Some words undergo a strange evolution. There is a time when the word “share” means choosing between childish selfishness and filial obedience. A decade later, the word “share” might become something your mom wants you to do at the end of the school day. It could also mean a group exercise at a therapy session, a kind of emotional catharsis wherein one person coerces the other to wax sentimental. But now, in the age of social media, “share” has taken on a new meaning. It’s done quietly, often privately, and can be the epitome not of selflessness, but of passive aggression. With the soft click of a poised cursor, we can share, not toys or sentiments, but ideas.
The links we share are often thinly veiled selfies, an intellectual or categorical call for affirmation.The facility of this exercise cannot be overstated. I know what my grandmother, my co-workers, my friends from college, and my best pal from elementary school think of our current president. I have been asked to bear the burden of knowing exactly how to combine cookie dough, brownies, and Oreos into a dessert concoction that would make a month’s worth of workout results disappear in two minutes. I’m aware that my colleague is pro-vaccination and that one of my former students is really into astrophysics. I know what my neighbor is making for dinner. I gained none of this knowledge through traditional conversation. All of it was learned through the Facebook Share.
Why do we share the things we share? Who do we share them for? I’ve been turning these questions over in my head recently, wondering why a person with access to a google of documented opinions for every query would ever scroll down newsfeeds, browsing other people’s bookmarks. Is this behavior born of curiosity? Boredom? An appetite for conflict?
The gospel compels us over and again to let our behaviors act as mirrors, to consider our actions as indicators of our spiritual conditions. Social media sharing is no exception. The links we share are often thinly veiled selfies, an intellectual or categorical call for affirmation. As much as information sharing can be a response to the human search for truth, it is also a marker of our need for certainty, a way to find out where everyone stands on a particular spectrum. Interpersonal distance certainly exists on social media, but that doesn’t stop us from being who we are: people who crave validation, who need to be feel like their views are normalized, who justify their attitudes not just through objective criticism but also by communal confirmation.
It’s almost ironic. We are living in an age with the most distanced, disengaged, disconnected friendships in human history, yet we can’t fully submerge ourselves in isolation. We keep coming back to community because we’re created beings who need human contact. Humanity always bleeds through, even online.
Perhaps one reason God created us with such a need for community is that belief is a twofold practice, something that must be individually exercised but also must be communally sustained. We confess our faith with our individual mouths, echoing the creeds of centuries and countries. We whisper prayers alone, clasp hands together with our brothers and sisters, and find Jesus in our midst, where He’s promised to be. When conviction falters, the great cloud of witnesses surrounds us, and we find that our faith is a shared one indeed. We like to think that we are calculating, scientific seekers of objective truth, but we can’t fully shake that our identity requires certainty to be a shared experience.
The book of Hebrews describes faith as assurance and confidence. While experts have long railed against the impersonal nature of social media interaction, the fact remains that humans are a race created by an Almighty God whose handiwork is able to survive cultural rearrangement. While it’s always important to remain aware that our sin-stained hands may yet wreck the good things that come our way, we must simultaneously have faith that we are still a people bearing the Imago Dei. And that is a truth worth sharing.