to mind: testimonies and sharing the gospel. We share our testimonies a lot - usually it’s a story of God doing moving and calling to us, and our response. Then we share about how our testimony fits into God’s story - we use models and outlines to help us articulate what God is showing us through the gospel.

When we do work through our testimonies, what moments do we include? When we’re catching up with friends over a meal, what recent events do we share? How do we decide what is and isn’t a significant part of our life to share?

As a student, integrating about my 5+ year long online friendships with my new college friends felt impossible. I told people on my dorm floor about all the games I played - my hundreds of hours on Halo, League of Legends, and StarCraft - but I never actually played with them. I realized that I only liked those games because of who I played them with. Those games symbolized years of memories and habits that meant a lot to me, and playing with other people just didn’t have the same sense of comfort.

On the other hand though, it felt just as impossible to talk about my growing spiritual life to my friends online. We’d spent so much time building our community around gaming that it just felt difficult to talk about God. Over the years, God challenged me to start praying for those friendships, and eventually we started to share more parts of our lives together. I realized even more how important these friendships are to me. (After all, they led me here, to MDS).

As I’ve explored this story - my testimony of God building up these relationships and teaching me lessons that have helped shape who I am today - I’ve started to see how uniquely wonderful God has made me. I have relational skills I’ve learned through spending so much time online that have blessed my offline life, and have a love for people from deepening my faith with my friends in college.

Jesus wants all parts of us - including the parts that we’ve built online and keep separate from everything else. He wants our full histories to redeem and bless.

How has Jesus already been working in your online history? 

Tracing Histories

The first step is to lay out significant moments and interactions you’ve had online.

I asked some of the other MDS staff to listen to me and ask me questions - you might need that too. I also made sure to check in with my online friends and trace our own histories; that took a while, because we spent so much time recollecting and laughing. Finally, I looked at the timeline and looked at what was happening in my life offline during that time - the co-influences were quite pronounced.

Spend some time with these questions:

Opening the Can

  • What are some positive and negative moments or experiences you’ve had online?
  • What moments brought you the most emotion, conflict, or relief?

Relationships

  • Are there specific people you’ve met online that have had an impact on you? What were those relationships like? How did you build them?
  • Have you told people online something you wouldn’t normally tell people in person? (especially under the guise of anonymity)

Time & Space

  • Can you organize some of these moments or relationships on a timeline, marked out in years?
  • What was happening in your offline life - big events, relationships, struggles, or transitions - during those times?

Collision 

  • How did events online or offline affect the other? Did you spend more time talking to people online when big changes were happening offline? Did you stop going online? 
  • Have people ever stumbled in between this separation? For example, meeting up offline with someone you’ve only met online, or having someone offline reveal something about your offline personality? 

Identity

  • Where did you meet or speak with people online? What websites did you go on? Where did you build a profile, and share slices of yourself to others?
  • Name your online aliases. Where do/did you use them? Why did you pick them, and what do/did they represent? 

Reality

  • In what unique ways has your life been changed or affected by online relationships or interactions? Ways that couldn’t have happened offline? 
  • Where has Jesus already been working? Where is he calling you towards? 

Move towards Mission

  • Watch this video from InterVarsity's 2100, a story of how Chelsea’s gaming life and faith have started to come together. What is Jesus calling you to? 
  • Who are 2-3 people online you already have strong, trusting relationships with?
  • Who is someone in your small group, chapter, or church that will help you think about those friendships as a mission field? Who can you share your story with?
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