The Dark Side of Virtual Connectedness. A Christian Perspective on Turmoil.
A decade ago, when I joined Facebook, I was overjoyed with the idea that I could connect with people from my past; old school mates, old friends, long, lost relatives, previous work acquaintances, and, of course, my exes. I was amazed at the instant access I had into people’s lives; their photos, their opinions, their current status in life, where they lived, and what they have been up to since I last saw them. I loved learning that my old high school computer teacher was living a few cities over and was now working in the corporate world. I loved discovering that the first person I sat next to in Ms. Brown’s second-grade class was living the island life in Hawaii. All of this information was exciting and interesting. There was a feeling of connectedness even though we were still miles apart.
The early days on this social media platform were great. It was a time of discovery, the reestablishment of kindred spirits, and sharing my personal journey. I loved seeing faces and hearing stories of people I had once done school or church or work with. I loved hearing about their marriages, children, travel adventures, their health problems, and where life had taken them. Some people had surprising stories of severe illness, heartbreak, divorce, or worse. Some people had stories of wonderful success and happiness. The common thread was not the fortune or misfortune that had come into our lives. It was the joy of discovering someone that was once lost.
Fast forward ten years and the joy has been replaced with a multitude of other emotions. I often find myself feeling annoyed, irritated, outraged, jealous, envious, or sad. I want to be happy for my FB friends but that’s usually not the case and I’m often reminded of why I stopped associating with some people a long time ago. I find myself reminiscing about the days before I ever joined Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or Snapchat. My life is now consumed with social media platforms, crafting an idyllic life story, and posting the perfect praise-worthy photograph. In short, social media is no longer fun. This wonderful tool for reconnecting with people has morphed into something dark and sinister, predictable and boring.
The world and its people are at my fingertips and yet I am continuously unsatisfied. I crave authenticity. I desire non-filtered photos, non-staged backgrounds, and elaborate, detailed stories. I loathe vague status updates, face-perfecting photo-filters, and ghost followers – people that observe everything but never interact. What I hate most of all is the turmoil that has been birthed out of cultural control agendas (like the pro-life-pro-choice debate), divisive political propaganda orchestrated by news headlines, and social injustice outcries that foster racial tension. We are being manipulated by what we see, hear and read without weighing the validity of the source, the motive, or the truth.
Turmoil divides nations, communities, and families. Turmoil seeks justice but settles on war. There is no peace. There is only perpetual hate and the need to be seen as right and superior. There is one author of turmoil and it’s not the guy that sat behind you in ninth grade with opposing political views or the fake-nice mom that’s in your son’s playgroup. Turmoil is the work of the devil and it plays out like this:
Our hearts want justice. Our hearts demand it. No one likes to be mocked or scorned or mistreated. Nor do we tolerate others being victimized. We demand justice. The flesh demands to be vindicated. We want to call down curses from God on those that mistreat us, mistreat others, or have a different view. We are quick to condemn someone to the pit of hell, although it is scarcely our responsibility to be judge, jury, and executioner. Our need to be right, to be heard, and to be vindicated ushers in turmoil both inwardly and externally. We spew judgment and cast virtual stones although we are seldom armed with all of the facts, or have first-hand experience with the subject we are vehemently defending.
God, through Jesus, who was mocked, scorned and ridiculed by society, shows us divine mercy, a way to love those who don’t deserve it. From the very cross where he hung dying for the sins of humanity, Jesus pled for the forgiveness of those who mocked, beat, tortured, and were in the process of crucifying him. He knew that the real enemy was not those who nailed him to the cross. He knew this was the work of a stealthy, sophisticated foe whose works were manifested by those under his spell. He knew the people abusing him were tainted by the corruption in the world and the devil’s agenda. He forgave them.
The great paradox in Christianity, a great paradox in thinking, feeling and being in general, is not to demand justice but to give mercy. Jesus says to pray for your enemies and bless those who curse you. Bless and do not curse. Humility, love, and gentleness are to be your retribution. When scorn breaks your heart and anger rises in your soul, pray for the right Christ-like response. The divine heart that lives inside of you beckons you to always bestow mercy – always! This is the hallmark of Christianity.
Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you, our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.