How do we reconcile the increasingly noisy, angry and frenetic atmosphere of social media with the type of life Jesus invites His followers into?
graduated university in 2007 with a degree in communications and business in the dawn of social media apps. I can recall in early 2006 someone asking me if my campus had "a Facebook" yet. I had no idea what that was, but they assured me, "You’ll know soon. It’s coming everywhere." The year I graduated was also the year of the first iPhone.
Those early days of social media brought promises of new connections, meaningful relationships, endless opportunities to learn and the democratization of content distribution. Fast-forward to 2022 and we live amid dizzying swirls of information, buzzing notifications in our pockets, a marked rise in social-media related anxiety and, well, so much noise.
In the blooming, buzzing confusion of today’s media marketplace, we badly need clarity on life’s big questions to make life’s big decisions – decisions we are in fact making with each hour and dollar.
If someone makes a post we don’t like, it’s difficult to resist responding and making our own opinion known.
Everyone can have an opinion and broadcast it across the world. Your virtual presence can be in many places at once. But is this wise? It reminds me of the Tower of Babel – a new technology (bricks and tar) being used by people to "make a name for themselves" and become like God as they stretched a tower to the heavens.
How do we reconcile the increasingly noisy, angry and frenetic atmosphere of social media with the type of life Jesus invites His followers into? Think of all the times Jesus tried to step away from the crowds and keep His miracles quiet, and of His silence in the face of His accusers at His trial.
The pressure of social media is to be active, present and participating constantly. If someone makes a post we don’t like, it’s difficult to resist responding and making our own opinion known. Few of us have seen a disagreement on Facebook or Twitter end in anything other than hurt and comment blocking.
Social media promises dialogue and relationship building, but seems to be a poor forum for meaningful debate and idea sharing.
Since the pandemic sent us all to our homes and our phones in spring 2020, the pressure to comment on every social or political issue (and then respond to others) is at an all-time high.
Racial tensions and Black Lives Matter, Covid restrictions and trucker convoys, reparations for residential school survivors, science and vaccines. We simply can’t keep up with all these issues.
But we feel the pressure to say something and remain relevant. Or to air our grievances. If we look to the life of Jesus, we have much to learn about the power of when to use our voice and when to remain silent.
Can we witness to the character of Christ as we engage or disengage from conversations in the noisy digital world? We can if we let the Holy Spirit work.
Here are a few quick checks to use the next time you’re wondering if you should post or comment, if you’d be adding to the noise or adding to meaningful connections.
- Does what you’re writing sound like the fruit of the Spirit? We must speak with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control online. I already mentioned this in Faith Today’s Jan/Feb issue, but there is a great need for more of this.
- Are you an expert on this topic? We’d do well to give more space for people with real expertise and life experiences to speak, so people seeking insight would find meaningful content, not just amateur opinion filling their feeds.
- Have you checked the source? Before reposting something, do you know where it comes from? Is it accurate? Do you want your source to represent you?
- Have you paused before you post? Sometimes we need to write something, wait five minutes or even a day before posting it. When emotions run high and we aren’t sure of all the facts, it can only help to wait and come back later with a clear head.
- What does the Holy Spirit say? Or, does this line up with Scripture and the life of Jesus? Are you called to speak? Or is this just your own frustration?
- If you aren’t sure, ask somebody. Send the post or comment to a friend who can be a filter for what you can’t see. Most often, if we’re not sure, then it’s not worth posting.
In the noisy age of social media, sometimes silence speaks volumes.
Joanna la Fleur is a podcaster, TV host and communications consultant in Toronto. Find more of these columns at www.FaithToday.ca/ThrivingInDigital.