Social media: the 3rd degree
In preparing for an online seminar through RPTS on technology and social media, I’ve become even more convinced of the necessity of interrogating (roughly, if necessary) our technology. Authors I’ve read on the subject all agree: the inventors of technology cannot be counted on to subject their inventions to a Biblical, discerning screening. Thus, if we don’t think deeply through the effects of these media, we stand to suffer at their hands; we stand to be used by them instead of gaining in the use of them.
What questions should we ask when we interrogate facebook or twitter or email? My favorite questions come from two helpful books: Culture Making by Andy Crouch and The Next Story by Tim Challies. Let’s try Crouch’s questions on for size, focusing on Facebook. Please add to my answers in the comments.
What does facebook assume about the way the world is? Facebook assumes the world is too disconnected and too transient. Facebook assumes that the world is big but getting smaller every day.
What does facebook assume about the way the world should be? Facebook assumes the world should be much more connected, that abundant and instant information is an implicit good (maybe a right?), that our lives should be open books and shared widely.
What does facebook make possible? Facebook makes possible the retention of almost every human connection we make; it makes possible a wider and broader knowledge of many more people than was ever possible before; it makes possible a sense of relational connectivity (which–for those who previously used the church for such connectivity–could mean a good reason to leave church behind). Facebook also enables good (and bad) humor and the ability for discerning observers to learn much about the lives of those they love.
What does facebook make impossible? Facebook makes privacy (or at least a sense thereof) impossible. I would also argue that facebook makes reality almost impossible: on FB, none of us are (or should feel) free to share the “real me”; because it would be inappropriate to share with all 649 of my friends my sins or struggles, I post about happy things, innocuous things, but rarely do I get into the seedy side of life.
What new forms of culture are created by facebook? Whether it’s new or more developed, facebook has advanced the cultural idea of an “online life”, as distinct from offline, I suppose. It has created a new way of staying connected to many people, of celebrating birthdays, of hearing and responding to personal news (an aside: how am I meant to respond when someone posts about a death on facebook?).
You could also take Tim Challies questions for a test drive:
1. Why was this created?
2. What is the problem to which this is the solution? Whose problem is it?
3. What new problems will this bring?
4. What are you doing to my heart?
Whatever questions you use, it is imperative that Christians, individually and corporately, ask and seek true answers to these questions. Letting technology slip in under the radar of discernment is most likely a quick path to danger. I hope to have our summer book club read through The Next Story together–perhaps you could join us.