I was sat in my living room with Bex ‘Big Bible Queen’ Lewis when I first saw the advert for Channel 4’s new series, The Audience.
Each episode of this reality series sees a new person followed around for an entire week by a group of 50 strangers, who help this poor person resolve some dilemma they have – weighing in, asking questions and generally sticking their oar in in the name of television.
How ridiculous, I thought. How very Jeremy Kyle, I probably said out loud.
What kind of person would subject themselves to this voyeurism, in such a personal and intrusive way? Who puts their whole lives on display like that?
Oh. I do. We do. We all do.
I realised that this new show wasn’t doing anything new, it was just filming it.
Depending on how detailed you might be, we all share stories, ask questions and put a lot of ourselves out there, every day. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like The Audience is just an extension, and a visualisation, of how we interact online. Crowdsourcing your life.
And then I watched an episode. It wasn’t as vacuous and voyeuristic as I first thought. These people are genuinely making some tough, heart-breaking, life-changing decisions and having 50 strangers buoy them up and ask some revealing questions really does help these protagonists get to the heart of the matter and make the right choice…after a few tears from them and the viewers at home.
Should I go to this course my friend has invited me to? Should I ask my co-worker about their faith? Can we, as Christians online, be the right audience for these people as they ask questions and try to decide what is right for them, in conversations that often play out online – in public forums or private messages.
This new culture sees people relying on the opinions of avatars to make decisions about where to eat, what to do and who to be friends with. So for the bigger questions about life, love and God, by asking the right questions and just being there for people across the ones and zeros, can we be the audience that leads people back to the truth?