I confessed in the first post in this series that I’m a cynic. Most of my social media use is marked by eye rolling and scoffing. (Give me grace; I’m working on it.) Therefore, it’s not hard for me to think of three ways individuals use social media that are gospel-less. Indeed, it’s much more difficult for a critic like me to boil it down to only three errors I see pervasively in evangelical social media usage. Alas, we’ve done so. Here are three areas in which the gospel seems to have little impact within social media:
1. Selfie culture.
2. Confirmation bias and meme culture.
3. Pursuits of unhealthy personal platforms.
You might not be alone if you chuckled a bit when you read the first point in the list above. Thinking through the gospel implications of selfies can seem a bit petty and pathetic. Yet, I think our selfies could possibly be ratting our hearts out.
I fear that selfie culture is one of the many negative by-products of a self-absorbed, narcissistic, egotistical, culture that tells us that all things should be pointed at us, including our camera lenses.
Not all, but many selfies are taken for two different reasons, both of which the gospel speaks to. They’re either out of an actual self-centered personality that seeks to celebrate oneself – to which, the gospel would speak a word of humility and remind that Jesus is the hero of our stories, not us. Or they’re out of a position of insecurity, looking for someone on our friend list to affirm the way we look, dress, act, whatever – to which, the gospel would speak a word of acceptance. Christian, your affirmation isn’t in what others think about you on a particular day. It’s in the fact that Jesus is, right now, mediating by his blood on your behalf and has given his righteousness freely to you.
I’m not willing to say that selfies are intrinsically bad within themselves, and I’m even willing to say that there are times when they can be good. Yet when striving to follow a resurrected savior whose primary message was “selfless,” a constant presence of “selfie” seems hard to justify.
CONFIRMATION BIAS AND MEME CULTURE
To be frank, this is the aspect of social media that makes me cringe the most. Both of these pitfalls come from Christians being careless in their thinking by not allowing for nuance and precision in the life of the mind.
Confirmation bias is the idea that when we have our minds made up about a particular topic, arguments and facts don’t necessarily matter anymore. We see things in light of what confirms our pre-conceived understanding. If I can be so bold as to say, this happens frequently in Christian circles with middle aged, white, American “evangelicals” whose citizenship in a particular political party causes them to share absurd articles from “news sources” that are unaccredited, un-sourced, and unhelpful. Yet, they are not alone. Many of those who call themselves Christians share faulty articles and posts that affirm their already settled minds on a particular issue.
So then, how do memes play into this? I see both memes and confirmation bias as two parts of the same issue – the inability to have nuance in our Christian thinking. Some Christian arguments and doctrines can’t be contained in 140 characters or in two sentences on the top and bottom of a picture, and that’s okay.
Again, I’m not saying that memes are intrinsically bad in and of themselves, and indeed, some are hilarious. What I am saying is that if all of your arguments can fit into memes, you might not be loving God “with all of your mind.”
PURSUIT OF UNHEALTHY PLATFORMS
I can imagine the type of person who will be prone to reading a blog post like this one. Most likely they read the first two points and shook their heads in affirmation. Yet, this one may hit a bit closer to home. I know it does for me.
Given the public nature of social media and the craze to pursue bigger platforms, it’s easy to see social media as our ticket into the land of faux Christian fame. If you are a young guy with strong ministry aspirations (like myself) you are especially prone to this pitfall. If your every post is calculated and subtly manipulative to try to get a particular person/group to notice you, you might be in danger of this.
Remember, a cross and the pursuit of the good of others should mark your Christian life. This must be true for your social media presence as well. We must avoid any self-justification that can come from retweets, followers, and whatever else we might find it in regarding social media.
If you’re anything like me, there is a fairly strong distain for these three items. Yet, hear me, if you’re tempted to write off social media altogether do me the favor of waiting for the next post. Next, we will discuss how social media can be used in gospel-drenched, Jesus-exulting ways.
This is part two of a four-part series. You can read Part 1 here.