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Do your social media posts really help?

There’s a pattern of communication that repeats over and over again on social media between Person A and Person B.

Person A is outraged by a current social or political event and expresses their thoughts on social media.

Person B reads their thoughts on social media, without the benefit of eye contact, tone, facial expression, volume, body language (you know, 90% of effective communication).

Person B has an almost entirely different worldview than Person A, a completely different set of assumptions about questions like: Who are we? Where are we? Where have we been? What is wrong? What is the solution? Where are we going? Why? Who gets to decide? Those assumptions naturally lead to very different conclusions about the current social or political events.

Person B isn’t interested in understanding Person A’s worldview and doesn’t ask any insightful questions designed to better understand that person’s worldview. Instead, Person B responds with their own set of thoughts shaped within their own (often) unexamined worldview. “You’re wrong. The truth is that ___________.”

To Person A, this response sounds like idiocy. How could they think that? Such a conclusion seems like complete nonsense. They must not be as smart or as enlightened as I am. Person A doesn’t ask any insightful questions designed to gain a better understanding of where Person B is coming from.

No discussion about fundamental assumptions takes place. Only a usually very unproductive argument about conclusions. Stats are cited. Examples are presented. Exceptions are pointed out. Names are called. Both A and B walk away from the interaction frustrated, feeling vindicated in their rightness, thinking less of the other person, with increased relational disconnection as a result.

I have fallen into this trap many times. I like to feel that I’m right. Social Media provides easy reinforcement.

I’m trying to learn and grow. I wonder about people.

What do they assume about authority? What is their basic trust level towards authority? Does a more authoritarian or a less authoritarian model make them feel more secure? What are their assumptions about wealth and poverty? What are their assumptions about wealthy people? About poor people? What are their assumptions about race? About gender? Do they tend to think more about collective good or individual rights? What are their assumptions about the basis and boundaries of morality? Do they tend to evaluate problems in terms of systemic injustice or in terms of individual responsibility? Do they think nationalistically or globally? What are their thoughts about violence? About war? About the origin and worth of human life?

Are they people of faith? If so, in what ways has their faith been shaped by the above issues, or even equated with their assumptions regarding the above issues?

Do they approach disagreement adversarially or collaboratively? Is their goal understanding and connection or rather to be vindicated as right? Do they exhibit capacity for empathy and empathetic response? What are they most afraid of? What value do they most need to protect?

Much of the posting on political/social issues on social media seem to me to be unproductive and self-serving. What masturbation is to sex, posting on social media can be to activism.

When any event happens, the (often unexamined but rather assumed) answers to all of these questions are in play. They influence how we filter and interpret events. They influence what and how we communicate in response to those events. They influence how our attempts to communicate are interpreted. They influence the feedback we receive, and how we interpret and respond to that feedback. They influence every bit of media we take in that gives us access to those events.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19, ESV)

There is good reason to choose the path of being “slow to speak.” Our world could use a lot more thoughtfulness and fewer words. Creation is groaning. If you know what to say about it all, you might not really understand. Sometimes the best place to be is a place of humble groaning.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26, ESV)

2016-10-17T10:29:15+00:00

About the Author:

Alan Smith and his wife Nancy are the Senior Pastors of Catch the Fire DFW, an incredible community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that launched Spring 2014. They married in 1994 and have three brilliant and beautiful children. Alan formerly served as Pastor of Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church in Southlake, TX. He enjoys the Dallas Cowboys, good books, writing, speaking, jazz, live music, traveling, coffee, and time with close friends. Not necessarily in that order.