Social media, with its unbridled global connectedness and two-way open road of mass-communicated random neural firings, had a birthday of sorts recently.
Facebook turned 10 years old.
After Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild went live in 2004, smartphone technology emerged, broadening the reach and intensifying the frantic immediacy of several killer messaging apps. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and others put portable, global, creative and instantaneous connectedness at our fingertips 24/7/365.
A recent newspaper commentary surveyed the upsides and downsides of social media’s interpersonal and community communications explosion. The writer concluded he is “optimistic that a connected humanity will find a way to uplift itself.”
That gave me pause. We don’t need Facebook or “killer apps” to uplift humanity. Jesus Christ did that 2,000 years ago. And is still doing it, eternally.
In 2007 I wrote a column about community formation and faith (link: Big City, Big God Problem) citing an erudite piece in ‘The Economist’ magazine (May 2007) reporting that for the first time in human history, fully half of the world’s population lived in large cities. In 1900, large-city global population was just 13 percent. Now it’s beyond 50 percent. It follows that people in closer proximity to each other would provide opportunities for spiritual communication, including productive religious proselytizing.
Although that seems to make sense, ‘The Economist’ differs. The observed tendency in dense, urban populations is that God typically is shuffled to the sidelines. As more people live in closer proximity to each other, other priorities overtake religion as society’s cornerstone of community formation. Things such as arts and culture among the wealthy and surviving squalor among the poor replace divine worship.
God, on average, seems to do best one-on-one out in the country.
As much as we Christians want to evangelize and share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our online neighbors, the noisy presence of constant, competing human communications distorts and displaces the personal mystery and wonder of God’s eternal love, Christ’s eternal sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our daily lives. People tend to worship what they see and attend to the needs they feel.
The Internet and social media, perhaps the greatest community formation technologies in human history, provide unprecedented access to Bibles, teaching, preaching, commentary and everything else one could possibly need to learn about Christ. But knowing about Christ isn’t the same as knowing Christ. Social media’s overwhelming secularism doesn’t secure connectedness in the Kingdom.
But I wonder: if Jesus had a Facebook page, would you friend him? And as for Twitter, consider how many times Jesus commands, “Follow me.”
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) counts 21 “Follow me’s” in the ESV. Jesus, though, requires more than a click.