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Entries in Social Media (46)


Historians know the downside of Twitter

I just returned from four days away in Ashelville, NC. My husband had a conference, and I joined him. It was a gorgeous resort, and we did some fun activities in the afternoon after the meetings were over. We went on a hiking tour in Dupont Park and I got some great photos of waterfalls. We also drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point in NC. I had the opportunity to use the excellent fitness centre. And of course, I read. The whole place was filled with rocking chairs and views of the mountains, so I had a great environment to read.

I'm almost finished the very large tome Scotland: A History From Earliest Times. The author, Alistair Moffat made a really interesting observation. In a discussion about the fading influence of printed newspapers, he says this:

The omens are not good. Professional journalism of the sort fostered by newspapers and TV and radio cannot be replaced by the chaos of the internet with all its partiality and inaccuracy, as objective reporting becomes increasingly indistinguishable from comment. If newspapers begin to close in Scotland, much will be lost that is difficult to replace. Twitter is no substitute for reliable reporting.

That last phrase is simple, but profound. And it isn't restricted to the impact of Twitter on news. Twitter is no substitute for good theology; or effective debate. Twitter is good for sharing information, venting, and firing up the masses, but the "chaos" which Moffat refers to means it will have serious drawbacks.

And no, making comments in a Tweet thread is not journalism. it is not literature. It is pixelated speaker's corner. 

Sometimes, historians have the most significant observations.


Do we have FOMO?

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

When I was visiting my brother last fall, my niece told me that her sister has FOMO. She explained that her sister was such a social butterfly because she fears missing out on something. She hates to miss a gathering in case she misses out.

Yesterday, while I was relaxing with my knitting after dinner, I listened to the Mortification of Spin podcast. It was entitled "(Anti) Social Media."  The hosts discussed the angry, censorious tone of Twitter. After Todd Pruit and Aimee Byrd discussed Twitter, Carl Trueman asked the obvious question "Why use it?"

That is a question I have asked myself a lot when things have become really unpleasant online. When my husband comes home from work and I share with him my disgust at something in particular, he always tells me "You don't have to read it."

Why do we return to Twitter like picking at a scab? We know it's going to make us annoyed and irritated, but we return anyway. I'm guilty of this far too often. Is it because we fear we are missing out on something? I believe it can be. Unfortunately, we do want to know the dirt, the controversy. The side of us which wants to slow down as we pass by a car accident wants to see people in verbal parley on the internet. There is something kind of thrilling about watching a famous pastor waste his time . . . er, I mean, take the time to debate online. We want to keep score to see which side is winning. Some people don't like sports, so it's fun to watch this kind of battle.

And, of course, if we blog ourselves, or use social media a lot, we want to know what the issues are so we can participate in the dialogue.

In the Mortification of Spin podcast from Wednesday, Todd Pruit made repeated reference to a famous pastor who was on the Gospel Coalition advisory board who had been fired from his church but was now preaching again. He took great pains not to say the person's name, but if you're 10 years old and know how to use Google, it's a simple matter to figure out who he was talking about. I was totally in the dark about the matter. I don't read Christianity today, and I don't follow Ed Stetzer on Twitter. Was I missing out on something? 

Recently, when the Toronto Raptors were playing the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, basketball was a big discussion at our church. We have a lot of Raptors fans. One Sunday, someone asked my husband and I if we were going to watch the upcoming came so we could participate in the discussion "around the water cooler." I didn't laugh out loud, but inside I did. Water cooler? Is that why I would watch basketball? So I could be "in the know?" I try not to have too many pet peeves, but one I have are sports fans who never pay attention during the regular season, but become rabid fans when the playoffs begin. 

It's okay not to know what's going on in sports and popular cultre. Truly. It isn't an indictment against our virtue.

The solution to social media angst is simple: look away. If we feel like we're missing out, we can relax; the shelf life of what's "in" is very brief online.


It's not the writing; it's the drama

Yesterday, I checked in to the blog to find a link I had saved in draft. I was met with a WHOOPS! Something was amiss. My blog was not accessible. Squarespace had some glitches, but here we are, back again.

I thought it was kind of funny that while I was peeved that I couldn't access my blog, I was not all that concerned. It may have been fun to start all over. And I would have had my little blog vanished.

After thinking a lot about blogging (and reading a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with blogging) I decided that what bothers me about blogging isn't the medium. What begins to disturb me is the conduct of people on social media. It's the drama. 

Christian men and women behave badly. We are arrogant, boorish, and worst of all, we often act as if we are entitled to an audience. Twitter has made us believe that we deserve a hearing. But we don't. Twitter has also  exacerbated an unhealthy fascination with people we don't know personally. It has fooled us into thinking we have a relationship with someone when we don't really know that person. It isn't healthy for us.

When children are small, and they are in a conversation, vying for the attention of an adult, often what they will do if they aren't being heard is start to talk louder. And louder. That is what happens on Twitter. Someone doesn't get an audience, so she will speak louder. Or say more extreme things. Or more controversial things. Or compose longer threads. That is the kind of thing I just don't have time for. But I can't change people, and I need to get over that and worry more about how I conduct myself online.

