“Social media gives everyone a voice, so everyone raises theirs. Voices are plentiful; followers are not. Strong opinions are applauded; humility is not.” – Francis Chan
I originally posted this on Facebook, but I decided to blog it and expound a bit more. The idea that social media doesn’t unite, but divides.
This thought isn’t new to me, but after reading this quote in Francis Chan’s “Letters to the Church,” it got me thinking. I could definitely use this quote in my thoughts towards the Church as a whole right now but I think it affects the world as a whole right now, regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs.
This idea is something that’s weighed heavily on my heart. Social media is loud and full of every opinion under the sun. And people are much more bold behind their screens, even to the point of cruelty. People say things they’d never say to someone face to face because there’s something to be said about having a real conversation with a real human, rather than an avatar. Tone is not expressed, true emotion and heart is not expressed through type.
My hiatus from Facebook during my pregnancy was so refreshing, because Facebook is truly emotionally exhausting. We were not designed to ingest every single person’s feelings about every topic. It’s overwhelming! Conversations are seldom to truly express or explore a perspective, but from a place of I am right and here are all the reasons you are wrong. That attitude doesn’t convert people to your view, it turns them off. If you are truly motivated to teach or lead people your tone must be taken into consideration! And the internet is a difficult place to do so.
Example – I have only worn a mask during covid while visiting the hospital. According the Facebook lords and ladies I hate everyone and want all the old people to die. My reasons are mine. I’m a horrible human for not isolating from my family according to some. Perhaps we shouldn’t assume I’m a murderer and hate humanity? On the other hand I read that anyone who wears a mask is a dumb sheep who can’t think for themselves. I am of the opinion that you do you, I will continue to live how I feel, and we can all embrace differences of opinion and be kind? That’s strange, I know. (This isn’t about Covid, the articles and studies change by the day. Make the safest choice for you and yours, just don’t push it down everyone’s throat.) Side note- Sharing this makes me wonder if my expression here will instantly be shut down because of judgement over the mask thing… Because the internet has showed us to live in a state of constant judgement – often times unconscious.
I really wish we could get away from isolating screens and get back to real front porch conversations where we understand people’s hearts and not make bold assumptions that lead to heart judgements on peoples’ character. Maybe I’m naive. I just don’t think being loud and aggressive on a website accomplishes anything. There are times in real life that call for bold loud moves! Other times just real, humble conversations. But the internet isn’t real life, and I think we all kinda forget that. You see what you’re shown.
Ultimately, it’s a website that can crumble in a day. Talking to people in real life, getting to know someone for real, opens you both up to a lot more. Someone might have a completely different tone than you’re interpreting.
We’ve also completely lost the art of respectfully disagreeing (on topics, not something like racism which is factual and does exist, that’s not up for debate) because somehow being behind a screen make people a bit more venomous. Kindness, respect, humility shouldn’t be lost on us.
Everything in the media seeks to divide, depending what channel you watch or link you read. I want to be unified. Let’s all take a page from history and remember that doing, thinking, acting the same is damaging, harmful, and unrealistic.
We can embrace differences and still love. Fighting differences and expecting sameness leads to hostility and more division. You’re just not going to lead people with hostility, but with genuineness. The internet is tough terrain to come across as genuine. (I know many friends who’ve posted things and their tone does not come across like it does in person.)
Anyone remember the phrase “United we stand, divided we fall”? It’s been used for generations, it even has biblical roots (every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand). It’s an idea we should bring back. If we take offense to everything or let a different opinion divide us we’re going to fall apart. Our generation isn’t going to make it. But here’s the key – we can be unified even with different thoughts about things. Even when disagreeing, which is what I think is something a lot of people can’t wrap their heads around.
We could be grooming a generation of hostile people who can’t bear someone who thinks differently, or we can grow a generation of people who can radically love no matter their differences. I really hope for the latter! What are we teaching our kids? Our generation so loudly proclaims acceptance for some things yet angrily protests differences in other areas, like medical choices and even religious freedom. (I have friends with wildly different spiritual backgrounds and love them all, why is this hard?) We can have our views and share them, without expecting everyone to adhere to them.
Example – You are all for homeschooling, me too, great! I love being able to enjoy my family at home and have input on their education. You love your kids public school, they have incredible teachers? That’s also great! Those teachers deserve so much support and adoration, they are superheros! It’s not one size fits all, for literally any choice any human makes for themselves or their family.
We cannot possibly fathom every intimate detail that goes into someone’s experience, perspective, or choices. We cannot judge them for not perfectly aligning with our own.
But we can be kind, no matter what. I will love you and be kind to you if you are a Christian like I am or if you aren’t. I will treat you with respect if you wear a mask or don’t or whether you vaccinate your kids or not. I will bake you cookies or hug you or be kind if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian. No matter who you are or who I am – I won’t judge you or hate you because you’re different than me. Even if you share snarky Facebook memes about people who align with my beliefs, even if that honestly hurts my heart a little bit. Because I know if you just talked to me in person, without trying to change my beliefs, just to understand me… Maybe you wouldn’t be so snarky.
A gal I follow, Blake from Confessions of a Crappy Christian posted this on her IG…
What you consume from your favorite people on the internet is a snapshot of a snapshot of their real life. It is what they choose to share with you. However curated or authentic it may be – it’s still a sliver of reality.Girl Named Blake
I’ll only speak for myself (although I know this to be true of my internet friends), but there’s so much I don’t share with you here. You don’t see a ton of my kids, my real life friends, or my full time job because when I’m in those spaces I really don’t want to have my phone out. I rarely share things from this delicious little slice of heaven we’ve carved out in the Louisiana marsh because it’s sacred to me & to my family.
I say all of this just to remind you: the people you love on the internet are just that – people. Humans who are flawed and ever learning. I know it’s so easy to be disappointed when they drop the ball or put all your eggs in their basket.
But I encourage you to take all those eggs and put them in Jesus’ basket, because He will never fail you. I ask you to extend grace to your favorite follows, because regardless of the number next to their name, they’re trying to figure it out right alongside you. The internet is a blessing of connection and education and community like no generation before us has ever known, if you choose to use it as such.
Treat it as a gift rather than a right, an atom rather than the molecule, a passing thought rather than your whole life. it’s better that way, I promise.
I could go on and on but I’ll stop because surely someone is finding offense and I’ll hear about it. My heartfelt tone is probably not coming across like I intend 🤣 Unfortunately that’s what social media feels like, you share anything and you get ripped apart, because no one gets what you’re really saying. Maybe we should try to take more of these conversations to the front porch? I know I’d love to.