Be honest. How many people have you unfriended in the last year or so? How many may have unfriended or unfollowed you? Do you care? Social media, hailed as the great connector, has proven to be the great divider.
The reason for the divide is as expected: politics. Sadly, politics seems to be more important to people than friendships and even familial ties. Differing political views are breaking relationships and even fracturing family bonds. Recent surveys show that a substantial percentage of social media users can’t tolerate the opinions or views of their friends and family members.
A survey conducted for the firm Comparitech found that approximately 52% of social media users dropped friends over politics and about 44% overall unfriended someone who had opposing opinions to their own.
Politics is Destroying Our Harmony
Politics has always created divides and that is just a fact. However, experts agree that it has never been this bad. People, and especially Americans, are becoming political news junkies. There are some people who cannot help but talk politics — we all know that person who manages to turn every conversation into one about politics. It’s extremely disturbing, not to mention very unhealthy — physically, mentally and spiritually.
The unending “breaking news” cycle of our 24×7 news media has of course made matters worse. But, social media has turned a bad situation into an absolutely dire one. Politics is everywhere we look and as we scan our news feed on Facebook or Twitter, all we see is politics — we’re being absolutely deluged with it and it has to stop.
Most Want it to Stop
A recent survey conducted by CivilScience shows that 71% of respondents feel that social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, should always fact-check political ads. Not surprisingly, the study also revealed that 73% of adults in the U.S. would prefer that social media networks ban all political ads. Unfortunately, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to care, saying:
“I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth. “Political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say.”
Mark Zuckerberg it seems, could not care less. The very platform he has boasted about as being the great connector, is doing the opposite.
“Social media is a contributing factor to the political divide in our country. It is hard to know, however, if social media is helping to widen the rift or make salient how deep and broad the divide already is. With social media, individuals with particular political persuasions seem to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ individuals on social media who share similar viewpoints. The difference, however, is that many social media platforms do not appear to filter content based on the accuracy of the information. Therefore, individuals, groups and even foreign governments can propagate ideas and information; even when such ideas have little to no basis in reality. It seems to me that the goal of those disseminating political information on social media and through some news outlets has devolved into how much they can make the other side seem inconsistent, disingenuous, or absurd, rather than to provide accurate details about events.” – Dr. Nathaniel Ivers, Department Chairman and Associate Professor, Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University.
Lies and Deception
So what is it? We know that social media is rife with lies and bad information. We know that politicians are very often only out for themselves. We know that foreign governments are flooding social media with bad information with the sole purpose of dividing us and causing chaos. So why do we fall for it? Why on earth do we head back on line every day, only to find that what’s on Facebook or Twitter, ruins our day? It’s almost like self-inflicted injury to our well-being. And each day, someone unfriends someone else, or gets into a heated debate over what…politics? Is it really worth it?
The answer is a firm and undeniable no. It’s not worth it. Far from it.
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him. – Titus 3:10
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. – 1 Timothy 6:3-5
My friends, we are in desperate need of a true spiritual awakening. Politics is very divisive and we have to learn to curb our thirst for all things political. Remember, politicians create this divide and they are only too happy to have minions out there doing their bidding. They benefit, we do not. Their job, is to work together. We elect them to represent us and to find consensus with their counter-parts…it’s not our job, its theirs!
What Should Christians Do?
Christians should be mindful of spending too much time watching news or surfing social media. But, they should especially be aware that causing or succumbing to political strife is completely contrary to our faith. Christians are to be kind and understanding. We are to be healers and friends to the friendless — we are not meant to be waging a war of words over politics with our brothers and sisters and that is particularly the case with “social” media.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. – James 1:26
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. – Proverbs 29:22
It appears that social media companies aren’t going to do much to fix the problem, so the responsibility seems to rest with social media users. Here are some tips we can use as a guide when it comes to judging our usage of social media:
- Be aware. It behooves us to question anything we read on social media and do our own fact checking — don’t assume because a friend posted it that it’s accurate. Don’t assume that because it made its way onto the feed it must be true.
- Be intelligent and mindful consumers of the information we share and read on social media. If we don’t know the validity of a news story or source, we shouldn’t share it before we first verify it.
- Be willing to listen to other’s opinions without being judgmental. Just because a friend has a view that may be polar opposite to our own, doesn’t mean we have to engage them in battle — either ignore it, or, discuss is calmly.
- Consider the medium. No one should be getting their news from social media. We all know its rife with falsehoods, so why on earth would we use it as our main source for news?
- Take a break. Many psychology and sociology experts agree that taking a break from social media is a good idea, even if only for a month.
Ideally, Facebook and Twitter should ban all political ads and make fact checking fake and misleading news their top priority. However, given their failure to do so, we may feel that while we like staying connected with friends, the strife and turmoil is too much. I think perhaps there is a happy medium that can give us a balance.
From the Christian perspective, we know that causers of strife and disharmony are all around us. It’s sad to think that people would intentionally lie and seek to create trouble, but alas, that is life. Being aware of it helps, as does being prepared to handle it. We can either keep unfriending and unfollowing, or we can be part of the solution: let social media executives know you are tired of all the politics, tell friends you don’t wish to discuss politics and, distance yourself from the problem by spending time in a much more productive way.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. – 2 Timothy 4:3
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10