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Until 2015, Google’s unofficial motto was the simple phrase “don’t be evil.” One might imagine that motto would be held to some extent across multiple platforms from Facebook to Twitter to Tik Tok to Apple and on and on. 

A recent documentary The Social Dilemma and a recent book iGen by Jean M. Twenge (subtitled: “Why today’s super connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy—and completely unprepared for adulthood), tell the tale of the power of social media and other platforms to shape and mold youth and, indeed, all of us. 

Twenge’s focus is particularly on the first generation that lives fully in our digital world. She points out the strain of this life where “likes” mean everything and where cyber bullying can destroy. Beyond this the interaction that many have via social media has made regular connecting and conversations more difficult. The spaces and places where those skills were developed are being taken over by social media interactions. 

Twenge takes us into the world of depression and suicide that have grown exponentially in the last years. The increase in both are connected to the beginning of this digital age and being immersed in it. Reading and understanding this new world is essential for parents, pastors, and youth leaders. 

The Social Dilemma while speaking of the impact that social media has on middle school and high school people goes beyond that and points out how it impacts all of us — even if we never see a Tik Tok or scroll through Facebook. The Social Dilemma points out that what drives algorithms is the desire to capture our attention and build advertising revenue. This drive pushes articles, ideas and so on that are on the extreme edges that draw us in deeper (regular stuff and life is boring, but conspiracy theories are exciting). The goal is to keep our eyes on the screen as long as possible and keep the advertising dollars rolling in.

The Social Dilemma relies on industry insiders to explain how all of this works and how we are often manipulated. During the documentary’s credits these same insiders give ideas on how to deal with the broken parts of social media. Perhaps the most powerful statement is these industry insiders say they don’t allow their kids to be a part of social media and believe that no one under 16 should be able to get an account. 

So is Facebook evil? How about Tik Tok? Take time and learn from these two resources and decide on your own.

Visit us at Vibrant Congregations for more movie and book suggestions to help you take fresh steps in ministry and mission. You can also take Vibrant’s 90 Second “Next Step Survey” to begin a journey to your congregations God-given, hope-filled future. 

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