You and I will become like what we consume over a long period of time. The type of ideas and ideologies we consume day after day, over the course of several years, will have the greatest impact on who we will become.
This is why Social Media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, can be so dangerous for us.
Did you know that every one of the nearly 2 Billion Facebook users see a different timeline? It’s true. As you use Facebook, there is a super computer locked in on everything you are doing. Everything you like, hover over, comment on, and search is logged away so that the next time you log on, Facebook can make your experience more enjoyable and customized for you.
It goes beyond that, though. If you describe yourself as “White” “Male” “35-45 years old” “Republican” “Christian” on your ‘About’ page, you will receive customized ads & posts according to those descriptors.
Facebook makes its money when you spend more time on the platform, so they are actively trying to maximize your attention by placing content you will ‘like’ into your timeline. The algorithms Facebook utilizes makes all of this possible. Facebook isn’t alone in this; each Social Media platform uses complex algorithms.
If you couple that with the truth that anger is the fastest traveling emotion on the internet, we end up with a hodgepodge of polarizing content that will, of course, catch our attention.
Catchy content isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course – important news needs to be consumed and processed. However, it’s what happens once we get looped in – the 30 extra minutes we didn’t intend to spend on Social Media – that becomes the issue.
There is a certain unconscious consumption that takes place while scrolling through any of your social media feeds. Any number of ideologies and poor theology could be infiltrating your subconscious as you scroll. It’s important to recognize this in order to move to a more conscious consumption – a consumption that is driven by choice, not by an algorithm.
Being able to consciously consume important and helpful information is part of our God-given free-will. He has given us this free-will and we must use it to seek out what is true, holy, right, and just. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that any Social Media platform with customized algorithms is actively trying to eliminate our free-will decision making skills.
In an attention economy, the platform that has your attention the most, wins. Their currency is your time. Therefore, their goal is to design their platforms in such a way that encourages continuous scrolling & discourages exiting the platform. Essentially, they want you to be a slave to their platform. Once they have you feeling like you need to check your profile and like you’re unable to resist the urge, they’ve won. They’ve gotten you there and have designed it to keep you there.
There are two Ways in this world. The Way of Christ and, well, the other way (Ephesians 2:1-3). I am convinced that the Way of Christ is only developed in our life by a conscious consumption. It is impossible for us to develop into Christ-likeness through unconscious consumption of radical ideologies and poor theology handed to us by the algorithms.
In The Jesus Way*, Eugene Peterson makes the following statement about Jesus’ way of living, which I believe most certainly applies to our 21st century usage of Social Media.
“Prayerfully and scripturally attentive, Jesus deliberately chose the way he would live. If we choose to follow him, we must be just as prayerful, scripturally attentive, and deliberate.”
The Way of Christ is not stumbled upon. It is sought intentionally. It is consumed consciously. “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” Jesus tells us. It’s a daily, prayerful, scripturally attentive, and deliberate choice to let our consumption of information be driven by our own free-will and not the algorithms behind our favorite Social Media platform.
*The link attached to The Jesus Way is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you click on that link and purchase the book a portion of what you pay will be given to Men Sharpening Men. This doesn’t add anything to your cost, but goes to partially funding our ministry.