Social Media: Two Brief Thoughts and a Link

Here are two pitfalls of social media I've been thinking about lately. 1. Context is king. Words mean what they mean due to the contexts in which they're used. But meaning is sometimes hard to grasp. Mutual understanding is often a process. We listen, but we don't truly hear one another. We repeat phrases. We interpret facial expressions. We detect subtle intonations. We ask questions. Eventually, we reach a point of understanding. Communication via social media is decontextual. When I post or tweet a statement, you don't see me. You don't know what my day has been like. You don't know what else I've been thinking about. You aren't sure what words or phrases I'm emphasizing (unless I incessantly italicize or CAPITALIZE things). For these reasons, I wonder how much personal knowledge we actually acquire via social media. I enjoy hearing what my friends think and do, but - apart from flesh and blood interactions - I fear that I'm forming incorrect beliefs about people's character and personality. Even worse, when my primary knowledge of people comes from digitized sound-bytes, I'm prone to make very uncharitable judgments against them.

2. We're commanded to be, "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19). When I'm on Facebook or Twitter, I constantly feel the urge to quickly speak about things which easily anger me. Social media enable you to quickly air the dirty laundry of your subconscious. Things can come into our minds and onto the web in a matter of seconds. Our words are more powerful than we realize (Proverbs 18:21). And through social media, our thoughts can be disseminated immediately, and magnified exponentially. Frankly, that's a terrifying combination. Bruce Waltke says that each person's tongue is just long enough to cut his own throat. Facebook makes it even easier for us to do this.

Should we reject social media? I don't think so. The biblical argument against social media is about as strong as the biblical argument against telephones or microwaves. I'd even venture to say that Facebook and Twitter are gifts from our good God. But the best gifts are also the easiest to abuse. Facebook and Twitter could unite and nurture us in beautiful ways. Or, they could make us inattentive, merciless, prejudiced, decontextualized, uncritical morons who are incapable of reading a book, completing a task, having a conversation, or loving a difficult person. It all depends on how we use them.

Oh, and here's,

3. A link to an interesting Atlantic article on Facebook and loneliness.