Addicted to Social Media? There is Hope!

By: Jonathan Harris

If it's not obvious to you already, the advent of social media has fundamentally changed Western culture. If this does not put it in perspective, I don't know what will- There are adults today who do not remember a time when half the population was not looking down at their phones in public settings. It's just normal at this point to carry on a conversation with a family member or friend even though half of their attention is being given to a five by two inch screen. And if some of us are to be honest, sometimes we are the ones treating our phones as more worthy of attention than the images of God right in front of us!

Studies and articles have been coming out for years decrying the drug-like effects social media can have on the minds of humans. One recent article suggests:
There might be several reasons for this addiction but one the most prominent reason is increasing distance between the family members and lack of belongingness in the youth.
Though this may not be the only reason for the current epidemic it is likely a strong contributor. Scrolling for meaning and finding none is the situation our culture is in. Perhaps the, "Let's protest and actually do something!" crowd is recoiling in frustration against the meaningless feelings that come with trying to extract human value from a digital device.

Now in all fairness, social media is not all bad. I use it, and I'm thankful for it. It connects me (though superficially sometimes) to others and exposes me to useful information. But...then there's the other side. It sucks the time right out of my life! Or I should say, it did. . . until I realized something.

There are still settings in which I can overhear an older person complain about the "kids and their phones!" My grandpa will sometimes say with a sigh, when referring to such violators of the old conversational norms, "They like looking at screens." These complaints are diminishing however as grandparents are becoming just as hooked as their grandchildren. Again, this is not all bad. Parents and grandparent can see highlights from their children and grand-children's lives from half way around the world in instant time! What a marvel of the modern age! But there are some things about this that potentially are not good. How often can connectedness with someone we ought to be close with become restricted to cat videos and what we ate for supper?

My experience with social media changed somewhat when I traveled to Turkey last year. I had already recoiled against what I thought was a superficial use of Facebook and had relegated my page to the purpose of posting political thoughts aimed at convincing others and cataloging pictures I had taken from year to year. Of course, the political posts, in addition to convincing some, lost me Facebook friends who disagreed or who wanted to use their social media as an escape from the constant barrage of politics they already felt living in the world. The pictures earned me a substantial amount of "likes," and this did seem rewarding. I got into a habit of checking as often as possible to see how many "likes" I had, or responses to arguments I was engaged in. It zapped my day away without me realizing it. But I was no different than my peers who were also hooked to their phones, or was I?

Into an Istanbul coffee shop I walked. Ok, it was Starbucks. But in Istanbul, the atmosphere was different than what I had remembered in the States. We were told by the contacts we had in the region that Facebook was very popular in Istanbul. This was evidenced to me by the fact that I was getting friend requests from random strangers simply for checking in at various tourist destinations. The difference though was this: Turks used social media differently. As I looked around the coffee shop (and every subsequent restaurant and coffee shop), I noticed that everyone my age (a millennial) was well dressed, had good posture, and was engaged in face to face dialogue. Everyone had phones, but I did not see anyone using them when talking with someone else. Young people who appeared to be on dates did not engage in PDA of any kind. Rather they listened to one another with eyes locked on each other's faces.

What was going on here? Was I transported to the 1960s? No, that wasn't possible because occasionally someone would whip a phone out, but not while engaged in conversation, and not to the extent I had noticed in the States. An important aspect of Turkish culture may explain the differences between their world and ours when it comes to the use of technology. The advertisements in Turkey featured nuclear families. A mother, father, and more than one child would smile while holding up a product of some kind. In the 1990s such advertisements were common in the States, but slowly, over time advertisements began to feature peer groups and individuals. The reasons for this are not important for this discussion. What is important is this: The Turks had not yet become the individualistic (and I will venture to add narcissistic) culture so prominently displayed in the West. Sitting on a commuter train I noticed men still giving their seats up for the elderly and even a pregnant women. There was a sense of community that often seems missing in urban and suburban Western regions.

Then it dawned on me. The Turks had the same access to technology that those in the U.S. had, and yet they managed it differently. Was it because they were not quite as into themselves? Now don't get me wrong, there are a plethora of social problems in Turkey, many of which modern Western societies are miles ahead in, but there seemed to be an exception in this one area.

