I will admit to giving into the moment and pressing the send or post button before wisdom had its chance to teach me restraint and self-control. It has always come back to shame me. The vehicles of our greatest erudition were once printed as words on a page that did not only have an author but also an editor and a publisher to slow us down and think about what we were doing. Now there seems to be barely a moment between the thought that crosses our minds and the words formed on our lips turn into the digital forever of a comment on a screen. Thankfully, I have learned a few things from those days when I could not pause my foolishness long enough to retract or restate my words. I am not wise by any standards but I have learned that the media is anything but social and the conversation we generally have there is anything but worthy.
The promise of technology has delivered to us our most silly and foolish sides.. We live in an era of instant communication but we have squandered its promise by speaking out loud the things we once knew enough to keep within. Instead of pursuing knowledge or understanding, we spend our days telling the world whatever crosses our minds. We chronicle our every moment from the feelings we have to the upsets that dominate us. The events of the world's stage take second place to what we are thinking about ourselves, how we love a meme or video about cats, or what somebody else has said about us. We magnify the impact of the words by allowing ourselves to be consumed by what tik toks, what tweets, and what image has been liked a zillion times today. We document our days and spend our work time and night time in front of our screens. And what is the fruit of all of this barely social media? We are lonely beyond measure, live and die by the words or comments of others, and throw our words as weapons against friend and stranger alike. It is no wonder that we are so depressed all the time.
Yes, there are benefits. We can stay connected to family and friends far away. We can share photos of wonderful events. We can find long lost classmates and friends. We can find encouragement from the stories of hope and promise that have always been around us. We can listen to music that might never have been heard without this media. There was and is so much promise. But too much of what we use social media for is petty and cheap and silly. It makes us petty and cheap and silly. We do not need a mirror of this magnitude only to display our flaws -- only to see them so that we might confess them. And confess we should for we have become addicted to these media and to the sickness of sin they encourage, promote, and make possible.
Now, as many of you have heard, Facebook is interested in using its platform so that we might use it to connect with God. The company is interested in pursing religious experience in a big way. By its own admission: “The company is intensifying formal partnerships with faith groups across the United States and shaping the future of religious experience.” Did you get that? They are not offering their platform to churches or religious groups. No, they want to be equal partners in the grand scheme of shaping religious faith and practice. They see a market here in shaping that religious experience. Of course, there are conditions to this partnership. Facebook would collect data from religious communities and their uses in exactly the same way it does from every other user -- in fact that is how they make their money! But, of course, the whole process is not transparent or public -- nondisclosure agreements would be standard for all partners involved in this venture. Marshall McLuhan said it long ago. The medium is the message. Technology inevitably shapes content and even shapes the viewer. Not only have we learned that social media gives the spotlight to our less than noble speech and behavior, it also becomes a vehicle in competition with the real Church (vs digital).
My question for you is this. Is it worth whatever gain we might have to put the Church on social media and to allow it to be shaped by the platforms the Church uses? Will the media due for the Gospel what it has done so effectively for us as people -- diminish the nobility of our conversation and expose the worst in us for all the world to see? We need to be careful. What we lose, we may not be able to get back. Technology should come with a warning label -- it may display the worst in us before it delivers any good.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:29–30)