Let’s face it. Social media can kiiiiinda suck.
Here are some thoughts:
1. Social media only enhances (and explodes) what’s already there.
Make no mistake. The “world” is no less egotistical, ignorant, hateful, pitiful, angry, etc. than it ever was. I am highly suspect of the people who try to continue this line of thought that the country is “more divided” than it was however long ago they want to say. It’s simply not true. I don’t believe that, looking over a quick timeline of American history, and I think it’s extremely biased to say as much, for either/any side you may be on while saying that. It isn’t helpful to say or think that for one thing, because it’s missing the point. People are egotistical, hateful, pitiful, angry, and willfully ignorant… since the beginning of time. There are exactly zero things new under the sun.
But we all have a platform to make all those things public. We have places to publicly and loudly prove how hateful we are. We have places to put our thoughts (errr like blogs) and we can readily and indiscriminately shoot arrows in direction with one fell swoop. It’s not entirely different from the dinner tables we all grew up in with parents, aunts, uncles, others spouting off about everything wrong with the country. It’s not entirely different from rowdy pubs in the olden days where “gentlemen” challenged each other to duels and whatnot. It’s just more readily consumed and therefore feels heavier, more rampant, in a word, worse.
Take comfort. It could get worse.
2. Social media is not a good education tool.
Have people actually learned anything from reading a tweet? Maybe. I did learn once that you can use applesauce in place of eggs in some baking. What I haven’t learned is how to treat my neighbor with more respect. What I haven’t learned is how to NOT revel in a quippy diss of someone else’s beliefs complete with one-two punch image. What I have to still learn is how to appropriately post GIFs so I don’t accidentally post one that isn’t quite what I mean … :*
What are we looking for in our social media consumption? Affirmation? A sense that we’re not alone? A place to vent? I doubt that most of us are looking for a place where we can bash other people’s beliefs and hurts to a pulp and force humble pie on all our “Friends.” I’d like to think people don’t login to Facebook and think who can I kick in the teeth today?
But if we were all approaching the tool of social media and the internet as a learning environment, it would be diffferent, wouldn’t it? If we read with eyes that are eager to understand and process – not just consume and spit back, which is also a problem in modern education, but that’s another blog for another day – and we enter into the virtual world with a sense of humility, we just might learn something and we just might teach something to whomever has ears to hear.
3. Social media doesn’t create bullies. It enables them.
One of the very worst things about comment sections is the people who make them. In theory comment sections should be places where people can agree and disagree with the content of the post with lots of intelligent thought and consideration. Sometimes I wonder if the real culprit is that people have learned how to type too fast. Maybe someone should invent a mechanism that asks the typist if they really mean all that they just typed? Or maybe it should read it out loud in the tone of voice that is applicable to the comment and berate the typist just as much as he or she is currently berating the reader?
I’ve read that some people think this way: people will say things on social media that they wouldn’t say in person. They really are actually nicer in person and civil in their interactions and that there’s less of a filter on what they type because they’re protected behind their screens.
I say the capacity to be the person you are on the internet is closer to your true self than you probably even care to admit to yourself, and that you are probably actually a jerk but pretend you’re not in real life. If people can be THAT hateful to complete strangers, well, there’s a problem.
I have often made the statement that I believe I will know almost everything about you as a person by the way you drive. I really have given that a lot of thought and I stand by it. People drive like maniacs. People cuss at complete strangers because they don’t drive up to the standards, whatever those standards are to that person. People hide behind the wheel in their self-absorbed little spheres. Or conversely, people are timid or afraid or unsure, and they always back down. OR like me, because I’m the model driver, I always give people the benefit of the doubt, I leave lots of room for error, and I never get mad at people around me. No really.
It’s the pressures around us that show us our true selves. It’s when things are making us mad that a mirror pops up in our faces and we can either address what we see or ignore it. Or smash the mirror to bits. With our well placed pithy put downs.
4. Social media loses the plot.
Have you ever watched a movie or show or read a book and entirely forget what exactly is going on? Maybe it’s been awhile since you saw the last episode. Maybe you put the book down a couple weeks ago and life happened and now you’re settling back in. Wait, who is that person again? What the what?
If you’re like me, you get so overwhelmed with ALL THE THINGS. There are so many things – personal things, public things, family things, neighbor things, stuff things – and your brain is on constant process mode. It’s easy to get sucked into social media machine and get focused on the hot button of the day. And we lose the overarching plot. We lose our place in it. We lose a sense of who we are. We forget what we’ve seen. We forget what we’ve seen in ourselves (because that’s too scary) and we focus on what we see in others (because that’s a scary we can throw things at). and we forget who The Other is and what we’re supposed to do with them, about them, for them.
5. Social media doesn’t change any body.
I’ve been accused of being too harsh on the American Church by several people. On one hand I say if the shoe fits, and on another hand I say it’s the only Church I know personally and have witnessed the shifts – in my lifetime – to a lesser gospel. The Gospel changes us. it has to. If it doesn’t change us, it isn’t the Gospel. I have often wondered if I am any different than I was a year ago. How have I grown? Am I more emotionally and spiritually mature? Am I closer to Jesus than I was then? What about 5 years ago? 10 years ago? If someone were to draw a graph of my life – my attitudes, my character traits, my ability to serve and love, my thought processes, my heart’s desires, my mind’s knee-jerk reactions – would the line trend toward Jesus?
Anyway, the trend I’ve seen in the American Church is toward circling the wagons. We care more about “protecting” ourselves and our lifestyles, aka lives, than we do about being salt and light. Actually, we think that’s what being salt and light IS – removing ourselves from the fray and the mess and raising up crystal towers to show people how much better off we are than them.
Problem is we too often show our real selves. We show how cold and calloused we can be. We show them how we are more concerned about the ends than the means. We want to be about the big picture of God’s kingdom, but maybe the steps we take toward making his kingdom are crushing those who most need to see it in action. Sadly, that’s how they end up seeing the kingdom of God – crushing, overbearing, a heavy burden. What they aren’t seeing – maybe because we just aren’t utilizing it? – is the grace that makes the burdens light.
And so, too many of us utilize social media as weapons. We want to be experts at wielding heavy swords and axes and throwing them with precision at whatever needs fixin’ today. I say we put down our swords and pick up grace. Grace is a weapon. True Gospel Grace is a force to be reckoned with. Gospel confidence is a shield. We’re trying to affect change with lesser weapons and only creating more damage and hurting others in the process. And ourselves.
What changes us? What changes me? Does posting this change me?
Honestly, I can say that more often than not, I write something and then never post it. I have hundreds of drafts. Because it’s in the writing and personal reflection process that I realize my sinful heart. Sometimes I realize that I am absolutely right in what I’m thinking, but my attitude stinks. Other times I realize that my motives are all selfish and destructive. My heart is revealed. And it ain’t pretty.
So like a diary where I pour out my thoughts and heart, I close it and ask the Spirit to come and not just leave me in my self-righteousness, but to humble me and make me cling more desperately to the Grace that saves me and keeps me.
We need to be humble. We need to be righteous – live right – which includes our attitudes and motives. We need to be more loving and kind and grace-filled. And we cannot – I cannot – do these things without more Jesus. More and more Jesus.