Monday, 18 May 2015
Now the dust has settled...
Whatever your politics, there was one good result from the General Elections: the gap that it revealed between the real world and the shadowy demi-monde of social media - though "antisocial media" might be nearer the mark. The squawking predictions of the Twitterati, to whom our media and politicians gave such ample ear, simply did not translate into political reality. Social media users proved not to be representative of the British people at large, which is just as well, given the sheer hatred they have been spewing at each other since. If people behaved to one another on the streets the same as they do on screen, I'd be afraid to go out.
Perhaps the screen is part of the problem. The nastiest bullying that happens at boarding school is after the lights go out, because it's much easier to say hurtful things to someone when you can't see their face. How much easier, then, when you've got a plastic display dividing you from the reality of a person who may be on the other side of the world, whom you know only by avatar or name and by the comments that they make, and whom you're highly unlikely ever to meet in the flesh?
Social media is supposed to be about connecting people, and I certainly found Facebook useful for keeping up with friends when I lived in Japan. But just as often, it seems to cause disconnect. There is an illusion of togetherness, but actually you lose channels of communication that most of us can take for granted: body language, facial expression and tone of voice, for example. You can't tell if somebody is knackered and narky at the end of a tough day, or see that they're going through a tough time, which might explain some late-night angry outbursts of stubbornness or idiocy. All you've got is bare text.
And the text stays forever. Sure, you can delete what you've said on some online fora within a short time of posting, but all it takes is for someone to take a screenshot and repost it, and your own tired, angry, idiotic outburst is out there for good - or long enough, at any rate, for someone to seize on it and release the virtual hounds.
At the core of the Christian faith is the Word who was not made text, but flesh: the Divine who descended among us as a human man, Jesus Christ. The Christian's relationship with God is not with a static text, not even the text of the Bible, and definitely not with words like those set in the lamentable "Ed stone." It is with a real person, whom we know through other real people who have followed Him through the ages, and through the real action of breaking and sharing bread. Centuries and continents stand between us and the historic person of Jesus, and yet we know Him as the one who did not return anger for anger, but gave His life in love even for those who hated Him, and indeed who hate Him now. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we related to one another more like that?
Posted by Tom Plant