Interview on Social Media Habits

SmartphonesI was recently invited to give an interview on the subject of our social media habits by Tony Reinke from Desiring God. My answer to the first question has just been posted here.

The familiar cultural script is that more is typically better — more interactive, faster, more efficient, more connected, more fluid, more integrated, more social, more intimate, more inclusive, more “user-friendly” — and that the further our limitations are rolled back, the freer we become. Yet many of us are rediscovering the truth of Edmund Burke’s dictum that many of the restraints upon us, and not merely our liberties, should be reckoned among our rights and the grounds of our freedom. Pursuing unguarded liberty with things puts us in very real danger of having those things “take liberties” with us (1 Corinthians 6:12). The loss of natural limitations often doesn’t leave us better off, and many struggle to re-establish these broken barriers in the far less certain form of sanity-restoring disciplines.

Read the rest of that piece here.

The rest of the first half of the interview has also been posted (the concluding half will probably appear in a different context in the future: watch this space!). The following are a few selections.

On frictionless online community:

Communities that arise within “frictionless” conditions operate very differently from traditional communities, much as substances like water behave peculiarly in zero gravity. The appeal of digital fellowship often arises from the lack of friction, either keeping people together or holding them at a remove from each other. Without the friction of obvious bodily difference intervening, for instance, many people find it much easier to experience or project a sense of oneness of mind with others. Without the friction of spatial distance holding me within my immediate locality and apart from people in other parts of the world, it is much easier to abandon difficult relationships with my neighbors for easy and undemanding ones with people very similar to me. However, by holding me in relation with people who are unlike me and often opposed to me, the friction of materiality forces me to grow in healthy ways that I might not otherwise choose.

On the danger of living vicariously through our online identities:

Embodiment goes far beyond encountering people with different beliefs and opinions. Embodiment involves intense exposure to the friction of the world, myself, and other people in their obstinate and frustrating reality. Developing a carefully managed online representation of myself is relatively easy; living as a faithful Christian in the unobserved moments of my life is considerably harder. There is a constant danger of substituting an online representation of myself for the lived reality of my life, living vicariously through the former in a way that papers over the failures and corruption of the latter. This isn’t just true of my own self, but also of social reality. In the egalitarian uniformity of our social-media profiles and the exclusivity of our walled social-network neighborhoods, realities such as poverty, disability, and age and the people who live with them are largely invisible to us.

Read the whole (first half) of the interview here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, On the web, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

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