Shutting Down the Argument

The rise of social media has made it possible for people to take talking down to people and talking past one another to new heights of incoherence and belligerence. (That is a fancy way of saying that people spout a lot of nonsense and provoke arguments as if it is their purpose in life.) Social media has become a self-affirming medium. It exists to reinforce a good self-image, our previously held opinions, and our worldview. Whether this is due to accident or design, it surely has produced a social phenomenon that reflects poorly on our ability to tolerate dissent. 

If this were just a personal issue, I would simply recommend that people read more, simplify their lives, or just be careful with their lives on social media. However, the way in which all of these factors shape society makes its effects impossible to escape. This is the world in which we live. All of this remains completely out of our hands. Therefore, we must learn to deal with the reality. However, while the Internet has sped up this process; the Internet did not originate it. People have argued, fought, and attempted to dominate others from time immemorial. They have rejected truth and justified themselves since the Garden of Eden. When arguing with Job about the reason for his troubles, “Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: ‘How long till you put an end to words? Gain understanding, and afterward we will speak. Why are we counted as beasts, And regarded as stupid in your sight?'” (Job 18:1-3). Bildad wanted to shut down the argument. As far as he was concerned, until Job changed his mind to agree with his friends, he found no reason to continue the conversation. He then turned passive-aggressive in arguing that Job’s disagreement implied that he thought they were stupid. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

These characteristics combine in a manner far more dangerous than we might assume. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet brings people of vastly different backgrounds together and often into natural conflict as a result. This means that online discussions flood people with ideas and arguments for which they are pitifully prepared. People are fond of saying that the Internet is democratic. This is true in the worst sense of the word online. Social media favors majority opinion without respect to standard, logic, or truth. Moreover, it easily turns that social majority into a bludgeon to put an end to disagreement by cutting off the debate based upon personal criteria, often demonstrated through profanity, name-calling, SHOUTING, and mockery. The impact of this shift in society has been as swift as it has been unsurprising. Satan has employed these tactics masterfully in the promotion of the toleration of every sin imaginable. But what did we expect? Christians will never be the majority; therefore, it is unsurprising to find ourselves outnumbered online, in public opinion, and even in increasing ways in our stand for basic morality. However, like Job, we should be shocked to find ourselves treated in this way by our friends and brethren. The fact that some Christians employ these tactics, though, shows just how effective Satan has been.

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