Social media is a remarkable tool. It allows us to communicate anything we want with anyone in the world who is paying attention. Add a trending hashtag to your Twitter conversation, and someone out there will see it, and likely they will respond.
I can sit at my computer anywhere in the world (I’m at the kitchen table right now), post anything to my blog, and people from all corners of the planet will end up reading it. Just embed the right topic tags and anyone else can do the same. Social media puts us in touch with the world and allows us to share joyful moments with people we have never met, like a lady who bought a Chewbacca mask.
On a more personal level, we can upload pictures taken on our smartphones (another modern triumph), share our thoughts, and stay in touch with loved ones and friends over long distances in ways that were simply impossible just 10 years ago. Social media can unite all of us and can be useful, powerful and amazing.
But it can also deeply divide us; just as quickly and just as powerfully.
This dangerous and divisive trend is where social media becomes the territory of the Internet Pitchfork Mob.
Lions in Africa, gorillas at the zoo, presidential politics, long-dead Confederate soldiers, national holidays, red Starbucks cups, bathrooms at Target, and sadly even horrific deadly tragedies bring out the wrath of the Pitchfork Mob.
The Pitchfork Mob is an undeniable expert in all subjects. The Mob knows more than anyone about Biology, Zoology, Theology, Astronomy, Constitutional Law, National Security and Global Economic Theory. The mob is not to be presented with alternate views. Disagree and you will end up on the business end of an internet pitchfork.
The Mob roams amongst the trending topics of social media and feeds off of itself until any real truth is hidden well beneath the expanse of pitchforks, torches, and angry voices.
The Mob emerged again yesterday as we mourned the deaths of at least 50 innocent Americans. The facts are clear; they were targeted because of who they were and where they were (homosexuals in a gay club), life abruptly taken from them by a man driven by an ideology of hate.
But like a painting in the museum, we see more when we take a step back, and the details blend into a whole. Taking a deep breath and taking a step back, we see that these people who were targeted and experienced this nightmare are not “Them”, they are “Us”. A gay nightclub could have been a church service, could have been a grocery store, could have been a library, could have been a school, could have been a workplace.
In fact these are all places that HAVE been targeted and innocent lives taken over the last few years. The events that unfolded in Orlando affect us all.
Yet before the bodies had been identified, the Mob was back in action assigning blame and casting stones. Frighteningly, it is easy to become a member of the Mob before we realize it. We read a news story or a reaction or a post that touches our sensibilities, and we think, “Yes, what that guy said!” and we retweet or share. Yet sometimes what that guy said is not as brilliant and thought out and Scriptural as we initially believe, and we unwittingly join the Mob.
We should be mindful, and seek to use whatever social media influence we have in a Godly way in the pattern of James 1:19-20, “19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires”.
A firm foundation in Scripture helps to guide our personal interactions, allows us to be the light in the world that we seek to be, and keeps us from joining the unruly Pitchfork Mob of social media:
Proverbs 15:1-2: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
Proverbs 12:18: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.“
Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Colossians 4:5: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
Proverbs 29:11: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
Today may we mourn innocent lives lost on American soil. Instead of adding to blame, anger and dissension, may we take the opportunity to share truth, comfort and hope with a world that desperately needs it.