Social media - blessing or curse
I have always been interested in using technology even though I am not technically minded and do not understand how it works. My father was a foundry engineer and studied in the 1940s and early 1950s, when the techniques for handling molten metals were really at the cutting edge of new technology, literally the “white heat” of technology. I grew up hearing his excitement at new techniques being developed. Later, we used the Internet at home two and a half years before I had access to email in the office. Technology has changed in so many ways since then!
New technologies are not more evil than old ones, any more than new recipes are worse or better than old ones for preparing food. But they do open up to a much wider audience than before some of the evil and depraved things that humans can conceive and do.
In past ages, pornography was limited to those who bought or could get sight of printed material. Now it is almost thrust at anyone using a web browser. In the past, bullying was limited to words and actions in one place, usually at or near school. Now people can have their self esteem shattered in seconds by the lack of “Likes” or worse, the comments and put downs and just plain nasty slurs spread publicly to thousands.
We have grown immune to the extreme and misleading (or untrue) statements made by Donald Trump in social media, but also in the news this week was the extraordinary story of an ordinary 11 year old boy in Tennessee. Keaton Jones’ mother posted on Facebook a video of him tearfully explaining how he was being bullied at school. There were 22 million views in a few days and a number of celebrities rallied in support of him. The story went sour though when journalists dug up and repeated (without checking sources for accuracy) allegations of racism against him and his mother.
Some get so addicted to their smartphones and favourite social media app that time is eaten up and real relationships suffer. I saw press reports recently (online of course) that “Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, criticized the way that the company “exploit[s] a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a “social-validation feedback loop” … It sounds very much like the cynical way tobacco companies in the post-WW2 era used subtle advertising, the movies and peer pressure to create millions of addicts, people dependent on the drug they were pushing lawfully.
The title of Derek Prince’s book on blessings an curses springs to mind: “Blessing or Curse - You Can Choose!” We have a choice whether to use social media ourselves to speak a blessing or a curse. We have a choice whether to protect our children and young people from the harm it can do (by talking about it, limiting exposure, being with them as they browse, etc.). We have a choice whether to withdraw from certain forms of communication even if some of our friends and fellow disciples do not understand our decision.
That last comment is important. Our youngsters might not understand why we want to protect them from the negative influence - each generation finds the same! I have had several ‘funny looks’ and comments from close friends and fellow disciples who cannot see why I do not want to use Snapchat or Whatsapp or similar. It has always been that way, of course. Think of the fuss in New Testament times over whether it is OK for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul never directly answered the question but instead led his hearers to a more important question: how could they preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?