Social media fascinates me. Not in the way a thousand glorious and unique sunsets get me. Or, not in the way a lyric and a melody come together like in “the song remembers when.” And, not in the way that a two-year old can say “Hi, Papa J!”
But, social media fascinates me… More like a wreck on the interstate that everybody just has to get a look at, slowing traffic to an unnecessary crawl. Or, like when you find something in the refrigerator and you open it up for your wife and say “Smell this… Do you think it’s still good?”
Maybe social media fascinates me because it’s like so many other tools available to us. It can be used for perfectly good and honorable purposes. Or it can be used to build walls or wreck and demolish or injure, maim and kill.
I started with Facebook while working in student development several years ago. In an attempt to relate with a student body that got younger every year, I thought Facebook would be one way to keep up with trends and discussions allowing me to remain semi-relevant. Then Twitter came along and I hopped on that train, thus helping curb my tendency toward verbosity (I’m still challenged by that 140 character limit). And, more recently, Instagram has become a staple, in part, because I love taking pictures. With Instagram I can share photos with a brief note and tie them straight to Facebook and Twitter. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
And maybe that’s what it bothering me. Social media, for all its noble purposes, is more often used to let everyone know what’s wrong with the world and, worse, each other.
Let me explain.
I’m a conservative Christian as most would define it. I tend to vote for more Republicans than Democrats. I think that there are some things in life that ought to be sacred, like life and marriage and relationships with people. I’d prefer that people went to a church to commune with God and each other. And I believe that Jesus is the divine son of God and in the Holy Spirit. I have grown to appreciate the ancient creeds of the Christian church and relish the opportunity to share in the sacrament of Holy Communion and when someone is baptized.
I love Christian music that spans a wider range of choices than the buffet at Golden Corral. I like it when it’s played through a pipe organ and I like it when it’s played on a screaming guitar. I enjoy “And Can It Be” and “I Am a Friend of God” and I would probably like “Oceans” if it wasn’t sung more often than an Alabama football fan says how great their team is!
What’s my point?
Social media, at least according to what I see, is now a giant public square where folks come out to tell everyone else that “I’m right and you’re wrong!” In fact, I’m guessing that the previous paragraphs that outlined some of my preferences regarding politics and religion would send a lot of folks over the edge. I’m too closed-minded for some. Too open-minded for others.
There are plenty of issues that need attention in our government. There are plenty of issues that need attention in our churches. And I will admit that sometimes disagreements over those issues may cause one to feel like there needs to be a clear winner in the argument.
But I’m tired of all the many ways in which we beat each other up. And social media just makes it so much easier. So, what if you looked through your threads and posts and likes and said, “Is this really who I want to be known as?”
To a non-believing world (I know, that’s Christian-ese), how do you think it helps anything for Christians to be fighting each other over so many things? In the end, there’s so much more that unites us than that which divides us, but it’s difficult to believe that when there’s so much vitriol involved in our public discourse.
Younger generations speak of wanting authenticity, perhaps even greater simplicity, in their elders. They say they love Jesus but struggle with the Church. They appreciate many things about America but see so much corruption in politics. Yet, they see countless examples of self-indulgence, so is it any wonder that they feel lost or apathetic about the future?
I’m not going to leave social media behind just because it frequently frustrates me, but I am going to examine how what I put out there is going to bless or curse. Somebody out there might actually care about what I said someday. Maybe even that two-year-old that calls me “Papa J.”