Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Facebook and the Influence of Fake News

I've always been fascinated by Mark Zuckerberg, probably mainly due to my proximity to his area of upbringing and the birthplace of Facebook, but certainly also due to his age and persona.

This article doesn't really add too much that's new to the whole conversation concerning what Facebook is and does, but it is an interesting read in considering just what is the power of Facebook. (For one: the article points out that there is now only one people sub-group larger than "Facebook users" - Christians.)

Just this past Sunday (before reading this article), I told my congregation that I was about to get all legalistic on them. And then I told them to stop using Facebook. I was somewhat joking, but they also know that I wasn't completely.

So after reading the article let me say something about myself. There is something growing inside of me that makes me very uncomfortable.

I don't care as much.

I just don't.

It's not that I don't want to care anymore. I just find myself caring less and less about what is going on in the greater world. There are a couple of reasons that I've explored within myself about this happening.

At first, I was concerned about my own spirituality, as I've tried to be a proponent of compassion and solidarity with those suffering. I've tried to use my mouthpiece - be it this blog or Twitter or Facebook or whatever - to speak for those who aren't being spoken for. I mean, Jesus doesn't want people to suffer and die, so I shouldn't either, right? But I find little desire in myself to speak out anymore. What can I say after Las Vegas? What can I say after another black man is shot in the back as he runs? People tell me that what I say matters and I believe it does. But unfortunately, the forum in which we choose to do so today provides little to no actual positive change whatsoever.

Second, I began to think that the an abundance of tragedies has caused me to become calloused. I see many people wondering about this same thing. But as I've thought about it, I don't really think that tragedy is any more present in the world than usual today. It's just that the way we receive these events and deal with it has. Which I acknowledge could mean that I'm calloused indeed. But it's not because of the amount of tragedy.

So I'm searching for why my feelings have changed. I believe that I do care. I care that people are dying and are suffering from a variety of unjust things: violence, racism, poverty, and more. I just don't see that my interaction and yelling at people about the injustice of it all will really do anything.

And so I'm searching the heart of my center which I purport to be that guy from 1st century Nazareth. It seems so right to think that he would be a loud voice in the conversations of today. But as I read the gospels, it doesn't seem to be his approach. Why wasn't he in Rome protesting the injustice and brutality of the crucifixion system? (...a violence that I don't think we really know or understand today.)

For one, he seemed to focus the angst of his message (when it showed up at all) not toward greater society, but toward those who regarded themselves to be the people of God.

You may accuse me of sticking my head in the sand, and you may be right. But I am leaning more and more to the conclusion that what we need isn't a "solution" to these world problems. That is - if I'm reading the cruciform example of Jesus Christ right - it's not really about what the world needs at all. It's about following the leading of a guy who wasn't too interested in solving big problems than he was about meeting the problems of people around him one at a time.
Even so, the atrocities of genocide and ethnic cleansing still ring loudly, whether it's 1930-40s Europe or 1990s Rwanda or (and do we even have the knowledge to say this?)...2017 Myanmar. I don't know. Feel free to help me out with this. But please...don't use the words "slippery slope" with me. I find no evidence of such speaking in Christ's ministry and it's frustratingly annoying that so many Christians continue to do so.

I don't really have a conclusion or question with this post. I guess I'm just passing the article along and asking everyone to continue to consider what Facebook is doing, more so on a smaller scale at the level of our individuals selves and our families, churches, and local communities. And I'm not really believing in any great conspiracy, as though someone(s) at Facebook have a grand plan. That's actually one of the things that I think the article points out: the phenomenon of Facebook is one that perhaps no one is controlling. Maybe it's simply happening and evolving before us. I'm not sure if that's comforting or not. It may be true that I believe that if the wrong group of people got a hold of Facebook, they could do a whole lot of damage (if they haven't already).

Again, this is not really a new consideration, although I'm trying to consider what it does to me more than others at the moment. It's easy to point and blame how fake news is spoiling everyone else around us than it is to consider how slightly fake news might be affecting my own self.

The fact is not lost on me that in my desire to share this article, I know that the best way to do so is on Facebook...I mean, I don't even have y'all's email addresses. But please, if you feel the need to respond to what I'm saying, read the article. It's pretty important to the context of what I've said here.