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Alan Jacobs—Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University and a writer on culture and technology (among many other things)—recently detailed his plans to scale back his use of technology (unfollowing everyone on Twitter, dropping Tumblr and Instagram, writing by hand, listening to music on CDs rather than iTunes, and using a dumb phone instead of a smart phone).

After receiving some pushback on these changes, he wrote a follow-up post that I strongly resonate with, even if I myself am still too slow to implement all of these ideals. In particular, he suggested eight points that cut against the grain of so much thinking today on social media:

  • I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
  • I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.
  • I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.
  • I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.
  • If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.
  • Private communication can be more valuable than public.
  • Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.
  • Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

He continues:

In short, peer pressure is always terrible, and social media are a megaphone for peer pressure. And when you use that megaphone all the time you tend to forget that it’s possible to speak at a normal volume. . . .

I spent about seven years reading replies to my tweets, and more than a decade reading comments on my blog posts. I have considered the costs and benefits, and I have firmly decided that I’m not going to be held hostage to that stuff any more. The chief reason is not that people are ill-tempered or dim-witted — though Lord knows one of those descriptors is accurate for a distressingly large number of social-media communications — but that so many of them are blown about by every wind of social-media doctrine, their attention swamped by the tsunamis of the moment, their wills captive to the felt need to respond now to what everyone else is responding to now.

You can read the whole thing here.

I don’t think this requires everyone—or anyone!—to make the exact same choice that Jacobs has made (though perhaps more of us should consider it). But when we do post (or tweet, or update, or what have you), the following questions from Kevin DeYoung are worth keeping in mind:

  1. Is this idea, question, or rant only half baked?
  2. Have I considered that anyone anywhere at anytime could see this?
  3. Do I really know what I’m talking about?
  4. What if I run into this person later today?
  5. Will I feel good about this post later?
  6. Have I sought the counsel of others?
  7. Do I have this person’s phone number?
  8. What is my motivation?
  9. Have I tried to love my neighbor as I love myself?
  10. Have I lost all sense of proportion?

You can read Kevin’s explanation of each point here.

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2 thoughts on “The 8-Point Social-Media Apostasy of Alan Jacobs”

  1. steve hays says:

    I largely agree with this on the merits. However, there’s a cottage industry that exploits real or bogus outrages to change public policy. To that extent, it needs to be challenged at the time. The media creates a “narrative” to promote its social agenda. It will build on a false premise. Therefore, it’s often necessary to correct the false premise.

    In addition, many of the manufactured outrages are designed to discredit Christianity. This, in turn, is an opportunity for Christians to educate ignorant critics. Although it’s a tiresome exercise, it can reach the unchurched.

  2. Jane Franks says:

    I’m feeling vindicated! I’m a writer who never went to electronic creative writing, though of course I use the computer and internet like everyone else. I’ve always written with pen and paper, and feel I think more deeply than I would otherwise. I’m encouraged to see I’m not alone! Thank you for the post.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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