It was just over 10 years ago – August of 2003 – when the first social phenomenon hit the internet. MySpace was a brand new way to meet and interact with people – it was something that we had never seen or experienced before (and thanks to Tom, you were never without an internet friend). The popularity & use of MySpace, however, was very short-lived as Facebook took the concept & ran with it, launching their own site in February of 2004. At its inception, it was fairly small scale: it was only available on a limited (but growing) number of college campuses, and required users to have a real college email address in order to set up an account. But as it gained more traction among college students, the demand quickly outgrew the supply – so Facebook began expanding its reach and opening its doors to users of every age. Two years later in March of 2006, Twitter was born, and the word “tweet” was used as a human action verb for the first time. The use, creation, and influence of social media have essentially exploded ever since. I can’t even keep up with all the platforms that are available today. It has not only changed how we interact with each other as individuals, but it has revolutionized the way we do business. What reputable company do you know of that doesn’t own a Facebook page, Twitter handle, or Instagram account? Even churches have found value in having a social media footprint – whether for advertising, keeping their members informed, or increasing the availability of various content. It’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of us are either involved in, or have access to some form of social media on a daily basis – but mixed in with all the positives that are associated with its use, there is one specific pitfall that has really caught my attention lately.
Now before you roll your eyes & put your defensive reading glasses on, I’m not about to try & persuade you that using the interwebs is entirely ‘of the devil.’ It’s an incredible tool that has benefited me greatly. But even something created with the best intentions & purest motives can be misused once it gets distributed to enough people (based on , this is basically just inevitability). But the specific area of social media usage that God has convicted me of recently has to do with my instant reactions – and this is usually connected with anger or discontentment. Something I’m noticing more & more is that Twitter (and Facebook) enables dissatisfaction. It cultivates constant complaining. It feeds wrath & empowers outrage. It demands “justice” without first gathering the facts; it calls for people to lose their jobs. It can be so easy to get tangled up in all of this, so I want to make an attempt to break this down & see why this happens.
Once we create a Facebook page, Twitter handle, or Instagram account, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that we have an audience – but it’s a different kind of audience. One that essentially is always there, always “listening.” Whether we have 500 Facebook friends or only 12 Twitter followers, we know that whatever we post will be seen by other people. We’re encouraged to keep the posts coming when we receive ‘likes’ and ‘favorites,’ and if we put some really good content out there, maybe someone will even ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ it. Connect this knowledge of an ever-present audience with a technological opportunity to immediately broadcast our thoughts, and we have reached the starting point of a potentially sketchy path. So now when we’re stuck in traffic, we no longer have to “suffer” alone – we can immediately tell everyone just how dumb the semi drivers are in front of us. When we get horrible service at a restaurant, we can immediately inform our followers how awful our waitress was, urge them to never go there, and even tag the restaurant in the post so they see just how ticked we are! When we read an article about our incompetent government, we can instantly share it & add our own angry comments about our displeasure with the president. And when I sit down to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes, I can make sure to continually remind everyone how horrible I think the offensive coordinator is, and how upset I am at the state of the program. Even when we’re alone, we know we can be heard because our Facebook apps are waiting for us…always asking us, “What’s on your mind?”
While social media has only been around the last 10 years, one of the wisest men to ever live actually had a lot to say about it a few thousand years ago. Check out the words of King Solomon from the book of Proverbs. How applicable and convicting are these words for those of us who tend to have a “quick Twitter trigger”?
So the next time we catch ourselves thumbing out an angry tweet or Facebook post, I hope we can stop and think first. Are we simply seeking the pleasure of “expressing our opinion?” Solomon was pretty blunt about it – he’d call us a fool. Are we using social media to “give full vent to our anger?” If so, we’re fools.
Instead of being fools, let’s pray for more wisdom – James mentioned that God is pretty generous with that resource. Let’s try to be people of understanding – with cool heads, able to restrain our hasty words. Speaking of James, he had some pretty wise words about this sort of thing too:
9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? (ESV)