I’m relatively new to social media so the last few months of Covid-19 followed by the protests over the death of George Floyd have been my baptism into the full fledged polemics of the 21st century. Even then, I’m acting my age as I tend to stay away from Instagram, Twitter, etc… I “get” that social media is not a great venue for having meaningful dialogue, especially with those who hold to differing viewpoints. But I wonder how many people rely on social media as their steady diet of news and cultural influence?
We are influenced by what we imbibe. Instagram even calls those with enough followers “influencers”. Isn’t that telling? Let’s say we could create a pie chart of what influences you over the course of a day. What percentage of that pie chart would come from social media? My suspicion is that a lot of people are about 90% influenced by social media, which is absolutely terrible. So below are some suggestions for places you should spend more time getting “influenced”, in no particular order.
I spent about 20 minutes the other morning listening to someone say stuff that I didn’t completely agree with. But it was still a good conversation. It was good to know how this person thought and a little bit of the life experiences that had led him to his beliefs. Social media allows us to hide behind the anonymity of a screen and say things that we might word differently or state more thoughtfully if we were face to face with an actual person. It prevents us from asking good questions, smiling to take away the sting of a sharp disagreement, or parting with a solid handshake. So go out and meet some people and have some real conversations. I suspect that over 90% of what I see on social media is not representative of the conversations I have with people over the course of a day.
I know this one is self-serving, but hear me out. When blogs started there was sort of this tendency to demean them as less than serious. Contrast that with today when WordPress lets me know how long my blog articles take to read and that the average reader is only going to stay with me for 2-3 minutes. I wrote a six minute blog last week and knew that a lot of people wouldn’t make it to the end. But at least a blog has more content than a post on Facebook (even a long post that requires people to click “more” twice to see the whole thing). Typically there has to be some sort of proposition that needs backed up, or a list to scroll through, or even a narrative that requires some investment on the part of the reader. I have 2-3 go-to blog sites that I check regularly and am trying to expand that list.
I meet a lot of people who tell me that they don’t like to read, which is a total mystery to me. There were several seasons of my childhood when books were my only companion (traveling across the country in a car pre-DVD meant we had cassettes and books) so we would hit up our local library and take a stack of books with us. Due to space constraints and financial stewardship I now read mainly on my Kindle, but if I find something worthy I buy a physical copy. I could go on and on about books, but let me leave it at: BOOKS!
This one is obviously for believers, but the most influential aspect of your life should be worship. If your life is one giant act of worship (Romans 12:1-2) then what you say, what you post, and what you read will all be acts of worship. They will be offered to the Lord as a sweet smelling sacrifice, and He will be pleased. This doesn’t mean we retreat to the monastery and let the world burn. Speaking the truth in love is neither for cowards or curmudgeons. We eat, drink, and war to the glory of God. So be filled with the Spirit, and let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read, memorize, and meditate on the Truth of His Word. (When was the last time you memorized something in the Bible?) Contrast the world of social media with the fruitful man in Psalm 1 and strive to walk in his steps.
Consider the influence of social media in your own heart. Is it the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you check before going to sleep? Are your political and social views dependent on your feed? Are the rhythms of your emotions set by their beat? Do you ever go a full day without consulting it? Do you sit across the table from your family over dinner and pay more attention to your phone than the people you live with? Is what you do with/on social media pleasing to God?