The Social Rift

This is a note that I wrote back in April reflecting on exchanges on social media. In today’s climate it has definitely taken on a new meaning, but I hope meaning outside of the immediate political context can also be derived.

The purpose of social media was to bring people together as nations, states, organizations, families, and friends. And I will not say that this purpose has not been attained. However, I would put forth that the unfortunate consequence of doing so has not only brought people together but it has also created divides among the very people it sought to bring together. By allowing people to display their thoughts for the world to see there emerges people whose sole purpose it seems is at odds with your own. Social media did not create such a situation. All it did was bring these two people with very opposing viewpoints together onto one, single platform.

This is not such a terrible thing, though. When people with opposing views come together there is a lot that can be accomplished in the form of creating a discussion that will sharpen and challenge each participant to the extent that neither one of them has to change their views. Of course, the ultimate purpose of such a conversation would be to let each side learn more about where the other is coming from. This debate or discussion or conversation, however you want to put it, will only be beneficial if each party approaches it, not as a chance to air their grievances against the other party, but as a chance to learn where the other party is coming from.

When we take the chance to initiate conversations for the purpose of understanding each side of an argument and use this understanding to spur on further conversation, then real good can be attained. I will put forth that such conversations have happened and are happening all over social media. However, sadly I cannot say that this is the majority of what I see.

What I see when I log onto social media and “surf” is that people are using these social platforms to proverbially and sometimes literally yell at anyone who they deem worthy of it. Now, I will be the first to say that people are not yelling over trivial matters (though sometimes this may be the case). A lot of the time, people are upset because the topic at hand is truly important to the very fabric of their society and humanity at large. But putting the actual matter aside, the way that some (maybe even the majority of) people use social media is in no way beneficial.

Social media’s promise was to bring people together. It has no claim on what you do when you are actually together. Social media is a tool to build relationships, but too many users view it as a tool to belittle people who they view as regressive. In these cases, social media does not cultivate relationships. In fact, in many cases social media simply fuels the fire of polarity and creates a rift between opposing sides.

Today’s culture is so unwilling and unyielding to their point of view that nothing beneficial is accomplished except by brute force, which stirs up troubles that would never have come about had the situation been handled with grace and compromise. If we continue to polarize in this society, I predict no good will come of it. However, if we seek to understand both sides of an issue and come to the table willing to work on compromises then who knows what that society will be capable of. 

The reason this passage came back to me today is that a verse that has really been driving my thoughts about social media recently is James 1:19, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” When you think about social media, is this a status quo? Unfortunately, far from. The status quo truly seems to be the exact opposite.

So the challenge to myself and other believers, when you see the world being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger how can you use your influence wisely to display Christ on social media? If you have any thoughts on how Christians should use social media, I would love to hear about it.


On Being “Woke”


What does it mean to be awake? Does it mean that we are simply conscious of reality around us? Within the last year I heard for the first time the phrase of being “woke”. Maybe you know what this means maybe you don’t. What I’d like to explore is what I have found this to mean in my life after living in this “age of brutality.”

The spur of this thought came from just finishing a book by Ta-Nahesi Coates called Between the World and Me. This book was written as a letter from a father to his son and explores the father’s perspective of the world in which his son is now entering into as a young black male.

One of the themes of this book, is the idea that our world is currently, and has for a long time been, separated into two main groups of people: the Dreamers and the Conscious.

From reading Coates’ words, one gets the definition that Dreamers are 1) oblivious to the reality around them, 2) are taught that the world is their oyster and that they have mastery over their lives and futures.

The Conscious on the other hand realize that their life is governed by outside rules that exert force and rule over their bodies. They are limited by externalities and intrinsic qualities that they have no control over. They are taught to be twice as good because they will receive half the justice [1].

The question that I had to ask myself is, “which one am I?” Do I believe that I could do anything that I want to do given the right effort? Do I feel like I could go anywhere I want to and not get stopped by local law enforcement? Do I worry about how my culture will view and treat my future children?

Asking these questions and others to myself it was pretty obvious that I fell into the Dreamers category. After this realization, and struggling to accept it, there were two breakthroughs that I came to.

The first is a point that Coates made which hit me pretty hard. The fundamental difference (between Dreamers and the Conscious) that has been significant for me to understand is that everyone here in the world and, yes, even in America lives by different rules. The rules that I live by as a white male (you can be anything you want, just follow the rules and you’ll be fine, etc.) are entirely not true literally or especially for other ethnic groups.

The second breakthrough for me, was the idea of what separates the Dreamers and the Conscious. In physical sleep, rarely do we we make the conscious choice to wake up (hence the term unconscious). However, in this situation, the barrier between the Dreamers and the Conscious can be crossed by simple choices.

These choices have to be a declaration to oneself that we will not jump to our preconceived biases when we hear a story of violence and sadness, that we will listen more than we speak in an attempt to listen to people who have stories we may have no comprehension of, and that we will attempt to become aware of the real issues at hand, issues which we may never have had an understanding of before stepping out in faith.

You see, everything can be rationalized if you try hard enough. What creates this rift between the Dreamers and the Conscious is that for centuries the Dreamers have been the ones in power, which has only deepened their sleep. They have passed through life with little knowledge of how other people experience the world that they have had a hand in creating. This is the root problem. People going through life without having a clue as to how their actions affect others.

And for me, right now, this is what it means to be “woke.” I do not consider myself being awake right now, but rather taking small steps towards this awakening. I am taking small steps in trying to understand the pain that truly exists. My motivation is not guilt (which is probably a whole other conversation) but what I do start to feel is compassion for people who are hurting due to a broken system.

I know that I do not have the whole picture. I am still learning and the thing that helps me the most is having honest conversations with people, something of which I could have more. If you have a thought on this post or think I am wrong or right or have a story to tell, I would really enjoy listening. There is so much that I have left unsaid in this post, but hopefully I have been clear enough and what I have not said others have spoken much more eloquently on than myself.