When Not to Speak

socialI would say the biggest decision that must be made on a daily basis in our world of fast-paced, “instant” and constantly-updated media would be when not to speak.

Regardless of which social media platform it may be, it seems we instantly want to hear what all the important people in our life and world have to say on any breaking news story.

The Boston bombing: what did Julia Gillard have to say about that on Twitter?

The Bangladeshi building collapse: Did Rick Warren have any words of wisdom to calm our anxiety over this devastating event?

The Newtown massacre: who wasn’t on the edge of their seat waiting for the U.S. President’s statement?

The last stupid thing Pat Robertson said on worldwide TV: I can’t wait to see what John Piper thinks (actually, I can).

Stephen Mattson shares this insight on RedLetterChristians blog:

Our fast-paced culture of celebrity, noise and entertainment has trumped our ability to patiently meditate, pray and reflect. We ignore meaningful content if it’s boring. Time is money and we value being engaged in the here and now. Our country is addicted to technology, and we use our smart phones, tablets and laptops to constantly interact—but we fail to take the time to process our actions.

We communicate in real time as news constantly breaks around us, and we’ve been trained to Tweet, Post, Text, Call and Blog at the speed of light. Controversy is a welcome diversion that distracts us from issues (or people) that really matter.

The most popular theologians and pastors now have their own web platforms, and we expect them to engage in every newsworthy event—no matter how significant (or insignificant) it may be. A Christian author may spend years of exhaustive work and research in order to write a book, but we’ll manage to ruthlessly and publicly tear it apart within minutes of publication.

Mistakes are made, statements are shouted, relationships are ended, and it’s often too late to retrace our steps and retract our sins. We sacrifice contentment, care and thoughtfulness in order to quench our insatiable desire for social interaction and cheap entertainment.

It seems we have lost the plot. Do we really need to know the thoughts of every world leader, politician, preacher or celebrity on Jason Collins’ coming out? Do we care what Justin Bieber thinks about commercial whaling, or what stance Lady Gaga has taken on eating meat?

Our celebrity culture has cheapened our use of words and language. We are no longer satisfied with a quiet and calming assurance that all will be well. We want details, opinions, costings, research reports, and media bites that we can re-tweet, like, share or blog.

Do we really think everyone needs to know our opinion of every breaking news story or event in our world? Perhaps we are a little guilty of being on the other side as well–of thinking that we must offer commentary on what is taking place next door, in our city, our state, or our world. Are we jumping too quickly on this bandwagon, capitalising on the media frenzy, and hoping we can elevate our “likes” or our blog readership stats.

What sacrifices we make for instant gratification and “cheap entertainment.”

Perhaps we need to back away, intentionally refuse to comment, not give in to the compulsion to hit the “Like” button, make a conscious decision not to share that opinion, quote, picture, video clip or news article. Maybe we need to “unfriend” or “unfollow” those pages, blogs and news feeds that encourage this degradation of our souls.

Maybe we need to sit back, take a long, deep breath, and make a choice that neither we nor our readers need to know

Everything

Now.

In all seriousness, we need to look more critically at the culture we are buying into when we contribute to this sensationalism. We ought to be developing our own ability to critically analyse and evaluate what is happening around us and then to act on this–not in a tabloid-driven, gossip-mongering way, but in a deeply grounded, compassionate, and Christ-like response.

Only in doing so can we expect to have any effectiveness in being lights in our world.

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