Social media can be a very strange place. Originally using the pound symbol (#) as a hashtag lived solely on Twitter, and was used to find particular topics being posted about. Basically a sort of topic index, if you will. However, once they started being used all over the place, they became more than simply that. They became virtual rallying cries, where people could express solidarity for a particular position.
Unfortunately, more often than not, they have become something for which you can quickly participate in something that is trending, and then completely forget about it. You end up like this guy:
Usually, I would go on to talk about slacktivism and critique it, but I would like to suggest a different reason for why so many people do this. I think it comes from the consequences of a philosophy that is now baked into our (American) culture. We are no longer unified people. Whether our worldview involves postmodernism, or perhaps some form of materialism, we have a split view of reality and ourselves. Most commonly, you might hear this described as the fact/value split. It looks something like this:
The things that we can know from science and math are the “cold, hard, facts” and they have to be true, regardless of what you believe about them. Other things, things like emotions, beliefs, religion, philosophy, etc. aren’t things that can be tested and proven by science, and so ultimately they are illusions. However, they are so essential to living our lives, that they are deemed useful fictions, and so they are kept as “subjective” truth. Thus we have a split. I explain in the link above how this effects our views of various issues, as well as how we view ourselves. However, something I didn’t mention was that this fragmentation of ourselves causes a profound sense of loss. As a result, people feel an intense need for integration. People realize the value of being part of things that are larger than they are, especially when they are not complete wholes. Why else would things like the Atheist Church exist, if not for that recognition?
So, what does this have to do with hashtags? They allow us to quickly, and easily involve ourselves in something bigger than ourselves. It requires nothing of us. We don’t really need to do research on the issue, we don’t even have to leave our houses like a protest might. We become consumers of digital value-boosters. Insidiously, this is perfectly capitalized by our consumer culture. They already have us locked in the cycle in of purchasing the newest and best thing when it comes out in a year or two. The reason why I say this is insidious, is because digital value-boosters have a necessarily short fulfillment time. Like a drug addict, the high (fulfillment feeling) lasts only a short time, and there must be something get the next hit. We already have non-stop news, and super sensationalized headlines of everything, trying to vie for the short attention span of the consumers. Therefore, we are invited to join in the hysterics. “Quick! This should outrage you! Join the crusade! (that will only last a day)”. Whereas before, people had to work out entire belief systems to try and find fulfillment, now we can just taking hits and hope that we can equal out in quantity instead of quality.
Ultimately, this will fail us. Jeremiah told us this a very long time ago when he wrote:
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jer. 2:12-13
These cisterns, whether they be digital value-boosters, or entire worldviews are broken. They can hold no water, and will ultimately leave us empty. So what’s the cure? Do we make bite-sized value-boosters with Christian words in them? No. That would be, at best, trying to fix the problem by merely treating the symptoms. True spirituality goes back further. Christianity offers a whole system. There is no divide. You do not have to be fragmented. You have value because you were made in the image of God, but you need to be reconciled to Him. The only way to do this is through Jesus. Repent, and believe the gospel.