A few weeks back in this space I offered the flash that I had entered the social media realm of Twitter. In that piece I advocated for mediums that serve to keep us connected. In the words of Dr. Seuss’ famous elephant Horton: I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.
Responses to that offering came back ranging from agreement and support to reservation and caution. I agree with them all: on any given day I will extol the great gifts, or deeply question the virtues, of technology and social media. This week I offer a compelling case about the down side of social media through the lyrics of rapper Prince Ea. (See video below)
The danger of social media is an ironic one. Meant to bring us closer to one another, electronic mediums have the seductive power to generate just the opposite: to alienate and isolate us from one another. When we focus more on Facebook than on our friends we have forsaken the very purpose for the medium.
There is a powerful lesson and profound analogy between technology and faith. Mediums that bring us closer to God are a gift from God; given to lead us to union with God and one another. Yet when we focus more on them than on God we have forsaken not only the very purpose for which they have been granted, but the One who created them.
In faith we have a special word for when we misplace our focus onto the medium. Idolatry is “the worship of a physical object as a god.” It is the subject of the second commandment. The sin, problem, danger, and irony of idolatry is that the very thing that God wants most – a direct and meaningful relationship – is lost because we worship the medium meant to lead us to God.
Facebook and social media are to personal connections what symbols and sacraments are to God: a pathway. We substitute the path for the destination at our own peril. Yet when we use them as paths they become the blessings that pave the way to more meaningful lives and faith.