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Things I Loathe

5 July 2009

1.  Facebook

2.  MySpace

3.  Parents who do not monitor what their adolescent children are doing and posting on those sites.

qb

P. S.  Perhaps qb should have been more specific, judging by the first comment below.  In particular, I loathe the nefarious and socially irresponsible uses to which Facebook and MySpace are routinely and pervasively put.  I do not wish to outlaw them and would certainly object to such a ham-fisted, sub-American remedy; I simply despise the platforms and their cyber-kin in all but their most innocent deployments.  

There is a story behind this, a story which will remain untold, a story that will ring true to parents who are swimming upstream to keep their beloved adolescent children as innocent and as thoroughly protected as they can from the ubiquitous evil that emerges during the pubescent years.  I am truly shocked.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 July 2009 6:20 pm

    So, do you loathe firearms along with those who use them to perpetrate injustices?

  2. 6 July 2009 8:49 pm

    No. And neither do I loathe parents who rigorously supervise – and censor, when necessary – their children’s use of Facebook and MySpace!

    Judging from the breathtaking content I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, such parents are few and precious.

    qb

  3. 7 July 2009 10:15 pm

    qb,

    First, I was not the least bit offended by “the things you loathe”. When I replied, I contemplated simply stating “Do you loathe (insert weapon of your choice here) as well as those who use it/them to perpetrate injustices?” My point really was, and you nailed it in your update to your post, the mechanisms that people choose to use to perpetrate injustices are seemingly infinite. However, our capacity, as human beings, to reign in the temptation to utilize those mechanisms has been severly degraded.

    I have made some assumptions about what triggered the things you loathe, and I pray we have an opportunity, face to face, to explore the issues that prompted the post.

    Responsible use of any medium, ulitmately, lies with whoever has control over the distribution. Many parents, have succumed to the “everyone else is doing it” ideology. Consequently, they have rubberstamped their childrens’ horrendous behaviours. Yes, these same parents would deny that it is “their fault” their kid chose to post to myspace grainy pics that their child took with his/her cell phone of their (hopefully former) friend while showering. Truly irresponsible parenting, IMHO.

    I have not given into this ideology. I assume you have not either.

    My brother was in town this past weekend and we began to discuss the “hiring process”. With the advent of “social media”, employers now have a loop-hole through wich they can learn things about a prospective employee that they are not legally allowed to ask about in interviews. I would dare say that it is not only employers. Most likely college admissions, athletic programs, scholarship foundations and many other groups have found the benefit of researching a candidate on-line prior to determining whether or not there should even be an interview. Most people are blissfully ignorant about the fact that however they choose to arrange the 0’s and 1’s in their digital world will be available for others to see for a long, LONG time.

    Looking forward to Saturday… if you’re in town?

  4. Ben permalink
    8 July 2009 9:01 am

    qb,

    I was pleased to read your thoughtful update and would like to add an observation if I may. Let me begin by offering a disclaimer – I have a Facebook account and am quite active with it. Facebook was my first attempt at any social networking site. My blogging efforts failed long ago and I fervently avoided MySpace when I learned of the egregious privacy invasions and legal problems the site (whether purposeful or not) fostered.

    So why Facebook? First, it was the privacy protections (yes, I realize the misnomer here), but secondly, and more importantly (in light of your stated purpose to offer a Christian perspective on these issues), it provides a means to communicate with old friends and church members with whom I partner in ministry and it expanded my “circle” for those who I may otherwise have little communication, thus finding additional and mutual opportunities for encouragement and friendship. Granted, this interaction is largely impersonal but the opportunity for greater interaction remains.

    Which brings me to my primary argument. While any piece of technology, whether it be a cell phone, automobile, or internet web site, can be abused to the point of subtle enslavement, there still remains the capacity for these things to be used to the glory of God. Technology is not inherently evil. It can enslave, like any other thing, when human beings grant it permission (if you will) to do so.

    When it comes to our children, our responsibility as parents lies in making good judgements as to what should, or should not be, part of their lives because our kids lack the wisdom, maturity, and experience to make right judgements for themselves. Therefore, I am convinced that ALL social websites should be off-limits for my kids until they are old enough and have exhibited the necessary wisdom to handle it appropriately. This rationale is also used when it comes to cell phones. My oldest and soon to be 6th grader laments the fact that he does not have a cell phone unlike 80% of his classmates. When I explain my reasoning to other parents, I get the strangest look. “How will you know where your kid is?”, “What if something happens and your child needs to call?”, they ask. These questions, while reasonable, show a complete lack of faith and a pseudo-pagan view of the world. If Christians are convinced by faith that their existence, well-being, and ultimate destination are in the hands of the living God, then such questions are not extensions of a caring parent, but are at best a deist view of God, or more worrisome, agnostic.

    So, all this to say, qb, perhaps another way to approach the Facebook issue is explore (as you have done to some degree) the ways in which Christians should view technology as a whole given the vast ways in which the science has improved or enslaved humanity’s existence.

