Many talking heads complain about the polarization of our culture. “We’re more divided than ever!” they proclaim, usually in a tweet or a TV interview. Blame for the polarization of our country usually gets put on social media companies (like Facebook and Twitter) and the 24-hour news cycle. It’s pointed out that in today’s America, someone can pretty much only hear the voices they want to hear to the exclusion of all others. No one has to grapple with opposing points of view if they don’t want unless they log onto their favorite social media platform where they can see their favorite talker dunking on a supposedly, self-evidently stupid point of view.
And then we go back to lamenting the polarization of the culture. I get it. I do think that our culture is polarized. But there’s a fairly simple solution to help combat that: don’t play the game. Don’t have social media accounts. Don’t watch the news. Don’t listen to only voices that will confirmation your pre-conceived notions or tell you only what you want to hear. Opt out. It’s possible. Usually, there are a few objections to my line of reasoning here to opt. Let’s take them on one at a time.
Objection #1: “You’re only advocating for individual solutions, but these are larger cultural issues that demand structural solutions.”
Sure, I agree that these larger cultural issues demand structural solutions like breaking up big tech companies and stigmatizing smartphone use like we did with cigarettes. But until those things happen, what, we do nothing? We allow ourselves to be continually distracted, and lead into anger or despair by brain hijacking algorithms? The only person you can truly control is yourself. Start there while you work on the larger cultural issues.
Objection #2: “You won’t know what’s going on in the world.”
If something is big enough, I’m sure I’ll find out about it. It always happens. Moreover, there are news recap podcasts which can give us the biggest stories of the day in 20 minutes. I don’t need to waste my life with the CNN or Fox News droning on in the background.
Objection #3: “You’ll be swayed to become more liberal if you engage is various ideas.”
Jesus is the Lord of all truth, so I have no problem engaging with all kinds of various true claims or ideologies. As a Christian, there are certain core beliefs attached to the gospel in which I have a closed mind. It is precisely my close-mindedness about the gospel which enables me to be open-minded about everything else.
Objection #4: “You have an important message to get out there, you need to leverage social media for the gospel.”
No, we don’t. I saw one Christian tech website which says that we are undergoing the greatest communications shift in 500 years. Really? We know this? How? Huge claims like that are usually only backed up history a few hundreds of years after the fact. We know now that the printing press changed the world, but we don’t know if social media will in the long run. I’m more favorable for banking on the longevity and durability of books which have been around for hundreds of years than some tech companies which have been around for fifteen.
Furthermore, people don’t come to church because of social media. Here’s the real secret to church growth: people come to church because they were invited by a trusted friend.
I don’t find any of these objections compelling. Therefore, I don’t play the game. No social media. No cable news. No polarization as a result.