I love to write. It is who I am, even if I'm not published or famous. On the 22nd of May, i was cleaning out a drawer, and I came across two handwritten pages on stationery which came from the Best Western Rainbow Inn in Grand Rapids, Minnestoa. It was dated (quite co-incidentally) May 23rd, 1996. It was the day after I had left my family behind to move here to Ontario. It was a sad, poignant couple of pages. I had sat in my hotel room that night, needing to process what was going on, and lacking a journal in my suitcase, I wrote those two pages. Yes; writing is part of me.

Drama, on the other hand, is not. Vying to attention from others on social media cannot be. It isn't good for me. Frankly, it isn't good for anyone. That is not what Christ expects from me. Yes, he asks me to stand for truth and speak it when it's difficult. But he doesn't ask me to offend others, to treat others with condescension and often hatred; yes, hatred. I see a lot of tha on Twitter.

This month, I read four books and one third of Bavinck's second volume of Dogmatics. I knitted. I watched hockey. I exercised. I shopped. I read a very pared down Twitter feed. It was wonderful. I'm getting better at ignoring. 

Ignoring is a valuable skill, and one I hope to foster more.

This blog comes to you mostly unedited, and not because I want to be more "authentic," but because my coffee maker just beeped, and I have a date with some books.


I'm the least logical person I know

I was a little apprehensive about taking apologetics. I knew that it involved argumentation, and I am not naturally logical in my thinking. Being able to make and weigh arguments is a crucial aspect of aplogetics. Being familiar with logical argumentation is especially helpful when we seek to determine whether an argument is true or contains a fallacy, an error in reasoning. Arguments succeed or fail based on their coherence, and fallacies make arguments collapse.

One of the most common fallacies is the ad hominen fallacy. When we commit that fallacy, instead of addressing the person's arguments, we attack them personally. I am committing that fallacy when rather than addressing my husband's argument, I address his character. Perhaps he points out that it is a better idea to take down our big maple tree this year rather than next year because the cost will be greater as the rotting inerior begins to collapse, demanding a more complex method of removal. If I respond, "Well, you're just lazy and don't want to rake leaves in the fall!" that is ad hominem.

I watched something unfold on Twitter recently (this is the downside of having more free time) where that particular fallacy was committed frequently. These days, if we don't like what someone says, we call that person a heretic. Or if we're not so bold as to drag that word out, we will mock the person in less obvious ways. Or we will question whether or not the're truly born again. Whatever our method, it does not involve actually engaging the arguments, but serves to simply make the other person look either foolish or bad. As I shared some of the comments with my husband, he said, "Ah, the old 'you're not really a Christian' response."

We are tempted to use ad hominem attacks when we don't know a lot of the subject matter. Or when we are not interested in truly listening. Or when we're just kind of stubborn. Whatever the reason, it's a weak response to an argument because it in fact completely ignores the argument.

In C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, the old professor wonders why no one is teaching logic to kids anymore. I share that feeling of regret. I know when I was taking apologetics, it was work for me to sit down and actually follow an argument to its logical conclusion. But I had to, and it was a good exercise. I still don't like logic, and I'm not philosopher, but I can see how helpful it was. Personally, I think elementary argumentation and logic should be taught to high school students. And there should definitely be a required course for Bible school students and seminary students.

And people using social media to argue or debate could use some basic tools. Here is my recommended text. I used it when I homesschooled my kids: The Fallacy Detective.


How do we avoid unnecessary self-focus?

A few years ago, I made a comment on Twitter, speaking to my 30-something self. It was a rebuke. It seemed harmless enough. That is, until, I had someone accuse me of speaking to her directly. She was, herself, a 30-something, and she thought I may have been "sub-tweeting" to her. I assured her that was not the case. There have been times when, to my own shame, I have thought something similar. Fortunately, I have a husband who reminds me that people aren't thinking of me as often as I believe them to be.

The problem with using social media is that we can be drawn into a sense that people are looking at us. But just because I walk down my street wearing my pajamas, it doesn't mean everyone saw me. Perhaps no one did. Perhaps no one cared. It is work to remember that we are not the centre of the world. 

I have been thinking about how I can work on this area in my own life. There is a certain freedom in accepting that people are not watching me. I was having a chat with a couple of my professors yesterday, and I suggested that perhaps women have more aversion to what others think of them than men do. That is a generalization, but they agreed that it may be true. 

I have been reading Bavinck's second volume of Dogmatics, where he discusses God. I am only in the opening chapter, but I'm finding it challenging already. Currently, I'm reading about the knowability of God. There is a sense in which we cannot know God fully. We can know him by experience, but we cannot know him by nature. We can only know him as humans, so that means our knowledge is limited. We rely on his revelation of himself. And even then our finite minds, which are prone to want to suppress the truth, make us limited. Surely, this is a life long process. 

I'm thinking that the best way for me to stop focusing on myself is to focus beyond myself, beginning with who God is. That means continuing to probe the Scriptures; learning how to better understand them; fostering reliance on the Holy Spirit. It also means focusing on other people. I tend to talk more than I should, and there are times when, before visiting a friend, I will remind myself to ask about her life, not always bring it back to myself.

I have been a Christian for 34 years, but I'm still working on this tendency toward self-focus. I'm thankful that I am promised that some day, this will be gone, and I can look fully on the face of Christ, which I'm sure is better than any other view.