The flipside of the virtual, social Bible

Previously @chrislim and I were speculating the possibilities of the spatial Bible, and how we could incorporate social elements in this digital space, sprinkling “Instagram and Facebook”-like elements into such a product. In fact, that’s what the Bible App has been doing, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly?) it might not be the best idea - depending on how we each interact with the Bible.

Despite social elements being on the app interface for some time already, our older demographic is quick to dismiss it and enter the app to do what we expect from the Bible, to read the Word immediately. Yet, for the coming generation who grew up with the digital bible as their first option, it is vastly different - they are the savvy ones in knowledge of every possible interaction and activity on the app may not be so much of a good thing. The Bible as a social space becomes a source of stress instead of comfort - for reasons beyond the Bible.

For the author, “In talking with my daughter, I realized that all the anxious thoughts, weird postings, and strange obsessions that accompany social media platforms like Instagram had arrived on the Bible app itself. And while she enjoyed the connection she made to a few friends, the distraction of so many competing voices and the drive toward self-expression proved overwhelming. So, for her, it’s back to the printed Bible exclusively for now.”

What are your thoughts towards social elements on the digital Bible? How we could balance physical and digital interactions, and ensure healthy conversation instead of unhealthy comparison?

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I have wondered why the Bible app focused on social sharing of fragments of verses and instagram story-like features rather than making social notes more visible. It may be that it is choosing to be more of a social platform rather than a Bible study tool and hence grows faster through social engagement than through people reading each others’ commentary on the text.

I think one downside of the Scripture fragment approach is that by chopping it up, you lose the wholeness of Scripture. This can easily end up putting the focus back on self/social-expression. But actually engaging with Scripture requires your full attention and you gain the most socially when other biblically literate people engage with Scripture with you.

How could a digital Bible facilitate that interaction? By letting people have a “shared space” in the Biblical text–it makes it easier to discuss the text in its fullness, show the connections, share insights, etc.