I truly want to transform our internet dialogue, but it’s hopeless. We’re doomed. We’ll never make it! The internet is too powerful and social media is too corrupting for any of us to make a difference. Social media forms us into really divisive, dehumanizing, cantankerous people. Online technology changes the way we communicate, argue, organize society, and express empathy and compassion toward one another.
The internet allows us almost unlimited access to information and networks of individuals to give us what we perceive we need. Consequently, we no longer spend time doing the difficult work of maintaining and developing complex relationships in and through conflict. Instead, we abandon relationships the moment our ideologies disagree, knowing we can find other ideologically like-minded individuals to respond to our musings in a way that feeds our own personal wants, needs, and desires.
Social media gives us the ability to only interact with people as much as they serve our personal agendas, to only seek out relationships as much as they satisfy our individual pursuits, to only love those who love us in return. We have fewer reasons to heal the divides or decrease divisions when we view our relationships as increasingly disposable. Let the preachers preach, the teachers teach, and the writers wax eloquent about the virtues of peacemaking, but watch as technology streams us toward an inevitable divisive, devouring future.
I’ve pastored for over twenty-two years. Through my various speaking endeavors, I’ve preached thousands of messages about the goodness of God and the power of God to overcome every sin and to conquer every form of darkness. Even so, I often feel my desire to encourage people has unintentionally minimized the true battles we face. In speaking about the goodness and greatness of God, I’ve not always fully expressed the true dangers of the darkness we confront.
I’ve not minimized evil, but I’ve minimized the cost of fighting evil, the cost of contending for truth in a world full of lies. In some ways, I’ve been half of a prophet, willing to speak of the restoration and reconciliation God provides, but reluctant to truly cry out concerning the terrible cost we pay when we do not seek the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30). My desire to comfort the afflicted sometimes kept me from confronting the unprepared and unrepentant.
This is the glum truth: our culture has embraced some profoundly troubling online behavior. If we don’t proactively, intentionally fight against this cultural trend, we will harm ourselves and others. The witness of Christ is at stake. Now is not the time to minimize the darkness. If we don’t intentionally make room for the transformative reconciling voice of Christ in our social media communication, we will face an increasingly dark social media future.
I need to write these words of warning. I need my words to sound extreme, dire, and prophetically troublesome. I hope I am proven wrong about our hopeless future. I pray that we are truly not doomed. However, I am convinced that to “make it,” to overcome the most corrupting aspects of technology, we need to intentionally make room for the miraculous power, provisions, and resources of Christ’s kingdom. We must embrace our vital, sacred calling to live out the ministry of reconciliation in our social media contexts and recognize the strategic role we play in the formation of social media culture. To transform culture, we need to be intentional in all of our online encounters.