Open any social media platform, and you get an eyeful of ugly. Hate speech, fake news, social media trolling, political arguments, bullying, rudeness, and incivility—at times, it feels like the ‘Age of Innocence,’ an internet era of finding long-lost friends and sharing baby pictures, is long gone.
Is it your imagination? Not entirely. Between last week’s brouhaha involving President Donald Trump’s tweets and rally and France’s National Assembly taking Facebook to task, the issue of internet civility is raising concerns.
A Barna Group study released on July 16 reveals that 70% of U.S. adults believe hate speech and hate crimes have increased in the past five years. 22% say they have stayed the same, and just 3% believe it has declined. Barna’s researchers defined hate speech/crime as “speech or crimes that are motivated by racial, sexual or other prejudice.”
When asked about causes behind the perceived increase, two of the top four responses related to the internet and social media.
The breakdown is as follows:
- 65%-“Politicians are encouraging or feeding it”
- 62%-“Social media and the internet have amplified and encouraged it”
- 61%-“America is more divided as a country”
- 57%-“The internet has provided a forum for hate groups to multiply and grow”
Many parents, when presented with this information, struggle with how to protect their children while at the same time helping them learn to defend themselves. Keys For Kids’ executive director Greg Yoder says this is a timely discussion for families. First, he observes that people THINK hate speech is on the increase because there are more accusations of racism, homophobia, and bigotry. Many times it is merely a different political view.
However, he adds, “One thing that I think is increasing is hate speech against Christians. I think here the United States especially, we’re seeing more and more people who view our Judeo Christian ethic as being intolerant. I think, in their minds, I think that’s hateful.” That perspective doesn’t improve when Christians go on the defensive in a conversation and wind up sounding militant as a result. “They’re wanting to stand their ground. They’re saying Truth, but they’re not necessarily doing it in love, as Christ would have done.”
When asked how followers of Christ can be part of the solution, he responded, “What does Jesus say? ‘Love your enemies.’ We need to talk to our Christian kids about how to defend our beliefs and becoming more of apologists and asking questions, rather than flinging Christian insults at people or preaching at them or quoting a Bible verse out of context or something.”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, R.B. Klama