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May 25, 2019

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Facebook refuses to take down a doctored video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Many users are deleting their accounts in reaction. 
“Thousands of Twitter users urged others this weekend online to delete their Facebook accounts after an altered video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went viral earlier in the week. The hashtag #DeleteFacebook was the top-trending topic nationwide on Saturday. …Even though the video is spreading misinformation, and YouTube has removed it, Facebook has refused to take it down.” (Newsweek has the full story.)
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9
I struggle with what to do about social media. I’m sure many of you do as well. We’ve all read the research on how it can damage our mental well-being and we all know how much time we spend on it in a day. When I saw #DeleteFacebook trending on Twitter today, I have to admit that my first thought was, “Oh thank God, finally, a good reason to leave.” I clicked on the hashtag hoping that there had been a new revelation about how Facebook mismanages our data, invades our privacy, or violates antitrust laws that were causing the call for an exodus. 

Instead, what I found was outrage over a faked video of Speaker Pelosi, something that had been a blip in my social media consumption for the week, a story that merited a grin from The Onion article about it and not much attention otherwise. As much as possible, I let my attention be guided by Paul’s advice to the Philippians and there isn’t anything true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise in that video. It was posted to Politics Watchdog, a conservative page, and subsequently tweeted by members of the presidential administration, none of which was a surprise to me. And, as the cynic in me expected, Facebook refused to take the video down, failing again to understand its powerful role in the dangerous spread of misinformation that furthers the partisan divide of our country. 

Now, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time that Facebook or any other social media site has refused to take down objectionable content or block users who are spreading lies and inciting hatred. But every time this happens, we have a choice: do we stay or do we go? After all, we the users are in control here: a social media platform only makes money if people are using it. If the platform is allowing the promotion of content that we shouldn’t be giving our attention to, what reason do we have to stay? 

That question isn’t entirely rhetorical. We, as Christians working to help this world better mirror the reign of God, need to think through the whys and the hows of our social media use. I stay on Facebook and Twitter because they provide the easiest way I have to stay connected to my friends across the United States and around the world. I’ve also found my way into a myriad of groups and Twitter circle that will help support me in my ministry, so that even if I’m geographically separated from other progressive Christians, I won’t be alone. On top of that, I’ve had some beautiful experiences and wonderful learning moments because of social media, along with moments that have galvanized me for action. I can’t decry it as rotten to its core. But I can tell you, especially in light of news like this, that I’ve had to cut down and curate my social media use so that I can focus on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise in my world. 
Take a week and monitor your social media use. There are apps like Moment that can help you track time spent in any app, but your real task (your spiritual discipline, if you will) is to pay attention to what you’re consuming while on social media. Is it mostly content that’s worthy of praise or inspires you to act for justice? If not, how can you change that? 
God of all things, you have made us for each other and given us hearts that yearn to share with one another, yet we acknowledge that we do not use this gift of community wisely. Bend our hearts and our minds towards the honorable, commendable, pure, and pleasing things of this world. Help us to seek those things and to make connections with others who are seeking the same. We thank you for the goodness that has come into our lives because of social media and we ask that you guide us in our use of the tool of social media, that we may use it to spread joy, hope, goodness, and justice rather than anger, hatred, and misinformation. We pray these things in the name of the one who came to bring us peace and communion, Jesus the Christ. Amen. 
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