Blessed are the Retweeters …
…for they will inherit good feelings about themselves and a ‘job well done.’
At first there were hints and murmers.
A share here. A ‘forward this petition’ there. Here a status, there a like, everywhere a tweet tweet.
…or something like that.
But the eruption came with Kony 2012. The short film produced by Invisible Children, Inc. Hoping to warn the world of African military leader Joseph Kony, fuel the ‘Stop Kony’ movement and lead to his arrest.
97 million views and 21.9 million likes later the video had reached viral proportions like never before.
Not even a week later, Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds were almost completely devoid of any KONY2012 news as the majority of 97 million people had moved on (and were waiting for the next big thing).
Perhaps this point is best illustrated in this excerpt from Wikipedia which gives a brief overview of the action campaign linked to Kony 2012.
‘The “Cover the Night” event took place worldwide on April 20, 2012 and was to be conducted by supporters who were encouraged to perform some sort of charity work that morning in their local community. Then, that evening, they were to post flyers and posters throughout their city for the Kony 2012 campaign. The turnout for the event worldwide was much smaller than initially expected, with no organized spots officially announced and much fewer people attending than had pledged to attend. A tweet from Invisible Children stated, “There is no official meet-up as we are asking people to act locally with friends+family in their neighborhoods.” One gathering in Vancouver had only 17 people; another in Brisbane had fewer than 50 attendees.’
And so the trumpet played (and as quickly it faded out) to announce the advent of feel-good-social-justice-social-media’ing! The idea that if I have forwarded an article or posted a video on my page or retweeted a link to a significant news event, then I have done my bit.
Then have I done anything at all?
Yes, I have. I’ve achieved my social justice self-awareness actualization exercise of the week. And I have made myself feel good. I’ve done my bit. Move on to a guilt free day, or week, or however long it takes.
A DISTURBING TREND
This is not a sickness (and yes I believe it is a sickness or at the very least the terrifying symptom of a greater ill) that is specific to Christians at all. Everybody is doing it. We all want to feel like we are making a significant contribution to things of importance in the world. Although just how much we want to do that can perhaps be measured in the last two weeks by comparing the time and energy we gave to ‘Ben Affleck is the new Batman’ and ‘Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the VMAs’ with that which was afforded to the Syrian crisis heading to a possible war with multiple nations having different interests and starting to choose sides. I’ll give you a clue – Syria didn’t win that one.
I am not saying that forwarding and liking and commenting on videos and articles of significance is wrong. What I am suggesting is that if that is the extent of your involvement in said issues (or any issues of social justice and kingdom building at all) then you are probably falling short of the mark.
Social network updates can give us the feeling of having contributed significantly to something of importance when all we have really done is passed on the message to someone else (with a distant hope in the back of our minds that surely someone will do something about it, right?) who has in all likelihood done the very same thing (knowing the people we’re connected to, right?).
Imagine, for a minute, if instead of forwarding the Kony 2012 video clip (or even better, in addition to) those 97 million people had each invited a homeless person into their house for a meal? Or gone down to the local hospital and visited two sick people they didn’t even know? Or taken a piece of paper and written an encouraging letter to someone who is behind bars?
Just imagine what that would have looked like? And sure that takes a lot longer and maybe costs a little more than just moving your mouse and clicking send, but maybe that’s the point.
WHO WOULD JESUS RETWEET?
To take it a step forward, as a Christ follower my goal is to follow Christ (really simple join the dots dynamics there). In Luke 9.23 Jesus said to those around Him, ‘If anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ And so as someone who claims to be following Jesus, I have to ask myself those questions:
Am I denying myself?
Am I taking up my cross daily?
Am I following Jesus?
The first requires a change in focus and motivation. The second speaks of a regular daily choice and sacrifice – live as if I am walking towards my death. And the third speaks of action.
You see, if you look at Jesus, He was largely about action. He did a whole lot of teaching as well, which was to educate people on how they should live out their following of God. But He seldom did much reporting of events. He connected with people, He reached out and touched the sick and spent time with the outcasts. He broke the traditional taboos of who was allowed to hang out with who. He went to where the needs were and got his hands and feet dirty in meeting them.
So if I claim to follow Jesus, surely it has to be more than forwarding an article or retweeting a particularly moving video link. I need to be asking the question of ‘Who are the ‘Least of these’ who I am going to be personally involved with?’ In terms of building relationships and meeting needs.
It should never be the aim at all, but hopefully, as I start to hope and imagine for big things in my neighborhood or community (knowing I serve the God who is able to do ‘immeasurably more than all we hope or imagine’ according to Ephesians 3.20) and start getting creative in terms of my involvement with them, maybe in time my actions and those who I am working alongside will be the status updates and retweets of those around me who haven’t quite ‘got’ it yet.