Rage Against the Social Media Machine

     This will be the first part of a series on “Christians and Technology”.   Titled “Rage Against the Social Media Machine”, today I wish to share what the Lord has been dealing with me regarding a Christian Life through Social Media. We are talking about all platforms, known and unknown. For transparency, I personally only have experience with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Paler.  
     Over the last 3 years, the Lord has been dealing with me regarding how we, as a nation, use Social Media to propagate our “opinions” and “beliefs” in the hopes of spreading our opinions and beliefs to others. This can be good, if used correctly, but also bad for those bent on evil and misdirection. For self-professed Christians, we ought to take our use of Social Media very seriously. In the past, I have been very guilty and complicit in not using the platforms correctly; in this regard, I have repented and moved on.  Top Dog Social Media has identified 10 categories of social media users. See if you can identify which one of these you think you are. You may be a mix of two or three.  
  1. The listener – those that fly under the radar and only access media to be nosy and see what others are posting and doing
  2. The Activist – They realize the power of social media and strive to have their voice heard to make a difference.
  3. The Spammer (oh boy!) – this is the type of person that tells themselves their cheesy posts count as “quality content” 
  4. The Passionista – bonded by passion, this type of social media user focuses their time on exploring and sharing their passion with others online.
  5. The Social Butterfly – This breed of social media user never seems to stop showing you how small the world is by getting tagged in pictures with what appears to be every person you’ve ever met. If you want to know how popular they are, just check their social channels!
  6. The Trolls – manages to cross that line from unpleasant opposition to downright hate speech, no matter how sensitive or irrelevant the issue. 
  7. The Influencers – Influencers are those that are producing high-quality content and sharing their knowledge with their social media community. They are passionate about their topic and love to help educate others. They understand entirely the concept of “quality content” and live and breathe it every day.
  8. The Early Adopter – They were on Facebook or LinkedIn before it was mainstream and love to remind you about it. This unique user has also likely moved on to all the new, shiny social platforms that you might hear about months from now.
  9. The Black Booker – A real relationship builder, this person looks at social media in the most practical way possible: a means to communicate with other people.
  10. The Family Person – These users tend to avoid technology but fell in love with social media the moment they realized they could keep in touch with their family members from every corner of the world as if they were right across the street.

     Unfortunately, social media has been used and abused to intentionally spread false information, or at best, information intended as humor or satire is understood to be truth by the receiver.  Adding to the dilemma, self-professed Christians are also guilty of spreading things across social media platforms that they either know to be wrong, or, they fail to research what they are spreading thereby expanding the false narrative.  As Christians, I believe we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and a higher calling to only share what we know to be true, or, at least identify that the issue you share is of your opinion.  If it is satire or humor, we may want to ensure that it is clearly understood. In comparison, we have bottles marked as POISON that come with warning labels telling us “DO NOT DRINK”. Captain Obvious does not always apply.

     In the Corporate and Business world, there is a concept known as “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR).  CSR is a program where a business voluntarily develops a policy about how they will contribute to the overall good of their communities and/or society as a whole, generally using profits to pay for these programs. CSR can range from environmental sustainment programs to philanthropy initiatives taking care of people that cannot take care of themselves (Example: Hospitals and shelters).  While some business’s do this from their hearts, most organizations today do this as a marketing opportunity, “Look what we did”.  CSR, while honorable a few decades ago, has devolved into masking selfishness and pride with virtue and love. They mask their true intentions with feel good statements and a wink and a nod.  In comparison, some people will intentionally spread information across social media platforms with the full intention to influence people while also knowing that they cannot backup the information they have shared; they themselves do not know if the information is true, but they want it to be. The truth is that just because you want it to be true does not make it true.