  5. 8 July 2009 10:03 am

    Gentlemen, my follow-up post titled “Nobility Lost” was originally a classic example of the very problems I’m exploring. I assumed, wrongly, that B’s first reply to “Things I Loathe” could be best explained by the phrase “touched a nerve.” The wrongness of that original interpretation, which I have since corrected, was a direct result of the impersonal nature of this medium, interacting with my default psychological settings (which are themselves products of my own choices, which is to say, I am squarely on the hook for them). Even the fact that I was compelled to go back and correct my rhetorical approach in this regard is a direct result of the pre-existing, face-to-face relationship I have with “B,” which found expression in B’s follow-up. The same is true with our conversation, Ben; again, our ability to work toward mutual understanding depends strongly on our pre-existing friendship over the (now) decades.

    The post “Nobility Lost” explores, to some extent, what I believe to be the misguided fantasy that “tools” of any significance are morally neutral. Ben, your insistence that nearly all tools may be used to the glory of God is indisputable, but that is better seen as evidence that they must first be redeemed by divine purposes than that they are intrinsically neutral.

    I hope you’ll honor me with your disagreements and fine-tuning conversation as I try to elaborate.

  6. Ben permalink
    9 July 2009 2:01 pm

    qb, you are too kind. You could have just as easily said, ” Ben, get on topic, will ya?”

    Andy Clark in his book, Natural Born Cyborgs (Oxford, 2003), makes the case that all technology – to some degree or another – dehumanizes, effectively endorsing (I would say) your argument against neutrality. So, if you wanted to make an argument that technology somehow makes us less human (supporting your argument that this particular medium is insufficient for us to engage fully in our conversational humanity), then I’m all for it.
    However, let me offer a counter-point for your consideration concerning your larger generalization above. It would seem to me that a “tool” of any kind *is* intrinsically neutral precisely because the (human) motivations for its use determine its function. For example, let’s use the gun imagery posted earlier. A gun can be used for both good and evil purposes. Granted, these purposes are under the philosophical umbrella of “violence”. “Violence” by necessity is not inherently evil (duly noting the ‘shout outs’ from the Christian pacifists among us) as we find in the life of Christ violent acts to bring about a particular good (temple cleansing, Mark 5 pigs over the cliff, etc.). Therefore, it would seem to me, that indeed technology (as a tool) is dependent upon the means and intentions for which it is employed. A garden hoe can be used just as much for evil as for good but few if any of us would brand it negatively. Or let’s dig a bit deeper. In the Temple Cleansing episodes in the Gospels (let’s look at John 2), Jesus uses a tool. A whip. In fact, the text says he himself *made* the whip. How then, would you describe the intrinsic nature of the whip?

    • Ben permalink
      9 July 2009 2:04 pm

      Please strike the last paragraph from my previous post. That was an edit I meant to erase.

      humbly and ashamedly,

      Ben

  7. 9 July 2009 5:21 pm

    I’ll admit that the question about the whip exposes a redactio ad absurdum. But for every whip you posit, qb can posit its mirror image on the spectrum: for example, a robot-soldier that can enter buildings and kill people. Now of course some rich person might wish to buy one and take it into the gun range in his cellar to amuse himself with recreational shooting of a sort, but I would find it impossible to maintain that such a tool is intrinsically neutral.

    So I’ll further concede that there is a continuum here, and that technology’s “evilness” is a matter of degree. A sharp scalpel is nothing to fear if it is in the hands of a skillful, benevolent surgeon. Still, there is a range of technologies within that continuum that has emerged from a set of noxious and harmful assumptions, and it is that range of technologies that concerns me. Wolves, as it were, in sheep’s clothing, they are able to stay concealed and incognito because we are either incapable or unwilling to examine and revisit their foundational assumptions, and further, that we are unwilling or incapable precisely because we are the frogs in the teakettle. That, I think, is my central piont, and is probably the main reason I qualified “tools” with the adjective “significant” in my comment above.

    qb

  8. Ben permalink
    10 July 2009 9:21 am

    OK…qb, then I have to ask. Are you suggesting Jesus *made* something that was, to some degree, intrinsically evil?

    If your assertion in your last post holds, then there would exist the possibility that Christ (fully God, fully human) created a thing that, to at least some degree, possessed intrinsic evil. Your answer, in my view, to this question touches the heart of the issue. If you willing to concede the whip equates to a “tool” similar to technology.

  9. 10 July 2009 9:57 am

    That’s what I mean by my caveat on “significant” and my thoughts on a spectrum. A stiletto differs from an 8″ chef’s knife in some important respects, just as a towel in the guest bathroom differs from a rat-tail in the locker room. The raw materials are the same, but the function at the center of each tool’s functional range is distinct. The task now is to describe, in a semi-formal way, the general attributes of any tool that allow us to locate it on the spectrum. At the moment, those attributes are (alas) heuristics, so I guess this conversation is a means of testing the hypothesis that the heuristics will eventually give way to a formal theory.

    Put another way, I’m personally deeply persuaded by Postman, Borgmann, et al., that the hypothesis is true, but I can’t yet prove it to your satisfaction.

    Moreover, now that I think about it, Facebook and MySpace are tremendous places to test this hypothesis because our shared world view is insistently and relentlessly communal, squarely in the hypothesis’ sweet spot.

    qb

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