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With the advent of the internet and the “cocooning” of the culture, websites such as MySpace and YouTube were sure to follow. What we have found within the ether of cyberspace is the potential for complete strangers to get to know each other and make their voices heard, even if it’s only to another group of compete strangers. Teenagers and college-age adults are making the most use of these communal-type sites that cater to pop culture, low-brow humor and, sometimes, risqué confessions and voyeurism. Parents be warned, but marketers beware as well.
What began as a mildly interesting trend, has now become worrisome to the opinion-makers and cultural critics. Peer groups are influencing each other, and far more than the marketers and advertisers were ever able to in the past. Apparently, teens and young adults trust the opinions and likes and dislikes of other teens and young adults more than they do the deep pockets of corporate America.
All told, music consumers are increasingly turning away from the traditional gatekeepers and looking instead to one another — to fellow fans, even those they’ve never met — to guide their choices. Before long, wireless Internet connections will let them chatter not only on desktops, but in cars and coffee shops, too. And radio conglomerates and MTV, used to being the most influential voices around, are beginning to wonder how to keep themselves heard.
Blogs, chat rooms, and sites like Pandora.com are making it possible for the “little guy” to get noticed. What used to require hard work, talent and being in the right place at the right time is now becoming a thing of the past—the “old school” way. For instance, if one visits Pandora.com, you can enter an artist or band that you like; I entered “Sonny Rollins.” Instantly I was listening to “St. Thomas” from Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus. This was followed by recommendations from other artists that resembled Rollins’ style, some of which were unknown to me. Pandora.com brought these other artists to my attention that I probably would have never known about otherwise; good for them and good for me. Bad for major label cronies that count on FM airplay to sell records though.
This “viral marketing” is a major boon to Christians as well. In the past, if you wanted deeper teaching than was being offered at your local church, you had to send off for CDs or cassettes to a teacher/preacher that you enjoyed. Now however, the internet makes it possible to get exposed to almost any viewpoint available, all without spending a dime. Podcasting and sites such as SermonAudio.com make unimaginable amounts of material available for the cost of an email address. The “little guy” can today find an audience with his unpopular message of Biblical truth, almost as easily as the Willow Creek clones can find an audience for their fluff. The means of distribution are leveling the playing field. Pretty soon the only substantial difference between what Bill Hybels can offer and what you can offer will be quality and experience…and these can be learned and acquired. Just as the printing press revolutionized Christianity in the 1400-1500s, and made the Bible accessible to the “people” in their own language, so the internet is transforming the gospel stranglehold that has kept modern Christianity in a state of “suspended animation” for almost 100 years. Unlike broadcasting and printed material, the internet has no international boundaries. Any website is only a Google search away. Technology is on the side of the Church, we fear it and demonize only to our own detriment. Truth will march forward and reach those who are craving it, whether we want it to or not.
 “Cocooning is the name given to the trend that sees individuals socializing less and retreating into their home more.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocooning
 Dan Neil, "Watch Me," LATimes, Sept 3, 2006. Online here.
 Jeff Leeds, “The New Tastemakers,” NYTimes, September 3, 2006. Online here.