The Media Mess

Posted by: in Uncategorized on June 26th

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

God was on to something very important in our lives when He anointed Paul to write these words to the church at Philippi. Not only does it apply to music, it applies to media—and, in fact, to any other of life’s dilemmas and discussions.

Media. Newspapers and magazines. Radio, television, and Internet. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter.  We live in a state of persistent media bombardment. Unless you are both deaf and blind, it is inescapable. Walk down the street of any city or town and a headline will shout to you from the newsstand, or the cover of a magazine will catch your eye as you wait to pay for your snacks at the local convenience store. Walk through Wal-Mart and hear the news from three aisles over. We are on such media hype overload that there is now a commercial that capitalizes on the dilemma of “search overload” and directs you to a kinder, gentler search engine.

Enough already! I am an absolute believer in freedom of speech. I am thankful to the forefathers of our country who put such freedoms of expression in place in our Constitution. However, in order for those freedoms to be experienced at their best, one additional component is needed. “Whatsoever things are true …” It’s the first in Paul’s list. Just because it is in print—on the Internet or on old-fashioned newsprint—doesn’t make it true. You can’t believe everything you hear or everything you read or even see!

There are websites established to refute the rumors and lies. A skip through snopes.com will give you the top twenty-five Internet rumors (no, Bill Gates is not giving away computers, Sony is not giving away cell phones, and “In God We Trust” has not been removed from our United States coins). However, there is no website to protect you from the lies being told on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter and sent to you by personal email.

A 2008 study by professors at Lehigh, Rutgers, and DePaul University was interesting:

“Researchers interested in how different methods of communication correlated with the sender’s honesty set up a little experiment. Forty-eight full-time MBA students were asked to divide $89 dollars between themselves and a fictional second party who did not know the exact dollar amount the students had been given. The other party, the students were told, would be compelled to accept whatever offer was given.

Some students used email and some pen-and-paper to communicate how much they had received (truthfully or not) and their plans to divvy up the loot. The researchers found that “students using e-mail lied about the amount of money to be divided over 92% of the time, while less than 64% lied about the pot size in the pen-and-paper condition.”

Not only did those using email lie more frequently; they also claimed to feel more justified deceiving their correspondent about the size of the pot. A follow-up study indicated that the more familiar an e-mailer was with his correspondent, the less likely it was that he would be deceptive.

Perhaps these results are just a corollary of the old truism that the anonymity of the Internet sometimes means less than lovely aspects of people come out online. But then again, writing a letter to a stranger is pretty anonymous as well. Whatever the explanation, the takeaway is clear: beware the corrupting temptation of email on both yourself and your team.

For some undetermined reason, communication via Internet seems to at least smudge if not completely erase normal boundaries of conduct and conversation. Someone will send an off-color cartoon or joke via email who would never tell the story or share the cartoon in person. False intimacy is created as these barriers are removed and “conversations” wander down trails that would never be embarked upon in person. You “say” things on-line you would never say in person. What would happen if your Internet conversations were put to the test of “Whatsover things are true … honest … just… pure … ”?

Here’s an experiment for you: what would happen if you declared a media fast? Three days or seven or fourteen or forty; the length won’t matter as long as it is long enough that you feel it. Take the time you spend on Facebook and see if you get face-to-face with Him. Instead of Twittering your friends, spend that time talking to your Best Friend. And if by chance you’re a website cruiser, take that time and cruise the Word. And when the end of your fast comes, don’t immediately jump back in … but add those things back into your life only as much as they pass the test:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

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