Last Fall I was able to teach a few lessons in a discipleship class series our church created called "The Gospel and Social Media." During one of the sessions I taught about truth and social media. It seems that this is more relevant than ever.
The Bible calls the Gospel the "word of truth" (Ephesians 1:13), Jesus calls Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6), the Ten Commandments forbids giving false testimonies. Truth is a central issue of the Bible. The Bible is a source of truth and it implores us to "love the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
So, why is it that so many of us have Facebook and Twitter feeds full of falsehoods?
This recent election has further exposed our lack of love for the truth. Oxford Dictionary recently name "post-truth" as its word of the year. Ten years ago Merriam-Webster Dictionary named "truthiness", a term coined by Stephen Colbert, their word of the year. These words both highlight the trend that more and more what is to be felt right is more important to people than what is right. The Apostle Paul correctly stated that people gather around them those who will tell them "what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:3).
Many things may be up for debate, but as Christians we should be people who highly regard and love truth.
Too often we post things that confirm what we want to believe. There is a rash of hyper-partisan "news" sites willing to give us what our itching ears want to hear. BuzzFeed recently did a piece about this that is worth reading. The Denver Post had to inform people that the Denver Guardian is not a real newspaper and never has been one in Denver. CNN's Jake Tapper did a piece about this today. We must ask ourselves better questions when seeing a news headline than, "does this agree with my opinion?"
Recently an online piece duped left leaning people into reading a remedy for this problem. It is well worth the read.
I will try to give a bit of a remedy to this as well.
1) Don't post what you can't confirm.
If you can debunk it in a matter of moments on Google then it shouldn't be shared. Regardless of how much the author insists that they are the only ones that know this piece of information, most news these days isn't picked up by only one source and one source no one has ever heard of at that. The website snopes.com is a great fact checking source.
2) Check the source.
If you've never heard of the source it needs to be questioned. This doesn't mean that you're familiar with all legit news sources, but it does mean that we should take "news" from fringe sites with a giant grain of salt.
3) A picture with words on it is not a news source.
There a millions of photos with words on them floating around social media. Some have correct facts, many don't. Just because a photo exists doesn't mean the photo or the words that accompany them are true. Just because it is a map or a graph does not mean it is real or un-manipulated.
4) Inform your friends.
If your friend is sharing a fake news story let them know. Most people don't want to spread falsities (some do), so let them know the article they've shared is fake. In this current climate we need to help each other.
Lies are anti-Gospel. "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Christians, it is very difficult for us to share the Truth with someone when we recklessly shared a lie moments earlier. Truth must be a bedrock for every believer. The Good News and fake news are not bedfellows.
So, think before you share. This isn't so much a political problem as it is a Gospel problem. We must be known as people of truth. This will take more effort, it may not get your post shared as much, but it may be the difference between an open and a closed door in your next conversation with someone who desperately needs The Truth.
Be people of truth today.