"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." Mark 9.42
Over the weekend I watched a documentary called 'The Social Dilemma', in which a galaxy of Silicon Valley techies shared their concerns about the monster they had helped create. It sounds smug but it confirmed me in my avoidance of social media (apart from email). With commendable candour they explained how the system is designed to get inside the head of users, without us realising, so that they can groom us to reveal our preferences which are built into a profile and the data is sold to advertisers, who then bombard us with their products and special offers. And it doesn't stop there...
By harvesting our data, internet operators feed us information which confirms us in our prejudices, thereby deepening the divisions between those of one opinion and those of another. Young people, who are "native" to the technology ,appear more easily seduced by the attractions of social media while, simultaneously, being more vulnerable to its harmful effects - whether that is addiction or their inability to cope with adverse reaction.
Jesus forcefully warns about the consequences for those who prey upon the vulnerable, especially young people - who need protection and not exploitation. But who is to blame here? Contributors to 'The Social Dilemma' were adamant that they started out believing in the nobility of their cause, that social media should be a tool for good, bringing people together and facilitating new dimensions for business and recreational communication to flourish in. But, somehow, the ghost in the machine became a monster. Now they don't even let their own children near it!
Isn't this another, dramatic and large-scale, example of how The Fall infects all of creation? As The Fallen, whatever human beings touch seems doomed to corruption, decay, even death. But it shouldn't be this way! Jesus came to bring life and hope and healing and he calls people to follow him and he promises that we shall emulate and even exceed him in our constructive engagement with the world (John 14.12). But only if we operate out of pure motives grounded in the will of the Creator.
It stands to reason that attempts to rebuild Babel will end in tears. Prepare for a fresh outbreak of different "languages", which may seem like a backward step but may be necessary for our survival and for our re-learning of the one language which can unite us benevolently: the language of God's love to us, expressed in Jesus.