There is a relatively new phenomenon that people are buzzing about called a “social media echo chamber.” The echo chamber is a space where people only encounter opinions that match or reinforce their own ideas. Obviously, this can happen anywhere but they have become increasingly more common with the rise of social media.
A huge population of Americans are getting their “news” from social media sites, despite the fact they they only follow or friend people with the same viewpoints as them. As a result, in 2020 it seems like misinformation is running rampant and complex discourse is practically non-existent.
I have tried extremely hard to avoid this in my own social media circle. For better or worse, I have people on my feed marching in BLM protests and people complaining about them. I have people on my feed who are pro-life, pro-socialized medicine, pro-guns, pro-legalized marijuana, and everything in between.
There are people on my feed that I strongly disagree with, whose posts make my skin crawl, but I try to keep them there anyway because in 2016, I lived in such a college bubble that I was shocked by what unfolded that year. I truly had no idea that this other sector of American people even existed.
Now, I do not want to be ignorant to beliefs circulating around me, even if they make me cringe. I do not want to be shocked, confused, or misinformed.
Still despite everything I just said, I de-friended someone on Facebook this week. His posts were belitting and insulting to my friends who are fighting for their rights. He shared too many sites and sources that I consider to be propaganda and misinformation.
I felt like it was something I had to do in order to continue to be cordial with him in real life. It seemed like the right thing to do for my Christian faith and mental health and yet, I felt convicted about further creating and crafting my echo chamber.
Where are my lines, especially as a minister? On the one hand, I feel convicted to speak out when I see social media atrocities but we have all seen the pointless and futile Facebook comment battles where Aunt Linda starts chiming in and everything goes haywire.
On the other hand, I feel convicted as a minister to show care and kindness to everyone, even the people that I vastly disagree with?
But back on the first hand, I realize that I am only able to do that because of my privilege. And despite disagreeing with their posts, their toxic beliefs don’t affect my day-to-day life like it does some of my friends.
What can we do? Is it even possible to be a Christian minister who fights for justice and good without alienating the very people you are supposed to be ministering to? Is it possible to have social media spaces and discourses that are complex and honest and compassionate?
I’m starting to feel like the answer is no and if that’s true, how can I go on ministering? I’m fooling myself and my God, if I think I should choose cordial ministry over justice and righteousness.
I’ve read the texts. I know what Jesus would do.
He’d flip a table, walk out of that church, and never look back.