5.23.2014

Social Media's Disconnect 2 - Truth and Love

Some more thoughts on social media and how truth and love relate to each other...

Love requires knowledge - and not just any knowledge, relational knowledge.  In this way, social media is untruthful.

In Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, Claudio believes Hero to be unfaithful because of something he saw (visual knowledge), while Beatrice knows Hero to be innocent because of the type of person she knows Hero is (relational knowledge).  Both of them have some sort of knowledge about Hero.  For Shakespeare the knowledge that Beatrice has (relational) proves to be the more reliable than Claudio's knowledge (sight), since Hero is not guilty of any unfaithfulness.

This is true for Paul as well as the mirror (visual) is no replacement for face-to-face, which is a metaphor for being in a relationship.  See Exodus 33:11 where Moses is face-to-face with YHWH.  He knew God - not in the studied up sense, but in the relational sense.

But is a truthful relationship possible on social media?  To use Paul’s analogy, is the relationship going to be “face-to-face” or done through a dim mirror?  I don't know about you but I would be appalled if someone thought they knew me from my Facebook profile.  I once had a pastor tell me, after reading my CV, that he felt like he "knew me" because of my time in YWAM, I told my wife that he was going to be sorely disappointed.

Truth is, we depict our lives through Social media as we choose to, not how it actually happens - much like a CV we let the good parts shine through and limit the negatives.  We are actively (whether we know it or not) editing our lives to promote a positive image.  You do it, I do it.  And the few people who don't do it are promptly deleted from friends lists and complained about.  The humdrum of a boring job - cut - the fight with the spouse - cut - the cool movie  - post - going to that movie alone, and feeling depressed about it - cut.  It gives others the impression that everyone else has the ideal life.  The Atlantic ran an article about depression and Facebook citing a link between feelings of loneliness and the amount of time one spends on Facebook.  You are (partly) responsible for making most your friends on Facebook feel inadequate! We are not (relationally) truthful on social media.  
Facebook sets us up for impossible standards and as a result, depressing us when we can't meet those standards.  And gives us an image of our 'friends' that does not actually represent reality.

Technology has left us disconnected from the truth, about our relationships, about the things we eat and see, even about ourselves.  This is actually quite distressing, since Love requires knowledge and what kind of Love will we have for someone when our perception of them is based on a curated website, edited and up kept.


I keep coming back to 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 it is the face-to-face encounters which build love.  Paul acknowledges this even while saying it in a letter.  To know someone is not the same as knowing how to drive or knowing the multiplication table.  Relational knowledge is of utmost importance, and we are losing it to social media.

5.22.2014

He is King over all Proud Beasts, but no Christ

First, let me say, Godzilla was awesome!  Everything that a monster movie should be!  Monsters fighting monsters with humans caught in the middle of it all!  It was beautifully at moments, well paced (if a little slow in parts) and had some crazy fight scenes that were not just a blur of action (e.g. not like Avengers, Iron Man, Transformers, etc...).  While I dislike 3D (the 3D version was the only time I could go see it), it was used to add texture to the film, which made me (mostly) forget I was watching a 3D movie.  The movie also treated the genre and original context (post WWII Japan) with a certain amount of respect.

Over all, it was a very well made movie.  But that's not why I'm writing this blog.  I'm writing this blog because of two Christian perspectives: one relating Godzilla to Christ, the other to Job.

The comparison that has been made relating Godzilla to God and his saving of the city to Christ saving mankind is paper thin and so fragile that it probably should not be made at all.

First, the movie itself doesn't relates Godzilla to God.  Everyone treats him like an animal (e.g. attempt to lure him away, use his natural instincts) and he acts like an animal (a predator who is hunting prey).  There is also a strong impression that he lives by instinct alone.

Second, Godzilla isn't interested in justice, or even people.  Actually, he's completely ambivalent towards humans, he ignores them the entire movie!  He's a predator, he's interested in hunting and destroying his prey, once he's done he leaves, nothing else interests him.

Third and perhaps most telling, Godzilla's role (from one of the main character's perspective) is to bring about "balance".  This is why Godzilla is no Christ, bringing balance is quite opposite to what Christ did.  Godzilla comes so people can continue to live as they always have, Christ came so that people could live like they never had before.

The comparison of Godzilla to Leviathan is much more substantial!

Godzilla, in this view, isn't a type of Christ; He is a frightening force of nature who happens to be at the right place at the right time.  He is beyond human control or taming, he is an example of the might and power of God of which humans will never be able to comprehend.  In this sense think Christian gets more to the heart of how to relate Godzilla to our thinking about God: through the book of Job and Leviathan.

In comparing Leviathan to Godzilla Josh Larson writes (linked above):
This striking Biblical imagery – of an aquatic behemoth man cannot contain – is meant to put Job in his place. Up until this point, Job has spent many chapters decrying the suffering that God has allowed him to endure. When God eventually responds, it’s with a litany of examples of His awesome power. Among these is Leviathan, which is an earthly creature but could also serve as a symbol for God Himself. As Davidson notes, God’s description of Leviathan concludes this way: “He looks on all the proud; he is king over all proud beasts.”
Also, here's a link of Job 41 with 1954 Godzilla pictures.

5.10.2014

Social Media's Disconnect

I get the honour of preaching in a couple weeks and I've decided to preach on Social Media since it is ubiquitous in western culture, has remained relatively unreflected on in both society and the church and I think it can become harmful.

My argument will be that - since social media and technology are not morally neutral - if they are used unreflectively - they will shape our character and morality.  This will result in being disconnected from Truth, Love and Physicality.  All three are both deeply connected and extremely important to the Christian faith.  Therefore Christians need to be diligent to ensure that Christ is transforming their character, not the technological society around them.

In this blog I will just focus on 2 aspects of how social media may disconnect us from Love.  This is by being both a distraction and a reflection.

Back in 1979, over 20 years before the iPod, Akio Morita, then the CEO of Sony, expressed concerns that his device would be used to foster isolation.  That device was the Walkman.  Now go on a bus, or anywhere, and nearly everyone not only has earphones or headphones on but are also staring at screens.  They are isolated from the world - and in their own world, oblivious to what's going on around them.  These devices are tuning out other people, fostering isolation and individualism.

As a distraction we are never truly present with the people who we are - physically - with.  Our phones or tablets beep and we answer - immediately.  Texts, Facebook, Twitter - often take precedence over what is happening in the places we are inhabiting, now.  People now live, communicate, and relate through their screens - however whether we can get past the screen to the person on the other side is doubtful.  There is much more to meaningful communication and human interaction then just plain text.  Therefore, we are sacrificing meaningful relationships for shallow ones.

As reflection, social media acts as an echo chamber to our own thoughts.  We surround ourselves with the people, organizations, publications and companies which exhibit the same principles, values and worldview as us.  We live happily with few or no contrarian opinion, the "whole world" is in agreement.  Over time we become stripped of our empathy and it becomes increasingly difficult to evaluate and relate to other people contrarian views and opinions.  We begin to lack the imaginative capacity of holding a view or belief that is different from our own.

We often think that this technology is reinforcing our relationships and helping to form close and meaningful bonds.  However, social media is often used - unintentionally - as a means of further isolation and increased individualism.  This means that it is cutting us off from true community and love.