Did you know that you hold a great deal of power in your hands? That you can make an influence simply with your computer mouse?
Rachel Marie Stone on Her*meneutics wants you to remember it. In her article Careful What You Click For, she explores the attention that we so often give to things we disagree with (or even just trashy flashy headlines).
Her grandmother, she shares, watches TV most of the day – but only news channels she dislikes. According to Stone’s father, “She watches it so that she can complain about how stupid they all are.” While this initially seems foolish, Rachel asks, don’t we do the same thing?
“When I click on links I know are trashy, or links I know I’m going to disagree with, I’m casting a vote for more of the same. Chances are, you are too.”
“This dynamic takes a different form when some hotly debated political matter, evangelical controversy, celebrity death, or some combination thereof happens to be trending. One headline becomes more sensational than the next; tweets are fired fast and furiously; and people are linking and clicking like crazy, even if only to remark upon how stupid it is that whatever topic is trending. Amid the noise and chatter, the person with the loudest voice, not necessarily the one with the most compelling things to say, ends up getting the most attention.”
Does that seem familiar? Have you ever found yourself getting swept up in the latest internet controversy, clicking and commenting, unaware that every click and every comment boosts the company who runs whatever page you happen to be on?
It may seem like you are one tiny voice on the internet, without power to make a difference, but Stone argues for the opposite.
“The power and influence that leaders and other public figures have derives from the attention we consent to give them. Likewise crassness, sensationalism, and trash on the web comes to us at least in part because that’s what most of us are, on some level at least, interested in, and our interests make the Internet what it is. Our tweeting, sharing, and, yes, even our clicking, are tiny but profoundly significant acts of culture-making.”
In her article 8 Ways to Use Facebook for Good, Crosswalk author Jennifer Heeren posits that one key to success for internet users is don’t be lazy.
“It is easy to get caught up in Facebook and stay on longer than you meant to originally. Try to set some kind of time limit so that you don’t waste the precious hours in your day. You usually can see the important things pretty quickly after logging on. Make sure to save time to get your non-computer tasks done as well.”
Click-bait headlined and Facebook debates can seem important in the moment, but are they really? Is your influence and power best wielded when you’re spending precious clicks on sensational articles or bloggers you love to hate? It’s counterintuitive. But Crosswalk author Whitney Hopler says that’s just what might be needed to Develop Character Traits of an Effective Leader.
“Choose to lead as Jesus leads you, even when it’s counterintuitive or countercultural. Expect that what Jesus leads you to do won’t always make sense to you or fit in well with cultural expectations. Pray for the faith and courage you need to follow Jesus’ guidance no matter what.”
One example of this that Rachel Stone ponders in her article, is that of controversial leader Mark Driscoll.
“Don’t respond at all…to the latest foolish antics of Mark Driscoll. Starve them of pageviews, withhold clicks and Facebook likes and shares, and they just might stop.”
On the flip-side of course, there’s the possibility that giving concentrated attention and focus to the defunct leadership at Mars Hill contributed to Driscoll stepping down and greater pressure for accountability at Mars Hill – something many in the Church find necessary and long overdue. Either way, Stone’s message remains the same: your words, your clicks, your pageviews, are powerful. And as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
So what can you do to harness that power? One tool at your disposal is DoNotLink.com, a website that allows you to view a website’s content without contributing to its traffic.
Another way to exercise your responsibility, Stone concludes, is to indulge in worthwhile content over slander and sensationalism.
“How we click is a matter of Christian digital citizenship. Click, therefore, on the things that are good.”
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: October 1, 2014