The longer we live in a world with Facebook (or should I say, “the world of Facebook?”) the more we recognize the dangers associated with our constant connection to social media. Addressing this issue, Relevant magazine published an article called “8 Dangers of Social Media We’re Not Willing to Admit.” The list is helpful because it points out several destructive effects that social media has on our lives that easily fly “under the radar,” or don’t get as much attention as, say, cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking.
Here’s their list:
4. Caring About the Wrong Things
6. Convenient Friendships
7. Wasting Time
I’ll let you read the article for the full description of each danger.
Of this list, I think that comparison might be one of the most destructive. When we constantly compare ourselves to the beautiful pictures of our beautiful friends with their beautiful families eating their beautiful food on their beautiful balcony from their beautiful vacation home in a beautiful foreign country, we lose. Every time. We always come out second.
But every once in a while…. someone posts something that isn’t beautiful. It’s raw and honest and, well, different from the rest of the beautiful things in our news feed. And it makes us stop and think, “Wait a second… this is what reality looks like.”
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about the people who post toxic political soundbites trying to stir up a never-healthy debate, or other people who post something self-degrading looking for validation (see #1 on the list of dangers above). I’m talking about someone who for some reason decides to post something honest and unfiltered. Those are the posts that get my attention because those are the snapshots of real life that I know everyone experiences but doesn’t want to admit.
And when we see a post like that we immediately know it must be real because it’s so dissimilar from the Facebook “norm” of beautiful people in beautiful places doing beautiful things. We ask, “Why would they post that if it weren’t true?” And the answer is, they wouldn’t.
In Biblical criticism there is a term called the Criterion of Dissimilarity which essentially sees the Bible like Facebook and says, “The reason we can know that this story is true is because it’s so dissimilar from the ‘norm.’”
For example, the news feed of the 1st century might have had pictures of different people claiming to be the Messiah, each with a following of Jewish people exclaiming, “This guy’s the one!” As N.T. Wright tells us, there were several different candidates for the job, each claiming to be the one who would deliver the people of Israel by raising their nation to political prominence with the military defeat of the Roman Empire.
But then this guy named Jesus shows up and claims to be the Messiah. The thing is, he’s a lot different. He’s not leading any military rebellions. He’s telling people to put their swords away! That didn’t make sense.
But for some reason… the Bible is about Jesus and not about these other guys who claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus—the one whom people claimed had been raised from the dead? That didn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit the news feed “norm.” Which is why it has the ability to stop us in our tracks and make us think, “Why would they write that if it weren’t true? Why would they risk and give up their lives for that guy if it weren’t true? Why would they start a movement following that guy that has spread to millions of people if it weren’t true?” And the answer is, they wouldn’t.
The beautiful Facebook picture would have been one of these other guys claiming to be the Messiah and leading military rebellions. That’s what fit the expectations, or the news feed “norm,” of the Jewish people. But they all died. And their followers dissipated.
Jesus was the least likely candidate to actually be the Messiah. And yet, his movement changed the world. The only explanation is that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.
After all, why would they make up something like that if it weren’t true? They wouldn’t. That would be embarrassing…