I have been reading the book by Bonnie Kristian entitled ‘Untrustworthy‘ (the Knowledge Crisis breaking our brains, polluting our politics, and corrupting Christian community) in which she discusses among other things our present communication uses and (perceptions of truth) attitudes, comments made (shared and believed ‘conspiracist’ info) on the social media like ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, ‘Tik Tok’ and ‘Youtube’ to name just some of the more media popular ones that have mushroomed in the last 10 years or so. (Apparently over 100+ Social Media Platforms have been initiated since 2000 and the bulk of them since 2010)
Most of these are used by the 18 to 35 year olds (who represent 60%+ of all users on such platforms as Instagram). Facebook has almost 3 billion users or roughly 40% of the world’s population has a Facebook account. (see: influencemarketinghub)
There are millions of stories, comments, reports and opinions posted on these sites, so the real question that pops up all the time is: what is real, faithful, reliable, factual and fair?
If I post something on the net, the question arises, who will read it? and what will they think it means? Yes, you can limit access to your comments and posts but who knows? Much posting is like throwing dust to the wind, where it goes cannot be known or tracked. All manner of comments and remarks and ‘on the moment’ feelings and opinions once written and released are scattered by our ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ without our control. Copies and references of our postings (pictures and videos) can be multiplied many times over and over and who knows where they land?
So why do we do this?
We want to be heard, we want to connect, we want to promote and create a ‘personal brand’, we want to be seen as people who care and share ‘selfies’ especially as pictures (videos) get over 30% more traffic than other postings. (there is an old saying: One picture is worth a thousand words!) It is an ‘ego’ thing, sometimes a put down or a one up – (my dad is stronger than your dad! thing) and a desire to teach and pass on good ideas or sometimes just a money grab, or even a ‘no brain’ reflex to a situation that maybe should have required more info and thought. Especially the quick jerky (nasty) reaction is usual the most passed on remark.
Is it all real or is it fiction? are we setting up ‘fake’ situations about ourselves (making us look better, improving our persona?) or ‘spotting’ someone we know, or are there situations where we have interest or just being nosy participators (but at a safe anonymous distance). Or are we using it to get back at someone. (there are stories of nasty and horrible tragic postings and follow-up events, especially when we wander into the pornography selfies world) The dark-side of the Web.
Bonnie Kristian cites the example of Justine Sacco, a publicist who had 200 Twitter followers and posted a comment while on a flight to South Africa: ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white.’ Before her flight landed she had gone from ‘who is she’ to infamy. The barrage of condemnations followed her as the ‘net’ trolls tracked her flight journey, she was ‘net identified’, and photographed when her plane landed. Sad results followed; with her losing her job and trying for years to regain her reputation. (she eventually got rehired)
Does the interest forgive?
My take on this is that it does not, for it cannot! Consider: how can you get a clear bill of ‘deletion’ of ‘OK GONE’ from something that is ‘out there!’ and unable to be ferreted out in every case line for line and internet cranny. And then once seen by multiple people, who obviously copy and distribute, and who are affected by what they read and see (about you) and can remember. (see NOTE*)
In 2014, a landmark decision issued by the European Union’s highest court has ruled that data about individuals held by ‘Google’ must be deleted on request. The European Court of Justice called it the right “to be forgotten” for individuals to have control about what information pertaining to them should be available online and what should be deleted, especially those data(s) that may harm their reputation or are no longer relevant. But this is only on ‘Google’, what about all the other platforms and sites throughout the world. There are over 2 billion sites of which 400 million are positively active. (there was only 1 site in 1989; a huge number of internet users 1.2 billion has arrived since 2012))
So what can we do?
Don’t do it! Don’t make comments or post selfies or reports that you would most likely never say or show to someone’s face in public. Tone down the rhetoric and act kindly and humbly with yourself and your loved ones and neighbours. The old adage: ‘Sticks and stones will hurt my bones; but words will never hurt me.’ is a piece of advice that we now know is not true. Words (pictures) on the internet or other media can and will hurt!
So you ask: to use a book title: ‘How then shall we live?’
Because I am a Christian, I fall back to the age-old, wise admonishments of the Bible. Let me give you a few that Bonnie Kristian quoted in her book and others:
Book of Proverbs, chapter 14 verse 15: – “Only a simpleton believes everything he’s told! A prudent man understands the need for proof.” and from verse 29 – “A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes.” Book of Proverbs, chapter 15 verse 28: – “A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought.” (Tr. Living Bible) The second letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, chapter 4 verses 3 & 4: –” You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message (Gospel) alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (Tr.The Message)
Bonnie Kristian also quotes from a poem by W. H. Auden (1907-1973: entitled September 1, 1939 (the date when Germany invaded Poland and England announces a declaration of war – WW2 starts)
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Will we always be perfect internet users? No, but we can all, be wise and peaceful! Shalom!
JS November 17, 2022
NOTE* there are some websites that will help you remove personal data, but that ability is limited; see: https://www.lifewire.com/remove-personal-information-from-internet-3482691 – Also see Facebook removal of personal info: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/04/how-to-delete-everything-facebook-knows-about-you.html#:~:text=How%20to%20delete%20everything%20Facebook%20knows%20about%20you,files.%203%20Here%E2%80%99s%20how%20to%20fully%20delete%20Facebook.