I prefer problems that once considered, go away. Like whether to join a book discussion scheduled for next month. I consider whether the book is something I want or need or should read, whether I have time to read it with all the rest I must accomplish, and whether I’m free the evening of the discussion. I consider all that, make my decision and the problem goes away.
The problem is that some problems requiring decisions aren’t like that. They hang around, reappearing in new forma, keep interrupting, simply refusing to go away no matter how often I make some decision about them. It’s annoying and endless.
One such problem is how to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus in relation to social media. The problem will not go away, and I suspect the first step in being faithful is to accept that fact with grace and patience. Social media is here to stay, will keep evolving and shapeshifting, presenting new challenges, and so will need to be considered again and again. And we’ll need to keep making changes to our feeling, thinking, and doing in relation to it. The topic is worthy of a permanent place in our prayer list.
To help in this process, here are two resources I have found challenging, informative, and useful. They do not solve my problem or answer all my questions, but they do focus my attention wonderfully. And that’s a start.
- From Andy Crouch, the author of The Tech-Wise Family and co-author, with his daughter, Amy Crouch of My Tech-Wise Life (neither of which I have read), in a Trinity Forum conversation worth listening to:
“Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance, like celebrities, whom we will never meet.
“Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.
“Technology is in its proper place when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit. It’s out of its proper place when it promises to help us escape the limits and vulnerabilities of those bodies altogether.
“Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are responsible for stewarding. It’s out of its proper place when it keeps us from engaging the wild and wonderful natural world with all of our senses.
“Technology is in its proper place when we use it with intention and care. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own.”
- An article from The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance, “The Largest Autocracy on Earth” (November 2021), from which I include this excerpt to encourage you to read and discuss her provocative essay.
Facebook’s defenders like to argue that it’s naive to suggest that Facebook’s power is harmful. Social networks are here, they insist, and they’re not going anywhere. Deal with it. They’re right that no one should wish to return to the information ecosystems of the 1980s, or 1940s, or 1880s. The democratization of publishing is miraculous; I still believe that the triple revolution of the internet, smartphones, and social media is a net good for society. But that’s true only if we insist on platforms that are in the public’s best interest. Facebook is not.
Facebook is a lie-disseminating instrument of civilizational collapse. It is designed for blunt-force emotional reaction, reducing human interaction to the clicking of buttons. The algorithm guides users inexorably toward less nuanced, more extreme material, because that’s what most efficiently elicits a reaction. Users are implicitly trained to seek reactions to what they post, which perpetuates the cycle. Facebook executives have tolerated the promotion on their platform of propaganda, terrorist recruitment, and genocide. They point to democratic virtues like free speech to defend themselves, while dismantling democracy itself.
May God grant us creativity, patience, clarity of thought, and a sense of adventure as we consider the role of social media in our lives.
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