Friday, May 07, 2021

Deceptive Nostalgia

Nostalgia is often misleading. Our reasons for valuing something in the past were trivial or sinful. One of the questions Christians should ask themselves is how Christian their nostalgia is. And how much has it matured over time? If your most valued memories are trivial ones, that's a problem. If the memories that move your emotions the most and the ones you want to talk to other people about the most are sinful or are focused on less significant aspects of life, that should change.

There's nothing wrong with being nostalgic about holidays spent with relatives, a trivial song, or whatever. But are those things accompanied by nostalgia about your relationship with God, time spent doing more significant things in life, music of a more Christian and mature nature, etc.?

When I hear people talk about their most valued memories, their best experiences in life, and so forth, I'm often astonished at how immature they are. Even Christians often express sentiments of such an immature, and sometimes even anti-Christian, nature. What's going on in your life if what you most value has so little to do with God and has matured so little over time?

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Is it a moral imperative to get off of Social Media yet?

For the past five months, I've stayed off Facebook completely and I am happy to report that the world did not end. I did not go crazy or suffer at all for this. In fact, I think I am probably more sane than before.

Even setting aside the political aspects that are so simple to dive into when it comes to Facebook and Twitter in particular, Social Media is really better described as Antisocial Media because it makes it easier for people to engage in their depravity. To that end, it serves as a great illustration that Calvinism has something going for it, insomuch as basically good people left to their own devices would end up shaping a social media platform that is basically good too. But what you actually find when people are left to their own devices is that they group together to bully those they disagree with, create cancel mobs to attack individuals who “step out of line”, will willfully pass on things they know are lies if it serves their own goals, and the more anonymous they are, the more corrupted they become.

The greatest irony of living in a culture where the average person has the most access to every single bit of information that they ever had in history, is that the average person will ignore all of it. It used to take a research team months of combing through dusty books in the reference section of libraries to find out information about what, say, a 19th century historical figure once said. Today, we can find that information in a thirty second long internet search, and that's “too much work”. So rather than check to see if Ronald Reagan really said, “Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary”, we pass it on in our timeline because the meme looked cool. (For the record, the quote, which I actually did see on a picture of Ronald Reagan on Facebook, does indeed have an attribution, but it wasn't said by Reagan. The attribution is: Marx, Karl & Engels, Friedrich. “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.” London, England. March 1850.)

But while I can make my argument about the objectively evil nature of Social Media without touching on the political aspects of Social Media, the reality is that the political aspects cannot be ignored either. And it's those political aspects which drive the question I asked in the title. Silicon Valley very clearly has an iron grip on Social Media platforms, and Silicon Valley very definitely has a specific political bent. They are also not shy about using their power to enact that political change. The problem is the political change they implement is almost universally contrary to Biblical principles. And lest there be confusion, I don't mean in the sense of setting up a theocracy. I'm talking about the basic, bare-bones aspect of civic governing which the Bible condemns as being evil even in countries which were never in a covenantal relationship with Him are being promoted by the policies being pushed forward by Silicon Valley.

Naturally, one can still use those platforms to push for the Gospel. In that regard, one could make the claim that Social Media is like the printing press. It makes it possible to spread either good or evil messages, but the person who writes the message is the one responsible for whether or not it is used for good or evil.

Except that there are certain truthful statements that you can write on Facebook—statements which are merely affirmations of the Gospel—which will get your account banned. In that way, it's not like the printing press, for the printing press doesn't have editorial control over what people use it for. Mark Zuckerberg does have that control over what you say on Facebook. Jack Dorsey does have that control over what you say on Twitter. Susan Wojcicki does have that control over what you say on YouTube.

Also, we must be cognizant of the fact that these “free” platforms constitute the richest companies in the world right now, and you must ask yourself how is it possible for a company that does not charge users to access it to not only make money, but THAT MUCH of it? It's scarcely hidden that everything you do or say on those platforms is feeding social algorithms designed to modify your behavior, primarily into purchasing more things. That is, the platform is not the product—it is the bait. You are the product being sold to the advertisers.

But it's not just advertisers who are willing to buy your attention. If Microsoft, Toyota, or Dasani can purchase manipulation efforts to get you to buy their product, what makes you think a foreign government couldn't pretend to be a corporation seeking advertising when they are really pushing subversion? And what's to stop Silicon Valley from doing it themselves when they want more power under our own governmental structure?

