Being contrarian-contrarian

25 May

I am among those convinced that every media shapes its message; further, when employed extensively, the media shapes the messenger.

For the first claim: when you choose to blog, or tweet, or make a phone call, or put up a billboard, the medium that you employ constrains your message; if constrain is too strong a term, the medium at least presses your message to fit certain parameters. Thus, you could tweet the next great American novel, 140 characters at a time. But you’d be fighting the medium. Or you could put up a billboard with a 10,000 word refutation of Harold Camping; there’s certainly enough space on a billboard, right? But, again, you’d be fighting the medium.

This much oughtn’t be tremendously controversial. But taking this one step further, I believe that the medium of communication that we employ not only molds what we express, but, when such a medium becomes our primary mode of expression, it also pushes us to certain patterns of thought. Twitter is a great example here: if you’re an active user of Twitter, you start to become aware of items in your daily experience that would make great tweets. I assume photographers experience a similar phenomenon: they see pictures in their ordinary experience that the rest of us miss, because we are not accustomed to express ourselves in that medium.

All that to set up my point: I think that Christian blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking incline us to look at things a certain way, and I’m not convinced that this is good for us. Let me cite two examples.

First example: I must confess that I found the Facebook brouhaha that erupted after the killing of Osama bin Laden amusing. Essentially, the matter became an occasion for tossing verses back and forth; some favored the verses which speak of exulting when justice is done, others the verses which warn us against rejoicing in the misfortune of our enemies. It is not my intent to offer any evaluation of the merits of these positions; I’m merely observing the phenomenon.

Second example: I noted that, on Mother’s Day, several people (some notable Christian spokesmen) offered thoughts to this effect: “Let’s consider, on Mother’s Day, those without mothers, those barren, etc.” Again, I do not in any way wish to make light of this admonition; I’m drawing attention to it to make a broader point.

And that point is this: I believe that for many of us, social media tools press us (especially those believers who have some influence) to publish an insightful angle our topics, preferably before anyone beats us to it. And as Christians, that “insightful angle” tends to be accompanied with a (variably) subtle message: “you really should have thought of this, if you were really spiritual/gospel-centered/etc.,” and “aren’t you glad I noticed it?”

The upshot of this is not that we should refrain from posting insightful, contrarian bits of wisdom. The point is that we must be aware of the truly egomaniacal tendencies that these media foster.

And I must add the obvious disclaimer: I’m well aware of the self-refuting nature of a post like this, delivered by this medium.

1 Comment

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Society


One response to “Being contrarian-contrarian

  1. Chris Ames

    May 25, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Most people can’t read very well anymore.
    Most people can’t communicate very well anymore.
    Most people are not challenged or do not care either to read more carefully or to communicate more clearly.
    Most people can use Facebook.
    Most people can use Twitter.
    Most of what happens on Facebook and Twitter consists of poor communication poorly read.
    Facebook and Twitter comprise a medium which is, for the most part, a poor place to place thoughtful thoughts.

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