Recently a video by writer and director Gary Turk has gone viral on the internet, accumulating over 12 million views in less than a week.
The video is five minutes long and it is certainly worth a small slice of your time to watch it, then perhaps you should read my thoughts below (disclaimer: these may not be as worthy of your time as the video itself):
I would like to begin with the proposition that social media is a lot like Nickelback. Like ’em, love, ’em, hate ’em…but we’ve all sung along to them at some point. And at the end of the day no matter how many times we may swap a joke at their expense or adamantly claim not to listen to them anymore, there’s still a good chance that when the door is closed and the night gets long, we’ll be perusing nostalgic snapshots and shedding soft tears to the tune of “Photograph”.
So it is with social media and technology. Whatever our thoughts are on the topic, we are all undeniably controlled and/or captivated by it. The author of this poem, Gary Turk, admits that himself: “I am guilty too, of being a part of this machine”.
Inasmuch, Gary Turk is undeniably on to something; social media has changed the landscape of our culture irreparably. And I’d be lying if I pretended that this change didn’t have negative aspects; it is difficult for me to go through a meal without needing to check my phone, even though I keep it on silent. I get self-conscious if I post something on Facebook that doesn’t get any “likes”. I know more about an online acquaintance that I’ve never met who lives halfway across the world than I do about the person sitting next to me in the library.
So we can all admit that there is a problem with the way social media is being handled. We have become, as Turk points out with in a much more articulate and poetic manner than I ever could, slaves to the machine we ourselves created (there’s even a new movie in theaters about it). I salute Mr. Turk for his ability to articulate and share this message.
But I think he’s missed the point.
Now I don’t know Gary Turk and I don’t know his background. But after watching the video, all I could think about is how the problem of social media is merely a symptom of the greater problem that plagues humanity.
Mr. Turk captures this problem perfectly. But his solution seems to be that we must rid ourselves of this to find true happiness, that freedom from technology will liberate us to a life of romance and pleasure that will encompass our true meaning and fulfillment. The problem, Turk would lead the viewer to believe, is not that we are isolating ourselves at the demise of the world but that we are isolating ourselves at our own expense.
But this is not the root issue of our condition. The real problem is not that we’re unhappy, the real problem is the exact opposite: it’s sin. Sin not in the archaic, hell-fire manner that we were taught and now reject but sin of a Biblical kind, sin that exalts the self at the cost of broken relationships with fellow humans, creation and God. Sin that promises us that we “can be like God” happy and in charge of our own little worlds.
This is the sin of social media, the sin into which Turk notices we have fallen. Through advancements in social media and technology, we can encapsulate ourselves into a world where we are God and we control the outcome. Our very lives become a summation of a virtual image we maintain online. It’s laughable to a certain extent, but the core truth behind it is the root of the rebellion that got us kicked out of Eden.
It is this sin that isolates us not only from our greatest potentials but, more importantly, from the potential of being part of something outside ourselves. It is this sin is at the core of our misuse of technology.
Turk’s proclamation that “we’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people”, is true to an extent but I also want to point out that we’re not the first generation of humans to screw this up. Technology has always been something that has been embraced by some and questioned by others; the good ol’ days which Turk alludes to ( “when I was a child I’d never be home/be out with friends on our bikes we’d roam/now the park’s so quiet it gives me a chill”) have existed in every era of human civilization. Facebook did not destroy our ability to relate to one another, we’ve always found a way of doing it.
And that’s just my point: technology cannot be where we place the blame for our condition. For one, technology has numerous positive qualities. To deny our creative genius would be to deny the very spirit of a creative God working in us. Technology ought to be embraced, critiqued certainly, but to be paraded as the scapegoat of all our relational problems will only lead to more anguish and confusion when we rid ourselves of it and find that we still have issues. It would be like going to a doctor to for a headache and fever only to be given ibuprofen though we actually have cancer. We’ll have treated a symptom but not the actual disease.
Because the problem isn’t that we are slaves to technology. The problem is that we are, and always have been, slaves to the sin within ourselves. Gary Turk alludes to this throughout his poem but the Christian must take it one step further.
The Christian must acknowledge that we are incapable of being entirely free; freedom from everything is an illusion we’ve forced ourselves to adopt. But it is just that: an illusion.
Because freedom from want dictates slavery to money, a career, a calendar. Freedom from hurt creates an enslavement to selfishness and narcism, a heart that will only take but never risk giving. Freedom from worry leads to slavery to denial and, at worst, apathy to the pain that exists outside ourselves.
So I encourage you all: take Mr. Turk’s advice. Put down your phones at dinner. Log off Facebook for significant periods of the day. Read something beyond Twitter; have meaningful conversations that exceed 140 characters. Go for walks without a camera. Take vacations without your computer. Schedule days of the week when you routinely don’t check your email/Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/etc. Don’t let life pass you by because you’re living in a fake one.
But, at the same time, I implore you don’t ignore the bigger issue at hand. Don’t ignore the fact that this problem is a symptom of a greater disease, a disease that has resulted in the breaking of a relationship between you and humanity, you and creation, you and God. Don’t ignore the reality that you will be a slave to something and that you have the ability to choose what/who that something is.
Look up to the reality around you and don’t let this chance to see it pass you by.
And then…by all means… make sure you share this link with your friends on Facebook.