Manipulation occurs on that level as well. Specific viewpoints are promoted while others are suppressed. This isn't an accident. This is the whole point of the Social Media ecosystem. This is designed to make you feel isolated and alone simply for holding to positions that they do not want you to hold, and it's designed to amplify positions they want you to hold far beyond their actual power. Look no further than the astonishing power that LGBT advocates have when the May 2018 Gallup poll showed that only 4.5% of Americans identify as LGBT. Now, if you “misgender” someone, you can actually lose your job, and the fact that everyone knows this despite the fact that those who live outside of cities (that is, the majority* of people in the US), rarely have even met a transgendered person.

This manipulation does have an effect, as evidenced by the way that people's views on social issues such as homosexual marriage have so rapidly shifted in recent years. True, one could argue the LGBT movement has always had a disproportionate amount of political power, but it is undeniable that things have changed much faster since the inception of Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005, bought by Google in 2006), and Twitter (2006).  It is not primarily through the influence of Hollywood, which has been blamed in the past. The numbers for the entertainment industry are in free fall, and they've burned off most of the cache of support they used to have. But regardless, pressure from Hollywood remained the same from the 90s through the early 2000s.  Yet Obama ran in 2008 on a platform opposed to gay marriage. By 2012, those who agreed with Obama's position a mere four years previously, were getting banned on the social media platforms. And by 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was now affirmed.

Today, social ideas, especially those relating to the so-called “Woke” movement, are still gaining traction at a rapid pace even through historically conservative Christian institutions. This is almost certainly traceable to the fact that those who are presenting woke content on social media are being promoted on the platform, while the voices of those who object to it are being banned. The disproportionate banning of voices from the right—voices who are nowhere near as extreme as the voices on the left which are being promoted—certainly is shifting the Overton Window ever more quickly to the left.

So, is it a moral imperative to avoid social media? I'll let you come to your own decision. But if you want to use it, for your own mental health, remember that the audiences there are not real. That is, they are not representative of how people really think. They are the cultivated result of social manipulation, and they are specifically designed to influence you on your own feed. The fact that you see some of what your friends have written on Facebook, for example, may make you think that you're getting a genuine sample of what your friends really think. You are not. Facebook commonly does not share every post that your friends have written, and often when they do display it to you it's hours or days later—anyone who uses the platform has run into the experience where they see a post from someone five days after they wrote it, while the entire time they saw the same four posts at the top of their feed. This is intentional, not accidental. Facebook is using their algorithms to decide when to parcel out data they have problems with so they can claim neutrality by delivering it while still manipulating you so you don't respond quickly or see it when the post is most relevant. And only a fool would think they are smart enough to avoid being manipulated when that manipulation is the basis by which Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company.

The only way to actually avoid the manipulation is to avoid social media altogether.

* And if you're wondering why I say that the majority of the US doesn't live in cities, according to, 39% of the US population lives in cities with more than 50,000 people (which comprise only 4% of all “incorporated places” in the US). Contrast that with the 37% of Americans who don't live in “an incorporated place” at all. The rest live in small towns, of which 76% have fewer than 5,000 people, and 42% of those had fewer than 500 people.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Reports Of Disembodied Hands

In my post yesterday, I quoted some comments by Stephen Braude about how reports of paranormal events are sometimes "similar in so many peculiar details" (The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26). An example I've noticed that goes across multiple types of paranormal phenomena is the involvement of disembodied hands. The appearance of disembodied hands is a recurring theme in Braude's discussions of various mediums in his book cited above (43, 142, 146, etc.). As I've discussed elsewhere, disembodied hands were sometimes reported in the Enfield Poltergeist. The post just linked refers to how Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell discuss the appearance of disembodied hands in their book on poltergeists and hauntings.

It wouldn't be too hard for people to occasionally lie or be honestly mistaken about seeing a disembodied hand, but the frequency with which it's reported and the highly credible nature of some of those reports are significant. It seems more likely that something paranormal is going on than that all of the witnesses have been mistaken in the same unusual way.

Monday, May 03, 2021

How The Nature Of A Miracle Can Be Evidential

"Even if witnesses were biased or predisposed to experience paranormal phenomena, that would not explain why the biased misperceptions or reports are similar in so many peculiar details. One would need an elaborate psychological theory (to say the least) to explain why people of dissimilar backgrounds and cultures, with apparently no common needs to experience bizarre phenomena of any sort, independently report (for example) 'raining' stones inside a house or the intense heat of apports." (Stephen Braude, The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26)