On Red Cups, Facebook, and Real Life

We would never have had the infamous “Red Cup Controversy” of 2015 without social media in general, and Facebook in particular. The supposed outrage that arose over this non-issue was really a reaction to an outrage that was never really outrage to begin with. It was created largely by media folks who love to caricature Christians as over-reactive killjoys, and stir up as much controversy (and ad generation) as possible along the way. And it worked.

As best as I can tell, it all began with a writer’s attempt at parody, misinterpreted by some as serious and then ratcheted up a few notches with a video produced by an over-the-top click-bait-driven social media “personality,” decrying Starbucks’ alleged War on Christmas. From there, folks with not much else to do but react did so on cue and told us how people shouldn’t over-react, all the while over-reacting themselves. Because that’s what we do on social media.
I have come to the conclusion that Facebook can be a helpful tool in sometimes disseminating information (and showing off pictures of our kids and grandkids), but we get confused when we think it is real life. It’s not. It’s an artificial representation of real life, and the attention-starved format trains us to whine, complain, get offended, react to others’ being offended, and generally opine about everything.
Because it is so easy to “post” and “comment” and “share” we somehow think we must do so. But it’s okay if we don’t, really it is. Instead, we all chime in and a non-controversy becomes a pseudo-controversy because we made it go “viral.” And all the while, someone counts the clicks, and the money, because in the end that’s what it’s all about anyway.

As we try to live in our constantly evolving information age, connected 24/7 with the web that is wide and worldly, we would all do well to learn a few lessons about how to best navigate the ‘net without getting entangled in its net. The world of social media in particular is often harsh and disrespectful and divisive. The format tends to make us opinionated, and quarrelsome, and squelches the humility to which we have been called, as we seek to live like Jesus. And we are prone to follow the lead of our over-sensitive and non-longsuffering society on how to be offended by just about anything.

Now, before I succumb to the same temptation of pontificating about Facebook and the red cup and all, let me change gears a bit and share this humorous “testimonial” I read earlier this week. Hopefully, it will be a reminder to let social media be what it is, but never allow it to replace genuine conversation and authentic community–and by all means, don’t let it set the tone about how we are to communicate and respond to one another. I hope you enjoy:
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later, and with whom.
I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.
I also listen to their conversations, give them the “thumbs up” and tell them I like them.
And it works just like Facebook! I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator, and a psychiatrist.
And oh, one more thing: it’s not time for Christmas cups anyway. We haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet! (That ought to stir some of you up for a while!)I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
—-Pastor Ken