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.