From Richard Roberts:
Luke Davis’s book, “Tough Issues: True Hope”, mentions an ethical question raised by Gregory Stock in his book, The Book of Questions. In it, he asks, “Assume there were a technological breakthrough that would all ow people to travel as easily and cheaply between continents as between nearby cities. Unfortunately, there would also be 100,000 deaths per year from the device. Would you try to prevent its use?”
There are always tradeoffs to technological advances. The first X-Rays were discovered in 1895, and the next year the “Electrical Review reported that Dr HD Hawks, a graduate of the 1896 class of Columbia College, gave a demonstration with a powerful X-ray unit in the vicinity of New York. After 4 days, he was compelled to stop work. He noticed a drying of the skin, which he ignored. The hand began to swell and gave the appearance of a deep skin burn. After 2 weeks the skin came off the hand, the knuckles become very sore, fingernail growth stopped and the hair on the skin exposed to X-rays fell out. His eyes were bloodshot and his vision became considerably impaired. His chest was also burnt.” (link)
Dr. Stock later connected his earlier question when noted, “In the mid 1800’s, had you been able to look into the future and see that the automobile would cause five million fatalities in the next century, how would you have felt about this new device?” That comes out to about 100,000 deaths per year.
Of course, over the years there have been added safety features to our automobiles and our roads, but it still requires wisdom and caution and rules to avoid the dangers of driving an automobile, and even though 1/3 of car accidents occur within 5 miles from home, we are still more likely to drive to the store than walk or ride a bike, because of convenience. And even with these statistics, we value convenience to a greater degree than we would acknowledge, as is shown by how we answered the first question posed by Dr. Stock.
This battle between convenience and danger is something that I have found, for myself, must apply to my use of social media, general media, and online access. I’m not saying that the convenience of the internet, or of access to social media connections, is harmful, but that it, like every other technological innovation, comes with dangers and undesirable outcomes. Over the years, I have found myself checking the same sites multiple times a day to see if people had responded to my posts, or my articles, or even these blogs. Wanting to be affirmed, to be respected, to be considered wise, it became very easy to become dominated by the need for affirmation and the fear of losing it. Therefore, I had to remove myself from social media and limit my time online. It became an obsession, a repetitive and dominating spiritual drug, and it pulled my gaze off of what God has revealed to be true.
I also found that one of the benefits of instant access to information is efficiency and ease. However, it is also true that a side effect of this expediency is the lack of discernment between what information is good information and what is faulty. Our preponderance to consume information, and not evaluate it, can lead to our deception. Journalism is now less concerned with accuracy and truth and more concerned with being the first one to the story, to ratings and online hits, so there is less incentive to reason through what is true and more incentive to throw out a headline that will make the most money. And if I'm honest, it's much easier just to read headlines and synopses than it is to truly evaluate something. And our opinions are now formed without evaluation, which has become a huge problem in our society.
This speed of information can be dangerous to us. It is hard to slow down, but it is good to slow down. It is easy to get on our phones the first thing in the morning and set the motion of our day upon the here and now and to be over-influenced by the present age, which the Scriptures call this present evil age (Galatians 1:4), and under-influenced by eternity and what God has revealed about what truly lasts.
I am not advocating an eradication of our use of social media or our online presence. But I do want us to beware of its dangers, of drawing away our hope towards things which cannot deliver and which can enslave us in despair and hopelessness. It is good to evaluate what is ultimately true and eternal. It is good to evaluate where I am placing my functional hope.
Where are we getting our information for hope? Where are we assuming that we will find explanations for the human heart, for social ills, for what can redeem the brokenness in us and around us? Have we slipped into ignorance of the dangers that the craving for affirmation can produce through our Facebook likes, our Instagram followers, and our YouTube comments?
We are redeemed from this kind of striving and secure in the Kingdom of Christ Jesus. Our hope is not in the security of this world or the affirmation of Twitter retweets. Our hope is in the renewing of this world, of the New Heavens and the New Earth which God will create through His Son. Our hope, our only hope, is in what God has done, is doing, and will do, through Him. We can use social media for good, but let us be aware of the dangers that it holds and take the proper precautions, as those who have been raised with Christ Jesus, to “Seek the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not the things upon the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
“Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)