For a digital nomad like myself there is a special lane on the social media learning curve where I have found myself, along with others I am sure, that affords me the view of millions who are easily cruising at a much faster pace. I can, however, wrap my mind around a term or two that I sense is more important than we can imagine. Such is the word “trending!” The term reaches far beyond the definition we’ve come to know in my age demographic… the word trend itself: change or develop in a general direction. The word “trending” in the social media realm means something a bit different. It means the trending (of a topic) referring to the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time. This matters because it has become part of the mechanism that answers the question “how do we know what we know?” Let me ask how many hours a day do you spend on Facebook? How about texting friends? Reading magazines? If you’re a millennial, it may be more time than you think. New research by social-influence marketing platform Crowd tap indicates that individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. Those hours represent a total across multiple media sources, some of which are consumed simultaneously. For example, a twenty-something may report spending two hours a day on Facebook, an hour a day answering texts and three hours a day watching television, which would count as six hours total, but may only be three “real” hours of her day if she does some of those things at the same time. “Millennials are always on,” says Anna Kassoway, Crowdtap’s chief marketing officer. “Some of it is passive consumption. A lot is media hours that are overlapping.” Understanding that this is where we are one may ask, what’s the big deal Tim? Well here is where my heart begins to be greatly troubled! HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WE KNOW?
Nicholas Carr in his 2011 book “The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains” suggests that regularly engaging in quick bursts of texting and tweeting trains our brains to make snap judgments, and, worse, it generally renders us cognitively and morally shallow. One recent study found that participants who frequently texted or incessantly checked their social-media accounts were more concerned about superficial stuff, such as their looks and having fun, than more meaningful things, such as living honestly and being a good person who helps others. It was a University of Winnipeg study in 2013 that revealed what we already suspected but were too busy tweeting to deeply ponder: going gaga on texting and social media makes Jack a self-centered boy. Does this affect the world in which we live? You bet!
Research from the Barna groups suggests that today in America only 9% of evangelicals have a true biblical worldview! That in itself is not only astounding but terrifying! “What’s Trending” is not the way we used to gather knowledge! What I fear is missing is the wonderful foundation that our past could provide our future! Daniel Webster said “History is nothing more than God’s providence in human affairs” and… it was Charles Kauffman, early writer of our early history text-books before the 1900’s who reminds us, “Notice that while the oppressors have carried out their plans in history, there were other forces silently at work, which in time undermined their plans as if a divine hand were directing the counter plan; whoever parouses the story of liberty without recognizing this feature will fail to fully understand the meaning of history.” In other words if you don’t understand what God has been up to you won’t get the truth of history!
OK, that’s enough negative trending for now. How about some good news… David
Kinnaman the President of the Barna Group shares, “The explosive growth of digital technology and mobile devices presents a unique opportunity for Bible engagement among the generation quickest to adopt new technology,” He continues, “Though a majority of teens still read the Bible in traditional hardcopy form, digital Bible formats are becoming increasingly popular. As youth pastors and leaders across the country continue to invest in the spiritual formation of teens through encouraging Bible reading and engagement, embracing these new technologies and encouraging their use will be central to that goal. “The research also tells us that teens care deeply about the relevance of the Bible to the world in which they inhabit,” notes Kinnaman. “In a tumultuous political season, many teens believe the Bible can provide moral guidance.” It’s a different day for sure with communication and technology vastly different than what it used to be. The good news is that the message of Christ is still the same and readily available to all. If there’s any trending to be done in our lives, may it be toward Jesus!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.