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A social network Christmas?

A couple of Christmas videos have just been doing the rounds on Facebook, cashing in on the spread of social media and connectivity. A friend was wondering which one he should use at his church this Christmas. Here are a few reflections.

‘The Digital Story of the Nativity’ is by Excentric. This film is fast, engaging, and amusing. Its tone is upbeat and goofy and it doesn’t take its content too seriously. The music is knowingly kitschy and sets a silly mood. The film accurately reflects the ways in which we use and think about social media, and it’s more about the world of social media than it is about Christmas. It’s also riffing on the Christmas of popular imagination rather than the Christmas of biblical accounts, which gives it a very broad appeal.

‘A Social Network Christmas’ is by Igniter Media. This film is highly content-driven. It’s designed to communicate the story of Christmas using social media as a hook, and it delivers its message quite didactically. At the same time, it assumes quite a detailed knowledge of the nativity accounts, such as the place of Elizabeth and Zechariah. We probably find this film appealing if we recognise that it’s trying to be faithful to the Christmas story. The reflective backing music sets a solemn tone.

I’m somewhat critical of ‘A Social Network Christmas’. I’d say it’s slavishly ‘sticking to the facts’ rather than effectively retelling the story for a new generation. It’s clearly trying to adopt a reverent tone but I find it overtly earnest and sombre. It’s also packed with Christianese — “We’re praying for you” and all that. In short, it feels like ‘A Social Network Christmas’ was made by Christians, for Christians. To put it more cynically, it could be evidence that Christians might have had their funny bones removed, and struggle to create things for anyone but the insiders.

Each film has its limitations, but ‘Digital Story’ strikes me as the more useful of the two. If you’re looking for a video for in-house use with long-time Christians, then ‘A Social Network Christmas’ will do the job. If you’re looking for a video to show with visitors and outsiders present, then ‘Digital Story’ is a better fit. Harnessing the popular imagination is not an easy thing to do, but this film provides an open door.

There’s a whole lot of other videos out there, too. Communicate Jesus has been posting some good selections, like this, and here’s a great one from New Zealand. Let me know what you reckon!

Categories: Tanzanian culture Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

5 replies

  1. Having seen both, I accept the “for Christians by Christians” nature of the Social Network Christmas might be an accurate accusation. I’m really failing to see, though, how “The Digital Story of the Nativity” achieves anything more than becoming a funny sketch on a morning breakfast show or slotted into a Carols by Candlelight on television. I know it’s aware of its own kitschness, but surely we can do better than that?

    At least the Social Network Christmas focuses on the story as *real*, and it spends some time thinking about the social consequences for Mary and Joseph too. Surely if we’re going to do any outreach beyond the “happy make feel nice” level at Christmas, we need to be telling it as a story that actually happened? For my money, SocNet Christmas does a better job.

  2. Gonna agree with Andy on this one.

    1st Re: Digital Story
    1. Bad music. The elevator version of Jingle Bells just didn’t do it for me.
    2. The story wasn’t cohesive. While in reality we certainly do use many different sites when getting info/blogging/travelling/social networking, in this video it just makes the story convoluted and confusing.
    3. Boring. I stopped in 3/4 of the way through cause I simply wasn’t interested anymore.

    2nd Re: Social Network Christmas
    1. Ok fair enough on the Christianese (as Andy pointed out). But we can probably give non-Christians not enough credit. I don’t think its over the top.
    2. The use of Facebook only as a medium makes the story much easier to follow, though for a non-Christians the extensive use of Zechariah and Elizabeth might be a little confusing
    3. MUCH better music, the reflective tone works
    4. Funnier. The only bit I found amusing in Digital was the 10,000 likes. FB Christmas was much cleverer.
    5. Better production. The music and the story worked much better dynamically.
    6. I really like the bigger focus on the characters of Joseph and Mary and how THEY FELT. And this is the beauty of using social networking as the theme, it lets us in on what’s going on in the minds of the parents of Jesus.

    So all in all I think FB Christmas is by far the better one. Another great one we used at COAH on Sunday is this: It’s the story told by the children of St. Paul’s Church.

  3. Ah, but fellers, what should we be aiming for with a Youtube clip in church and Christmas outreach?

    Remember, we’re not really talking about which is the deeper piece of art.

  4. Ok. I thought the first one was trivial, and didn’t say much. The second one irritated me so much (artistically) I stopped after 44 seconds. Unless you feel that a youtube clip is a fundamental piece of your christmas program, I would advise against both.

    On the other hand, I quite liked the kiwi one.
    -Sam the overly critical….

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