Tim Challies, in his excellent book on the explosion of technology and how it has shaped our world, made the following statement:
“We wonder if maybe, just maybe, we have gotten ahead of ourselves a little bit. Maybe we don’t know what we are doing. Maybe, just maybe, we have become slaves to our own devices. Maybe we haven’t considered the consequences of the digital revolution, much less the way it is impacting our faith. How, then, are we to live?” (emphasis mine)
I’ve been going through this book for that last few weeks, and this quote keeps coming to my mind. It seems that every day, I’m having a discussion with someone about something having to do with some form of social media. And over and over, I keep seeing evidence that we do not consider the consequences of our technology, nor do we seem to want to. Challies does a far better job than I ever could unpacking this (I highly recommend his book), but you know me…I’m going to vent. (Wait, isn’t that one of the problems with all this to begin with?) And where Challies looks at technology as a whole, I’m going to focus on one particular aspect of it: social media.
Let me say this first, though: I’m not a Luddite. I do not think all technology is evil, nor do I think (or wish) we should go back to the Dark Ages. I’m thankful for my iPhone and its Jetson-esque ability to keep me connected to the important people in my life, no matter where I am. The internet is not evil in and of itself, and the ability to gather information and disseminate information quickly about pretty much any topic is an awesome thing. The computer I’m typing this on is unbelievably powerful by yesterday’s standards, and affords me great flexibility with work. But all three things I’ve just listed have great potential for evil, as well. The doorways they can open do not all lead to the good. A great deal of self-control, discernment, and integrity is required for all of us in the 21st century. That’s a post for another day, though.
My premise here is that we don’t think about the consequences of the media we use. For one, the ability to communicate easily and quickly via blog/email/facebook/twitter or any other social network. I’m extremely grateful for the ability to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family, and to connect with people at my leisure, regardless of time. Instead of hoping I get someone on the phone, or waiting someone to call me back, I can send them an email and put the ball in their court.
But do we realize that tone does not translate on these platforms? Do we realize that the comment that we make as a joke with the smiley face might be read to be completely sarcastic and derogatory, even hurtful? Face to face, you can read the fact that maybe your friend isn’t having the best day ever, and you might decide not to say the comment that is on your mind. Over the net, there’s no way to know. Or would you say as much in a situation if you were face to face, or even on the phone, as through the keyboard?
Though we’re not “speaking” in the technical sense, the words of James apply to us here: “Even so the tongue isa little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5) Whether you write it or say it, words are powerful. Proverbs 10:19 says it this way: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” My how restraint of the lips seems to go out the window when we are using a keyboard instead of the tongue! Think, my friends, about what you say and how you say it. And remember this, you can delete a post, but the harm done lingers on.