A Social Media Fast | James Linton
The 2016 presidential election was the most vitriolic campaign I’d ever witnessed. I watched the second debate and it was like watching an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Gone were the types of disagreements about policy that you would expect or desire in a presidential debate. The discussions were almost exclusively personal attacks. What led to a presidential election filled with such outrage that, by the end of the debate, a huge portion of the country believed that one or the other candidate should be put in jail?
I believe part of what fueled such a vitriolic presidential campaign was the greater influence of social media. As I am sure you’ve noticed, social media is filled with misinformation, name-calling, belittling, and disagreements on a canvas for the public. Behind a computer screen, it is a lot more difficult for us to treat each other like human beings.
The problem with all of this is that this type of interaction shapes us. It changes the type of people that we are. Getting used to scroll past everything we disagree with without giving it a second thought, or, worse yet, offering a disparaging or dismissive comment, actually forms us into the type of people who don’t know how to interact with each other lovingly or sincerely. The medium has changed us, and the discourse around the election has proven it.
Don’t hear me wrong. I believe there are a lot of good possibilities for social media. I believe it can be an opportunity for people to pray for and support one another, share viewpoints with one another, and grow from exchanges of ideas at a rate we’ve never seen before. However, what I often saw on social media this year from the people I care about most seemed to fall far short of that ideal. My feed was full of name-calling, spreading misinformation without checking to see if it is true, and even rebuking that we would never offer if we consciously acted as if what we put on social media is public.
I didn’t like the way I was formed and the way my city was formed by social media this election season. If you agree, I hope you’ll seriously consider an invitation. I want to invite you to hit the ‘reset’ button on social media this Advent. We will do this by fasting from social media together throughout the season. I’ll be de-activating my Facebook (don’t worry, it’s all there when you come back) and signing off of Instagram and Twitter. This is an opportunity for us to refocus on loving our neighbor as ourselves, both on- and offline
If you’re doing it, let me know either at church or over email. If there’s a big enough chunk of us, maybe we can replace all that time with actual coffee and face-to-face conversation with each other, especially with the people we may disagree with.