As a Catholic preacher and educator, I care a whole lot about pursuing truth. It’s the heart of my job description. I also care a whole lot about freedom of speech. When people have the chance to talk openly, we get more information about how things look from varying perspectives. Learning can happen. So, pursuit of truth and free speech go hand in hand. Decouple free speech from the pursuit of truth, however, and you are looking at a disaster.
“Disaster” is a good term for much of what we have witnessed on social media in recent years. Lots and lots of “free speech” exercised with not much in place to weed out material that was factually untrue, yet with algorithms in place to more rapidly spread inflammatory opinions linked with violence and demonization of others. It was like an arrow through my heart this past week to see a number of deeply Christian Facebook friends express interest in switching to Parler—a social network that promises not to curb free speech, but has nothing in place to curb flat-out misinformation or intentionally inflammatory content.
It is tempting to get off of social media entirely. I watched “The Social Dilemma” last month on Netflix like many of you and found it terrifying. (If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it!) At the same time, both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have acknowledged that social media is likely the space where a good deal of our communication with one another as humans is going to happen unto the future, and as Christians called to be leaven in the world, we need to be part of the struggle for the soul of social media.
My new book—coming out February 5th—looks at eight simple commitments every Christian can make on social media. I’ll be posting more about this on my website in the weeks to come, but for now, check out a preview of the content on Amazon. Let’s be part of the struggle together.