The Ugliness of Social Media

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”

A couple evenings ago, I found myself once again on Twitter, scrolling through the news and events of the day looking for something interesting to either read or think about. Like you, I often have something in mind, I am looking for and just hoping that desire will be filled. This time I was looking for something “beautiful.” Something with light at its core. Hope? (That now feels foolish and looks foolish as I reread it.)

I found what I was looking for but not in the way I expected.

What I found was a thread of tweets in which a young woman was railing against a particular theologian.

This was not beautiful. What I read was so ugly in its viciousness, I am struggling to find words for what I was saw. Here was this beautiful young woman, a believer, spewing angry, malicious bile toward another believer. The wrath was not born of a personal interaction but was because of a difference of beliefs over a number of issues.

Now you may be thinking, “Matt is thinking this way because the anger was directed at a theologian he cares for and loves.” Actually, that is not the case. The opposite is true. I do not care for this theologian’s writings at all and I have found their tone and approach combative to a fault.

Maybe it was because of what I was looking for but I was so shook by the ugliness of what I was reading, I immediately turned Twitter off and have not been back since. The Venus de Milo vomiting would not be more ugly than this.

I know your curiosity is piqued and you are dying to know who the individuals involved are. But you will most likely not find out. I do not follow either party via any social media platform and the only reason I saw all this was a person I did (but now no longer) follow “retweeted” this onto my timeline.

A number of years ago I told my wife that our culture’s free use of gross language would infect our culture and change the way we interact with other. In others words, the freedom we feel to publicly discuss what is reserved for the bathroom (and bedroom) will free us up to speak freely about everything. If what our culture has for a long time considered offensive language is now rendered fair game, we should assume our culture will be more free with personal malicious insults. I have seen this within myself.

Less than an hour later I was reading something so beautiful, nature would have had to fight hard to compete. The difference was so stark. I was glad to have found something beautiful but the contrast was unnerving for reasons I have yet to understand.

I do not know what to do with Twitter and Facebook. People are there. But I am ashamed of what I saw. I felt like I was guilty of something simply by reading the digital tirade. And that is far too often what social media is –– a digital tirade and a foul one at that. Full of the ugliest language and dispositions to others who are made in the image of God. Full of denouncements, clever and cruel. Full of brutality and ridicule. Most everyone is mad and assumes the worst of people they have never met.

And these are the people I agree with on most issues.

Is it worth it? Is it worth it to have a “faithful presence” on social media?

I don’t know.

All I know is that such ugliness left a terrible taste in my mouth and I actually hope I never recover.

One thought on “The Ugliness of Social Media

  1. Anna L February 2, 2021 / 5:18 pm

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s wrong, but I’ve reduced my friend list a lot on Facebook to people I know and enjoy spending time with in real life (mostly, not perfectly). And Twitter is a vast wasteland that rarely makes me glad I was there to read something. I wish there was some way to curate that, as well.
    I don’t want to live in an echo chamber, but social media is ….hard to quantify. Is is valuable in my life? During this pandemic…. yes???? Maybe???
    Is it worth it? Maybe? If I can keep my content mostly positive? If it gives me a chance to feel some connection, especially when things feel so fragmented right now.
    Well, I don’t have any answers, but I appreciate knowing others feel equally… uneasy?

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