Social media was designed to “connect” people through the Internet. However, we are witnessing the rise of a new phenomenon: social media-inspired violence (Deutsche Welle, November 11, 2018). Social media platforms are now being used by individuals and governments to spread false or intentionally misleading content in order to promote violence and unrest. According to a recent Facebook-commissioned study, “Misinformation spread online has been linked to violence in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Mexico, the United States and Germany.” A recent UK study “found that crimes against refugees were more likely to take place in areas where Facebook use was high and at times when the far-right, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was sharing anti-refugee posts to its page.”
There is also “growing evidence that an invisible tipping point exists; that some people become so obsessed with the distorted version of reality they see online they feel compelled to act,” and social media is the vehicle used to push some people to this tipping point. According to the Oxford Internet Institute, “The networks and spaces they create online are entirely geared towards creating a culture in which hate, denigration and dehumanization of other people is made acceptable.” Without the connective access that social media provides, such networks of hate would be much more difficult to create.
By itself, social media is not the cause of this violence—it is only the vehicle used to encourage the violence. How people use social media is the problem. The Bible provides powerful principles that Christians must consider when using tools like social media. King Solomon warned, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Social media platforms and Internet blogs certainly provide plenty of opportunities to express a multitude of words. The Apostle Paul also set an example for Christians to “give no offense in anything” (2 Corinthians 6:3). To learn more about wise principles for using social media, read or listen to “Tame the Social Media Monster!”