Monday, October 6, 2014

Adding to the Noise

This post may be one of my most "unspiritual" topics. I have yet to find a scripture that addresses Richard Branson memes, or one that talks about speculating the next Apple product. But here's the rub: social media has become a driving force of our lives, even of those who don't use it. It has become the primary place to share information. We learn more about what's going on in the world from Facebook than the evening News on TV or the paper (Do they even make those anymore?) or from actually talking to people (No one does that anymore). But a flood of information does not necessarily make us smarter or more informed. It does not broaden out perspectives. In fact, studies show that it narrows them. We become more entrenched in our own perspectives, our own communities of like-minded people. Alternative views become absurd and outsiders become enemies. 

But it doesn't have to be like that. We can use the social media as a toll to share ideas, promote healthy dialog, and bridge the gaps between humans and other humans. We can, but we have to change the way we use it. We've been doing it wrong. But here's how we can do it better.

Before you share that article on Facebook, that blog post on Twitter, please stop and think about a couple of things first.

1) No Cats. There are enough cute cat videos on the internet already. They are easily available to all who want them. You don't have to ever post one again. Seriously, stop it.

2) Own It. Everything you post becomes your words. "I don't agree with the author when he said, 'we all need to watch porn to have a good marriage,' I just posted it to get people thinking."  Malarkey! That's like the junior high girl that says "I didn't start the rumor, I just passed it along." If you post something you are endorsing it. People will associate you with those words. Take your words seriously. If you feel something needs to be passed along but you disagree with a major part of it, qualify it with a brief explanation. "I don't agree with everything he says, but he really got me thinking about..." or something like that.

3) Be Polite. How you say it is as important as what you say. Sometimes I read Matt Walsh. I agree with his overall point at least 2/3 of the time. But I don't usually pass his posts along. I seldom agree with the spirit of his writing . He is notorious for belittling and ridiculing those who disagree with him(and there are many that are far worse than him). That does not add to dialog and understanding. That does not get people thinking. It only entrenches people further in their own views. If you agree with what is said, you applaud. If you disagree you are offended. Yes, Jesus used this strategy occasionally. If you are as right about everything as Jesus, you may use it too If not, post in humility. Even I get things wrong from time to time. 

4) Sources Count. Everything you read on the internet is not true. Hard to believe, I know. But there are unscrupulous people who put rumor, conjecture, and outright fabrications on the internet masquerading as facts. Everyone can be biased, and everyone gets things wrong from time to time, but not all sources are equal. If you post an article about how Obama ruined the economy from the website it will probably not contain good  unbiased information. Real journalists cite their sources. It's easy to Google and confirm if something is true from a variety of places. If you are in doubt about whether something is true, then it is gossip.

5) Motive Matters. We all think we are righter about something than someone else. and having an opinion is not wrong. But why is it necessary to share these this idea? Is it to show how hip you are? Does it make you look smart? Does it make you feel good to reaffirm your beliefs, to belittle someone, to prove a point? Do you need to stick it to those other guys? Or do you genuinely think you can help others? Will your words promote love, and understanding? Will they add something besides noise to public discourse? Will they glorify God? "Fools find no pleasure in understanding,but delight in airing their own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2)

Seek understanding.

And seriously, enough with the cats.

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