My heart hurts. The violence of the past few weeks in our country and in our world grieves my soul. Men, women and children are being massacred by madmen. People are angry and frightened. At the heart of much of the violence are the most polarizing issues in our society – race, religion and human sexuality.
Many African Americans distrust and are afraid of the police. Much of White America subconsciously fears and distrusts Black America. Religious fanatics consider themselves their deity’s instrument of vengeance on a corrupt and immoral world.
And fueling the fear, distrust and anger is social media.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Facebook is to blame for the recent massacres in Orlando, Dallas or Nice. Sin is to blame. Man’s pride, anger and selfishness are to blame.
Violence and hatred are nothing new. As wise, old King Solomon used to say, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Hatred and violence have existed since Cain and Abel. Wars have raged throughout history. Across the centuries, religious zealots have persecuted and killed those with whom they disagree.
The difference today is that anger has been given a megaphone. Technology not only allows us immediate access to breaking news around the world. It now also gives us a platform to comment publicly on those events.
Social media is so new, however, that most of us haven’t taken the time to evaluate how we use it. Each of us has suddenly been given a megaphone to tell the world what we think and feel. Today you can post something on social media which potentially could reach hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. But as Uncle Ben once told young Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
It’s time to step back and objectively evaluate how we use social media. Why are we posting what we post? How is it being perceived? How does our use of social media affect us and others?
Posting your personal thoughts and opinions feels good, especially as the number of likes increases. It makes us feel better about ourselves and justified in our opinions. The question each of us needs to ask is: Am I sharing on social media to encourage and enlighten others or simply to fill a personal need for acceptance or approval?
But even if our motives are pure, will what we post really encourage or enlighten others? Here is a truth few seem to accept:
Posts, threads and discussions on social media rarely change anyone’s opinion.
Those who agree with you will like and share. Those who disagree will ignore or argue.
Those who fill their Facebook feeds with “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”, with Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, with rants for or against the LGBT agenda, rarely add anything to the discussion or change anyone’s mind. They just polarize people more. They muddy the waters with propaganda and misinformation.
Arguing and debating politics, religion or morality on a Facebook thread is usually not productive or effective communication. It simply tends to polarize us and fuel the fury of unstable people.
You may feel if you don’t speak up, nobody will. I understand that. God wants us to stand up for the truth, but he also wants us to do so clearly and in love. Social media doesn’t usually lend itself to that. Certain issues are better discussed privately or in person.
So instead of engaging in a public debate which devolves quickly into sarcasm and name calling, send the person a private message. Engage in real communication with the people God has placed around you. Take a step back. Consider carefully what you share and post on social media.
Stop fueling the fury. Stop giving anger a megaphone.