I have seen a lot recently about how toxic social media is. The irony is this: They were all posted on social media.
I am sure that the intention of Mark Zuckerberg’s intention when starting Facebook was not to facilitate hate, and people have been removed from that network for hate crimes as they have from other networks, including Donald Trump banned from Twitter when he was President of the United States of America. So what happened to Facebook and the rest?
I have seen the best in social media as well as the worst. The best can be seen in the way little self-help societies can be formed. As an autistic person I have found the help available behind the #AskingAutistics and #ActuallyAutistic tags on Twitter and there are open and closed groups on Facebook that I watch. Social media, when it works, is a beautiful thing.
So what happened to make social media anti-social so much of the time?
Satan loves to take what is beautiful and ruin it
The Christian answer is that we are in a spiritual war, and Satan loves to take what is beautiful and ruin it, especially things like social media and other things that are designed to bring people together. Satan is about building enmity and strife rather than cooperation between people. You can see this in political parties who campaign on a platform of how bad it would be if the other lot were in charge as opposed to what they are going to do to help people. Havoc and destruction in any way are a part of this.
Jesus loves to take what’s ruined and beautify it
The answer to this is Jesus. Jesus loves to take what’s ruined and beautify it. There have been so many churches that have taken to social media during lockdown and have reached people who had difficulty setting into a physical building which include the disabled, those with chronic illness and people who have had a bad experience of church. YouTube, Twitter live and Facebook live have been used for relaying prerecorded services. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype and Teams used for meetings. Social media has given churches a reach that they never had. God has been on the internet like never before, and it would be a shame to lose that in the rush to ‘get back to normal’ whatever normal is. There are things it would be better not to get back to ignoring the disabled and chronically ill is only part of it. Before lockdown church was no utopia, I am surprised at the enthusiasm for things to return to as they were. If they do we have missed a big opportunity.
There has been redemption on the internet. It has been so much easier for casual browsing to encounter God online because the church is there. On social media there will always be the people who get abused. The teacher who recently got hundreds of vile replies from a far right organisation because she said she had been teaching her class about respect is something that should not happen but does. If the church withdraws we are saying that we are to do nothing about this and let the behaviour continue. I am allowing for the need of the abused to withdraw for a while here.
Let us shine Gods light into all the places we go and redeem the internet by our presence.