Sunday evening, I shared a little about Facebook, Frances Haugen’s remarks on 60 Minutes and before Congress. I really wanted to get on the soapbox, but I tried not to. I’m still trying not to. But, I’ve been really intrigued by her perspective. She said “The result (of Facebook’s Algorithm which prioritizes engagement) has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”
In the interview, she talked about those who participated in the January 6th riots on the capital. They’ve been able to look back and see what posts the people in those Facebook groups saw during the days between the election and Jan. 6. Because of the Algorithm, they were only seeing posts about how the election was stolen, and that something needed to be done about it. Haugen said, If all you saw for months were posts and articles about how the election had been stolen, you’d storm the capital too.
Think about that.
These people were consuming hours and hours of material arguing all the ways the election had been fraudulent. Eventually, because of consuming that much material, they became the kind of people who riot, attack, and destroy.
Each of us is in a routine of some kind. I can’t remember the exact number, but about 90% of our day is made up of routine, habitual actions that we rarely make to the top of our minds. And yet, all of these habits and routines are shaping us.
The average person scrolls through 300 feet of news feed per day. Not counting the use of other websites. This is why only the most outrageous posts catch our attention.
If we spend hours a day scrolling and trolling on Facebook, Instagram & Tik Tok because of habit and routine, that routine will make us the kind of person that does whatever Facebook’s algorithm puts in front of us. Facebook isn’t the only site that uses algorithms to choose what content to show you. Most major news sites and aggregators do the same thing. They want you to spend as much time on their platform as possible so they can make more money off of you. If that means you have to read outrageous, crazy, insane content to do that, they’ll do it for the profit.
Who are we becoming by what we’re doing? At this point, algorithms are shaping us more than nearly any other thing. Which means we are becoming what the algorithm is shaping us to be. That’s scary.
We need to be different.
Like I shared Sunday, what made Christianity contagious was proximity. Years ago, I shared that we want to reach people who are near to us but far from Christ. Reaching people who are near to me but far from Christ is what the early church did. People saw the difference Jesus made in the lives of someone they already knew. They knew what they were like before and saw the difference. That’s what drew them in. But it was more than that.
They could see how differently Christians lived than the rest of society. They saw their radical lifestyle. Radical because it stood in stark contrast to the way they and the rest of society lived. So, are we different? Is there a contrast between our lives and the lives of the unbelievers in our lives? Does our fundamental belief that all life is sacred drive us to treat all lives as sacred? Or just some lives? Or just the lives of people we agree with? Do we show unconditional love to one another in a world that celebrates conditional love?
In one of the books I’m reading, the author said that our word for Kindness comes from the same word as Kin. He said: “Kin are family, people we are related to, which means kindness is a kind of adoption, in the best possible sense. Kindness is treating people who are not family as if they are…kindness is bringing someone into the inner circle of your life.” (Matt Mikalatos, Journey To Love, Pg. 33)
Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly. Love Mercy, AKA kindness and compassion. Walk with people in their pain. Treat them like family. Even though they have done nothing to earn it. They can never earn it. We can’t earn it from others. We don’t show people kindness who can repay it to us. Jesus said, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
While Jesus certainly meant the literal poor, crippled, lame, and blind, He also shared a lot of meals with sinners and tax collectors, people who were enemies of the Jewish community of believers. I wonder who we need to have a banquet for?
I wonder who we need to invite over for dinner? I wonder who we need to invite to our table?
I may be wrong, but I’m almost certain we all have people in our lives right now who are outsiders to us. People who have found belonging, identity, and purpose in communities with very different agendas than our own. What if all they need is to feel like they can belong to a different group of people? What if all they need to see is someone living out their Christlike identity in close proximity? What if all they need is to witness firsthand a family whose purpose is not all about themselves but others?
A lot of us (myself included) don’t look all that different than the rest of the non-believing world around us because we are consumed with the same things. As they say in recovery, “If you want something different, do something different.” If we want to be shaped more into the image of Christ than the image of the algorithms, we need to spend more time with Jesus and people who are like Jesus. We might need to spend more time reading our Bibles than we do reading our Facebook newsfeed. We might need to spend more time with brothers and sisters in Christ than we spend watching YouTube. We might need to spend more time around the dinner table than in front of the TV. We might need to spend more time praying and listening to God than we spend listening to Spotify.
What do you (I, we) need to do differently?