How Christian liberal arts can combat the dangers of social media

A little while ago, I shared an article on Facebook titled “Scientists say giant asteroid could hit earth next week, causing mass devastation.” One person, however, fell victim to the article, replying “whoa!” If you clicked on the article, it stated that it was a complete farce, but did offer an almost quite equal frightening statement: that 59 percent of links shared on social media have never been clicked on before. With technology and social media at the palm of our hands in every hour of our day, it is crucial that as students at Calvin, we seek to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly.

One of the benefits of going to Calvin College is the variety of different courses one has to take. This makes the individual a well-rounded citizen, enabling them to think about the broader issues of the times. For instance, an engineer who comes to Calvin will be better at reading reports through taking a literature class. The professors in these core classes makes your mind stretch — that is, digging deeper into the reading is required. Online, though, that does not seem to be the case, as 59 percent of people have taken away what they learned from an article by not reading it. If we are to fulfill God’s calling of being informed citizens, we need to read, think and then respond.

One word that could perfectly encompass the past election cycle is “unpleasant.” People also felt, and make others feel, that way on the internet. In fact, the unpleasant climate got so bad that, per the Pew Center, 39 percent of social media users took steps to block or unfriend people publishing political content. The majority of people that took this step was because the other person wrote something offensive. We are called as Christians to act justly and to love our neighbors. Therefore, if we are to engage in political talk online, let it be with humility and grace so that both sides might come away having gained a new perspective.

At Calvin a significant part of our time is devoted to the core curriculum. Visiting the example before, the engineer might feel discomfort from Plato’s cave. However, the engineer will still receive gains from the experience, such as learning how to think. Social media users could learn from the engineer situation. The Pew foundation conducted a study about political polarization and the media. The study resulted in finding out that conservatives are more likely to read only one news source. On the flip side, liberals have a significant higher chance to unfriend someone because of their political friends. If you are a self-identified conservative, branch out to different news sources. Liberals, move your mouse away from the unfriend button from your conservative friend. It might be unpleasant at first, but you will realize what you think about politics and why you think it that way.

Technology has come a long way in the ten years. Over the last month, social media was mobilized in such an efficient way that 600,000 people got on the streets to protest a new law in Romanian, that critics say help corrupted governmental officers stay in power. While social media and technology can be useful, it can be used for harm and the past election exemplified. Thankfully, an education at Calvin can combat these harms.