Silence is Complicity: Part 8 of 8

Collin Selman
7 min readSep 2, 2022

Social Media and Conclusion

Social Media

Let me be honest, I am woefully inadequate to be talking about this subject. To be clear, I participate to some degree in just about all the major social media outlets. But I want to be up front and say that my use of them more often than not probably falls short of wisdom. What follows is simply my brief observations, a few conclusions, and then an admonition for all of us from Scripture.

Social media and smartphones have changed the game. Name the game, it has changed or is changing as a result of these phenomena. And injustice in this world is no different. Specifically as it relates to injustice, information has never in the history of the world been so quickly and easily accessible and shareable.

Overall, this is a wonderful thing. The ubiquitous nature of these factors provide a form of accountability, connection, and shared reality. I will be the first to say that I am fairly short-sighted and tend to spend the majority of my waking day thinking about those things which are right in front of me: the family I wake up with, the house I live in, the work on my desk, etc. I have to exert some intentional effort to draw my attention away from these things onto people, places, and events that are happening outside of my scope of vision and I imagine that I am not alone. Ultimately, these things that dominate my attention are not bad things at all, but if they eclipse our world and we never push those boundaries we may end up living a very self-centered life.

Our connected world helps with this. Via the current technology we can get updates on events on the other side of the world, talk face to face with people oceans away, and support organizations doing work in places we have never been. These and more all work together to allow us to have an expanded vision of this world and our impact on it. Never in the history of the world are we more aware of everything going on in any given day allowing us to get out of our bubbles and care for more than just ourselves.

But this same opportunity which provides us the ability to stretch ourselves also produces an almost overwhelming pressure to know everything, have an opinion on everything, and act on everything. As mentioned in my previous post about our responsibilities, this is impossible and unrealistic, but unfortunately that does not stop us from trying.

Social media is marked by the now and sensational. Due to its ubiquitous nature, at any given moment there are thousands if not millions of posts from all over the world concerning anything and everything. This leads to a high turnover rate on our feeds which has such an overwhelming pressure for us to always be on the feed to be ready to react. We all have a serious case of FOMO.

What this also does is short circuit critical thinking and sustained attention. Because we do not want to spend the time it takes to create a thoughtful response we often let our base instincts be the controlling factor for our posts. And what are some of the most strong instincts we have? Anger and sympathy.

Corporations and individuals, either consciously or unconsciously, all use this fact to manipulate their target audience. If sex sells, anger gets attention. And the more people or organizations can keep your attention the more popular they will perceive themselves or money they will bank.

And so we end up with a populace that is constantly being outraged by one thing and the next or told they have to take sides on one issue or another. Content creators will either attempt to stoke the fires or generate sentiment all to gather the masses to further their cause. And so we end up being tossed to and fro in whichever direction the wind is blowing.

And this is where I would issue a warning. No matter if your feeds look like this or are filled with animals, babies, and hilarity, social media is shaping us. It is a liturgy of the modern age to always have our phones on us, to always be connected, always checking to see what is happening next. And what we pay attention to, shapes us. What we must be careful about is to pay careful attention to what we are being shaped into.

Does every day contain a new outrage for you? Do you follow people just so you can comment on their posts about how wrong they are? Do you leave social media always feeling defeated or angry or frustrated? Do you balk at how blind other people are? Do you end up looking down on people due to their activity (or lack thereof) on social media?

These are questions I ask myself. And depending on how I (or you) answer them may indicate that there is some soul-searching to do and an adjustment as to why and how we use social media.

And so when it comes to this issue of “silence is complicity” I really wonder what kind of silence we are talking about? My fear is that we may toss this phrase at people who are not posting about the latest issue or incident that has popped up. We are passionate about this subject and this person we know is not saying anything on their feed. We start thinking that maybe they do not care or maybe they actively oppose us. We see a “like” here or a question there and our perception of them changes. We begin to turn a friend into an enemy simply due to how they present themselves on social media.

But the truth is that what is contained on social media is in no way an accurate or whole picture of life. Caring is not determined by a profile picture or filter. Character is not proven by a status update. Therefore, we have to be careful in choosing our words when we post and our intentions behind it. And even more so, we must be attentive to our own hearts in how we are judging others. Making sure that our love for others is not being warped by the engine of outrage and self-righteousness.

Conclusion

And so I want to attempt to bring this series to a close. A series which was all originally an exploration of a simple question: is silence complicity? Attempting to be brief for a change, from my understanding of the user’s intent and the Bible, the bottom line is that this phrase is not true or biblical.

Now that said, there are a half dozen caveats that you could use to prop up this saying that would certainly make it applicable in certain situations. But overall it is at least not helpful and at most harmful and misleading, calling something sin which is not necessarily sin and dispensing guilt where it has no business of being.

But even though I cannot get behind this slogan or recommend its continued use, I absolutely agree that there is work to be done in battling injustice in the world around us. I also believe that injustice comes in many different forms and can be passed down from generation to generation creating a web which has impacted everyone it touches.

How do we then determine how we move forward and approach injustices around us and in us? The first step is that we must first listen to Christ through His Word. We in the Church do ill when we neglect the reading of the Word in guiding our approach to matters of justice. The world will attempt to make a case for justice in its own eyes, but its arguments are superficial, contradictory, and ultimately lacking. Only the Word has the depths necessary to place us on the right path towards healing and righteousness.

This world and those in it are constantly being torn asunder over issues big and small. Even in the Church we oftentimes are no strangers to strife and disunity. But we all recognize that unity is important, especially if something big is to be accomplished. The question is how do we attain this unity? How do we come together, believer or not, to tackle issues raging in our culture?

The first thing we must realize is that we will not win people to our cause by backing them into a corner. Forcing them to become an ally of something they have questions about or be labeled a monster to be denounced. This is a false dichotomy. People should not so easily be shifted into categories of friend or foe. I doubt there is a single person I could find I agree with on every single thing in life. But for someone who I might disagree with on a whole lot, it is my choice whether or not to treat them like an angel or a demon.

And so, in order to produce something positive then, versus a world full of demons, we must come to a place of listening to one another on the basis of love, not jumping to conclusions based on our own assumptions about someone else. We must listen and ask questions with the intent to understand, not simply to respond.

Living amidst this world with the pain and suffering caused by millenia-worth of sin is no easy feat. Days are brutal and time is painful. And even though we may be surrounded by bad news day in and day out, we must hold onto hope that is given to us. We must not be overcome by evil, but should strive to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). In fact, I think Romans 12 is as good a mandate as any as to how we ought to live in this world. I would like to reproduce it here, but instead I am just going to encourage you to go out and read it. I think that is what I’m going to do right now myself.

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Collin Selman

A Christian, a husband, a father, a blue-collar intellectual, an engineer, a carpenter, a gardener, and who knows what else in the future.