As 2015 came to a close I decided to spend a few days away from social media. With the exception of a few private messages from my wife and managing the church Facebook page, I stayed off of social media for a week (okay, 5 days, but that’s a business week, right?) When 2016 rolled in I returned to FacebookLand and made a few observations.
1. I did not miss the political banter at all. I didn’t realize how political my thread had become. It seems many of my friends are constitutional law experts, 2nd amendment activists, Trump/Clinton haters/supporters and they aren’t afraid of voicing their opinion. What I also noticed is that the vast majority of political posts are negative. Humanity seems incapable of supporting one view without putting down the other. That much negativity brought me to my second observation.
2. As a culture we have become cruel. Sure, we may advocate for love, equality and fairness, but let someone step outside of the culturally acceptable definition of love, and you will find that we are quite hostile to each other. Most of my “friends” on Facebook are decent people, but the remarks and comments I see from others can be downright mean. We have replaced courtesy with crudeness and polite debate with boorish behavior. Crass language and shouting down your opponent rules the day, while stopping to think about their feelings and perspective take a back seat to a witty put-down.
3. Life happens away from the computer. I went to the movies with my kids. I watched them open presents. I talked theology with my dad. I enjoyed coffee with a good book. I spent more time talking with my wife. I became fully engrossed in my next sermon series. I noticed people more and problems less. My introverted personality needed a reminder that God calls us to engage with a flesh and blood world, not a digital facsimile of life. Social Media is a great tool for connecting and networking, but it is a horrible substitute for human to human interaction.
4. This world’s problems are too complex for a simple status update. Twitter has conditioned us to think in 140 characters or less. While this makes for some pithy commentary, it does little to help us explore some of the problems we face as a culture. Think of all the recent hot-button issues: refugee aid, gun control, immigration, gay marriage, abortion, etc. These are all complex issues that revolve around complex problems, and try as we might, there is no fair way to address these issues with a clever tweet or meme. What often happens is we simplify to the point of absurdity, or we paint distinctions with such a broad brush that we can’t fathom how somebody can disagree with our point of view and still claim to be a Christian. Yes, social media can spread awareness of these issues, but it’s going to take in-depth dialogue to come up with solutions.
5. Not everything is bad. Social media is a tool. It is neither good nor evil, which means it can be used either way. It’s limited in what it can accomplish, but it does provide some benefits which I hope to focus on in the upcoming year.
- We can pray for each other more. I love being able to hear from ministry friends around the globe and how I can pray for them. Social media allows that to happen.
- We can encourage others more. It’s great to get a word of encouragement from people, no matter what form it takes. So instead of criticizing, encourage.
- We can share Jesus more. This does not mean sharing insipid memes with “type amen and be blessed” written on them. What it does mean is we can be more Jesus focused in our approach to topics and people. The love of Jesus should be evident in the things we say. The hope of Jesus should be evident in how we approach problems. The grace of Jesus should be evident in how we speak with non-Christians and those who disagree with us. If there is anything that my hiatus from Facebook reminded me of it is this: this world needs Jesus desperately. So turn off the computer and smartphone periodically and be Jesus in the real world, but when you return to social media, make sure you are Jesus to the people there too!