Social Media, Controversy, and “Love Wins”
Scot McKnight has just put out a great piece reflecting on Rob Bell’s Love Wins, which created quite a controversy amongst Evangelicals a few weeks ago. He has put together ten reflections not only on the book itself, but also on the discussions that took place across the web during the weeks that followed the book’s release.
An interesting quote:
First, social media is where controversial ideas will be both explored and judged. We no longer read books patiently, type out letters to denominational offices, find common agreements and then summon the Christian leader behind closed doors to ask questions and sort out concerns. It’s all public, it’s all immediate and everyone weighs in because social media is about as radical a form of democracy as exists. To be sure, this means the uninformed heavy-handed can weigh in as easily as the patient, careful, critical and balanced reader. But social media is not going away so we should realize what we are getting into before we walk into the room.
Interesting to compare this quote with another by Quentin Schultze, from his book Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker:2004):
For all the rhetoric about cyber-community, the Internet is less a forum for shared public life than an arena for individuals to express their egos and find information in tune with their personal needs and desires. (180)
These two quotes don’t at all oppose each other, but actually go hand-in-hand. McKnight notes that social media create a “radical form of democracy,” in which anyone and everyone (including me!) can weigh in on anything and everything. The problem is, according to Schultze, that this “democracy” is less about community and more about expression of ego. This is far more true of the “uninformed heavy-handed” than the “patient, careful, critical and balanced reader,” because the former spouts off (often via Re-Tweet) before ever actually engaging in the arguments going on, or for that matter knowing, exactly, what the book is about.
I must confess that I have never read the book, and so I would like to point out that my interest in this post has very little to do with Bell or Love Wins, but has very much to do with social media, shared “community” and controversy.
Thoughts? Do social media help or hinder thoughtful conversation? Or do they simply create controversy?