     Why is this important?  Because too many American’s are getting their “news” from social media platforms. “Online news websites are more popular among those ages 30 to 49. About four-in-ten (42%) in this age group get news often from websites and news apps. About a quarter (27%) of 18- to 29-year-olds get news from news websites, making it the second most commonly used platform for news for that age group. For these youngest adults, social media is the most popular news platform – 36% get news there often, topping news websites, TV (16%), radio (13%) and print (2%).”  Imagine the level and degree of influence that social media has on our younger generation. As Christians, we should consider this as we share and spread items considered “newsworthy” across whatever your platform of choice.

     I myself am extremely guilty of having participated in sensationalism, but I experienced a heavy conviction in my heart about 3 years ago. Recently, I have observed an increase in hostile and ugly arguments, serving absolutely no purpose but to divide us even further. Some try to use social media as a debate tool when it is literally impossible to do so – you cannot use social media to debate something into someone’s heart. As Christians, we absolutely cannot forget that our primary objective is LOVE.  In my “opinion”, we should feel free to use social media to share the truth BUT we also need to believe it, and know it, to be true ourselves.  It is frustrating and disheartening to continuously see social media posts that persist in old stories that no longer matter (such as Obama’s birth certificate). Too many times, these same stories were false last year, they did not magically become true today. We should also consider that the spread of false information is also contributing to significant increases in depression and anxiety.

     As Christians, if we pass a false story (whether knowingly or not), this not only impacts your own integrity, but can also impact the Christian community. I believe it is ok to share your opinion about a topic, but, you ought to indicate that it is your opinion if not obviously so.  Think about your heart and the impacts to others. Is your message coming from your heart, or, are you so outraged by an issue that your human bias is blocking what your spirit is telling you?

     Here are some Christian guidelines as proposed by Truthful Words:

  1. Don’t Be Rude—Show Respect For Others: One way that you can be distinctively different from the world while using social media is to think of others more highly than yourself (Phil:2:3-4)… When God’s people make the conscious effort to stop putting “me” first, they are less apt to be rude and more able to think of others’ needs and feelings above their own.
  2. Don’t Be Excessive: Remember the Fruit of the Spirit and exercise temperance (self-control) (Gal. 5:22-24)! Don’t forget to let all things be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). 
  3. Don’t Be Possessive Or Too Dependent: Remember these Biblical admonitions: Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:4). Ye shall make you no idols (Lev. 26:1). Consider taking certain days to fast from your devices or media, replacing that time with a renewed focus on improving your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ so that you do not allow social media to run your life.
  4. Don’t Be Secretive: Applying scriptural principles to your use of social media is a great way to guard yourself from being in bondage to them. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? (Gal. 4:9).

     “Incorporating “yourself” into your social network or blog in a God-glorifying manner for example could be posting that you had specifically prayed for something and the Lord answered. Instead of talking about your achievements, talk about your latest ministry or witnessing adventure, mission trip, or family day. Share about the blessings and the challenges that the Lord gave you through those activities. Talk about the people you spend time with and the character qualities that you like in them. Use media options to glorify the Lord by having a true meaning to your posts. Ask the Lord to give you a redeeming purpose for your blog, Facebook, and YouTube posts, or personal websites. It is important to once again stress that we as Christians need to be distinctively (yes, even radically) different in the way that we use whatever the world promotes or the culture deems acceptable. The strength of the choice is in your hands. By God’s grace, you do not have to allow anything to have power over you (2 Cor. 12:9-10).”

 

References:

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/social-media-outpaces-print-newspapers-in-the-u-s-as-a-news-source/, accessed 29 June 2019

Rosenberg, Matthew J. (1 April 2002). “Review of Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility”International Affairs.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#2923aa4b2e5a, accessed 29 June 2019

https://topdogsocialmedia.com/10-types-of-social-media-users/, accessed 29 June 2019

https://www.truthfulwords.org/articles/media.html, accessed 29 June 2019

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/08/rage-against-the-social-media-machine-how-did-it-get-to-this/, accessed 29 June 2019

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_social_media_driving_political_polarization, accessed 29 June 2019