Last year a friend of mine started a business which sold products through marketing on Instagram and Facebook. With a fair bit of research, the right product and some hard work his business took off in a very short amount of time.
The main reason for his success was that he could target specific demographics (including age, interests, residence, workplace, travel and gender) who were nearly guaranteed to be interested in the product that he was selling.
If you are a chronic spender with little money and a lot of debt this probably isn’t the most helpful thing. But it can be pretty handy when you spot a deal on something you have been meaning to purchase but have never gotten around to it.
It seems pretty harmless right? If social media was just used as a marketing ploy to grab our attention and sell us something (even if is it unnecessary) it’s not the worst thing. But what if social media sold us beliefs, values and worldviews that were conflicting or problematic?
Each like we make or person we follow reinforces particular ideals and perspectives that we believe, because all of our data is tracked. Every time we click on a news article, blog or video of a certain bias it will lead to more of the same.
And if we only engage with the ideas on one side of the discussion, we can lose the ability to understand those who think differently to us. When this happens, it is incredibly easy to look down on others and think they are lesser because of the beliefs that they hold. When this happens, division occurs and an us vs them mentality can develop.
One example of this is politics in United States of America. For many people, being a republican or democrat is more than just a political leaning, it has become a part of their identity. It can determine who people associate with, where they live, what schools they go to and so on.
A more extreme illustration however, is Germany between 1933-1945. Bit by bit, Nazi propaganda slowly began to influence and shape how different people viewed each other. People who once lived in harmony with one another, began to see the “other” as worse than themselves. Not because of their character, but because of how they looked, or where they were from etc. This eventually resulted in the death of millions of innocent people and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest atrocities in humanity. It all snowballed from what people read, watched, listened too.
Media is a powerful thing
Media is a powerful thing. It is responsible for genocides, wars and riots. It shapes culture, beliefs, politics, laws and the way we live our lives. It is why so many countries control it, why trillions of dollars are spent on it and why there are always new forms of it being made. Media is the most powerful means of education because it happens without you realising it and it is so easily consumed.
Although we may not be extreme in our views, we all have certain biases that we are unable to escape. Beliefs that shape everything we do. This is not a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just a reality. What is problematic however, is if we do not learn to understand or accept those who think differently to us. Because when we don’t understand or accept those who are different to us, as history shows, we are capable of doing inexplicable things.
This doesn’t mean that we have to agree or even like other people, however, it will help us to see what we have in common, that is our humanity. We may look, sound, act differently, but we are all products of our environment and we all adapt to the messages that we are conveyed the most. Apart from this we are pretty much the same, or as some would say “we all bleed the same blood.”
As Christians, we believe that all of humanity, no matter how depraved and awful it maybe at times, is made in the image of God. Including Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden and every other person to have ever existed. To be made in the image of God means that our worth is intrinsic. It’s not based on what we do, it’s based on who we are. People made to exist in loving relationship with God and each other as we enjoy the beauty of our world.
The next time you scroll down your Facebook feed, flick through your Instagram, read the news, listen to music or watch Netflix I encourage you to think about what message you are being conveyed. Is it true? How do you really know? What has shaped your thinking? Could you be wrong?
If you become aware of what shapes you and what has shaped others, you may just learn to understand and love those who you didn’t think you were capable of loving.
Ethan grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland. While finishing a degree in applied theology from Carey Baptist College, he moved slightly east and began working as pastor at Eastview Baptist Church, where he has been for four years. He loves getting out in nature, having a laugh and having deep conversations about life and faith.