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Be Careful, Little Hands, What You Type

by Matthew Matsen

Social Media and I.T., Koinonia House

As the children’s nursery rhyme goes:

O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

This little song should be a reminder every time we use social media, along with numerous verses from Proverbs.

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue (Or Language) keepeth his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 21:23

There was a time once where writing (or typing) was the preferred medium of communication. It allowed for complete thoughts to be articulately drafted, meticulously checked, and then carefully crafted into its final form. Whether it was to simply remove spelling or grammatical issues, or to change the tone or meaning of the finished article, the process was the same; prewrite, draft, edit, publish. This method was preferred rather than relaying information in spoken form, because when speaking, you could not unsay something. Your delivery was instant and raw. If you were angry or disappointed, it was evident, with neither emotional buffer nor ability to assess and re-assess a problem or situation. Although due to the nature of face-to-face communication, there can often be a sense of propriety. As Christians, we should always remember, regardless of the communication medium;

A soft answer turneth away wrath: But grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Proverbs 15:1–2

Now we are in the age of social media, the age of instant information, the age of unfettered opinion and the age of unlimited cat videos (no animals were harmed in the writing of this paper!). The game has changed and more and more we are encouraged to put every thought or idea instantly online for everyone to see. Simply opening your email, Twitter, or Facebook, you are bombarded with a multitude of sources of information, all vying for your attention. Linkbait[1] titles that will “literally” blow your mind… Ignore, for the moment, the blatant misuse of adverbs; you are all too often presented with a scintillating title, with an attached photo or video, which often has nothing to do with the article. Its sole purpose is capturing your attention and giving you pseudo-knowledge.

“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

— John Naisbitt

information
noun
facts provided or learned about something or someone.
knowledge
noun
facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

More and more people confuse these two terms. They believe that because they have the entire world at their fingertips, it means they have access to “unlimited knowledge”. This is far from true. In addition to this, people tend to use ‘data’ and ‘information’ interchangeably. This is also untrue as they are not synonymous. To illustrate an example, a bowl of fruit is data. A picture of the bowl of fruit is information. Knowing that the latter is a picture of a bowl of fruit is knowledge. I can destroy the information (the picture), but the data (the bowl of fruit) remains. Similarly, is the record of one’s birth. If the birth certificate is destroyed, the information is lost, but that person’s birth (the data) remains the same.

With that in mind, as information is relational to data, information can also be false. Misinformation is wrong information or the fact that people are misinformed. Disinformation is false information spread to deceive.

As noted by many as of late, with respect to social media and dissemination of information, there is a growing trend called the ‘echo chamber’ effect. One research paper states:

Several scholars and popular commentators, however, have raised concerns that instead of encouraging discussion, the proliferation of niche political perspectives and personalized recommendations promote so-called echo chambers or filter bubbles in which individuals are only exposed to like-minded others, leading to ideological segregation. Such segregation is a concern as it has long been argued that functioning democracies depend critically on voters who are exposed to and understand a variety of political views.[2]

Some research indicates that social media allows for individuals to break free from the MSM (Main Stream Media) and default information sources with a preference of a plethora of independent sources, vs. a few controlled outlets. For the end user, the takeaway from this research is simple. Know that there is a managed agenda on social media.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; The words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:5–7

Now, in such an information-driven society, data is key. In this environment, social media provides very rich soil for marketing. Social platforms are ultimately designed for this purpose, to use your detailed demographics to market any number of items or ideas to you based on the information you provide including your ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘retweets’.

There are some things that you need to be aware when using social media. From a 2015 article put out by Computer World, Mike Elgan states:

“The addictive aspect of social networking is associated with FOMO — fear of missing out. Everyone is on Facebook. They’re posting things, sharing news and content and talking to each other 24/7… Social media addiction is real, and it can damage careers, degrade life and even harm relationships.

For most of us, though, we’re simply being manipulated by the social sites and content creators to waste far too much time in a way that benefits them, not us.”[3]

People who use social media usually fall into one of two camps, those who see social media addiction and manipulation as a problem but do very little to stem it, and those who don’t see it as a problem at all.

Knowledge is power though, right? We see so many ‘interesting’ articles and ‘facts’ that our ‘friends’ post. “Surely my ‘friends’ wouldn’t post something skewed or tainted… Would they?” Well, when you look at any number of articles from 2014 (I chose one from Forbes) you can see that Facebook intentionally manipulated posts for emotional experimentation:

“Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions. The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The short version is, Facebook has the ability to make you feel good or bad, just by tweaking what shows up in your news feed.”[4]

We need to leave the safety of our comfortable Christian couch cushion castles, recognizing that according to Scripture, we are being sent forth into a world that does not take too kindly to the message we bring.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Matthew 10:16

On that note of being wise, confirmation bias is something that everyone needs to be aware of.

“…confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis. As such, it can be thought of as a form of selection bias in collecting evidence.”[5]

An example of this is, during the US election, Amy Schumer posted a meme with a ‘quote’ from Donald Trump which berated Republicans, and in the description, she added:

“…People who voted for him — you are weak. You are not just misinformed. You didn’t even attempt information. You say lock her up and you know something about the word email but what was in the emails? You have no clue. Well I’ll tell you if you were able to read this far through the holes in your sheet. They said nothing incriminating. Nothing… Yes this quote is fake, but it doesn’t matter.” [6], [7]

Bogus meme and fake quote that appeared during the 2016 U.S. election.
Bogus meme and fake quote that appeared during the 2016 U.S. election.

Although she added the disclaimer at the bottom, partly due to the length of the description (395 words) and mainly due to confirmation bias, this meme was shared hundreds of thousands of times, with the majority believing it to be a real quote.

Similarly, all that was needed was a picture of former President Barack Obama and any number of fake quotes, and a multitude of people would immediately click ‘share’ along with an ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE HE WOULD SAY THAT?!’ description, without even checking to see if he indeed DID say that. How many of you have seen this Lincoln quote?

Fake Lincoln quote
Fake Lincoln quote

Chuck Missler himself has said many times to people who want to quote him. “Don’t believe a word I say, if you take my word on something, then you are not applying Acts 17:11. If you find that what I say lines up with what Scripture says, then we are in good shape.”

We have the truth of the gospel message, which, according to Matthew 28:19–20

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

As a reminder, regardless of whether or not we are on Facebook (or some other social media site), we need to suit up for battle and be ready at all times:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10–13

We also need to remember that we must speak the truth in love. There are few things more destructive than seeing ‘Christians’ fighting in an open forum on the internet, particularly when non-essential issues are treated as essential ones. To include an actual event, there was someone who was struggling with many things (I won’t say what they were to protect their identity.) They felt like there was nothing for them to live for. So they asked, on one of our Koinonia House social media accounts, “What happens if a Christian commits suicide?” Before we had time to respond, there were numerous replies from other ‘Christians’ berating the commenter, “Well they were clearly never Christians and have no idea about the Holy Spirit” or “They can’t be Christians because depression is a sin” and so on. Not a single person stopped to think, “Hey, maybe this person is going through a really tough time and needs some compassion.” As it turns out, compassion was exactly what was needed.

We need to stop being the army that executes their own wounded soldiers in front of the entire world.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:14–16

We are not called to be Social Justice Warriors. The Bible is very specific on how we are to act and interact. We are to do all things to HIS glory.

On a final note, whether you use social media or not, that’s up to you, it can be a tremendous tool or a terrible burden, but to modify an old song… Be careful little hands what you type!


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