When a child grows in the States, oftentimes they are raised by the TV. Whenever the parent, who generally does not discipline the child, wants a break, screens are their ally. Screens aren't always bad, but they are overused. The child then in turn learns to glean entertainment and information from technology. The distraction is reinforced as a good thing by the parent, because the parent is rewarded with an opportunity to rest themselves from the crankiness of a disrespectful child. As the child grows older this pattern does not stop. The child is hooked on technology, oftentimes finding it difficult to hold conversations or think deeply. Their brains are occupied by a non-stop barrage of information and they become addicted to it. On social media, a child can block the disagreeable and find groups of friends and strangers who who accept the online version of themselves they have created. Social media accepts them when their parents do not. It offers "likes" when they're made fun of at school by classmates. It becomes the affirmation center. It gives instant gratification without working hard for it. It trains in superficial people pleasing, and discourages physical and mental exertion. In short, social media becomes a person's friend, something the Turks have not accepted as a possibility.

The problem is, social media is not a friend. It is a tool, and not one that should be the primary source of affirmation and acceptance. If social media becomes a channel for the worship of the god who is ourselves, it will leave us dry, but at the same time wanting more. All idols require their sacrifices.

I knew that my problem with social media was nearly as bad as some, but I knew that It wasn't right. I was falling into the direction of the culture around me to some extent. The reason I knew this is because when I went to bed my phone would be the last thing I'd look at, and when I woke up it was the first. I didn't usually go more than an hour without looking at it. However, I noticed when I was in areas without service I was more relaxed, likable, spiritual, happy, etc. The phone was draining me of my humanity. I knew I needed to make a change.

Here's what I did.

1) No phones in bed. I communicated this to my wife as well, and we've been a lot better in this area than we used to be.
2) No more than an hour on social media per a day. I literally time it using ATracker
3) No spending more time on social media than I do praying and reading my Bible.

Since I suspect that living in real familiar and social community is the antidote to the endorphin driven quest for "likes," I have made a concerted effort to put down my phone when my wife is talking to me. I don't log in to Facebook when we are on a date. I call my family members on the phone instead of merely posting things on their walls.

So far the results in my own life have been wonderful. I'm less stressed, more productive, and closer to the Lord than I was before. Who would have thought a group of young Turks at a Starbucks would help me see what I was increasingly missing out on- real life!


Trump, Hitler, and the Politics of Hysteria

by Frank Russo

The far Left can't go five minutes without a comparison between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler. But like President Trump or not you, there’s no way to rationally draw an ideological line between him and Hitler for many reasons. Trump’s rise to the presidency was completely different than Hitlers in a very significant way. Their policy differences also leave little doubt that these two are fundamentally different on a root level. Let me explain.

Trump was elected democratically. Hitler was not. In fact records show that the NSDAP only received about 35% of the vote. The difference lies in how democracy was set up in Weimar Republic Germany. Most importantly it was not a two party system as ours is. In fact it had a multitude of parties with the communists, social democrats, Catholic Center party and numerous other parties. In fact Hitler never “ran” for office. He tried to seize power violently in 1923 for which he was arrested. In 1933 a coalition government was formed by the majority conservative aligned parties in which Hitler, to placate his vote of 35%,(constituting the largest power block belonging to a single party in Weimar), was put in as Chancellor. This was in the hopes of controlling him which failed following the burning of the Reichstag and the death of President Paul Von Hindenburg in 1933. Hitler quickly granted himself and his party more and more executive power in response to what was a genuine crisis facing Germany in the form of the Moscow backed German communists. Hitler's brutal reign of oppression and suppression would follow immediately after. 

Why is this important? Because we need to know what we're talking about when comparing and contrasting. Like Trump of not being a populist or a nationalist doesn't make one “literally Hitler” unless George Washington, Charles De Gaulle and Winston Churchill were also Nazis. Donald Trump began his campaign, (something Hitler did not ever do), and won himself by a electoral vote,(again something Hitler did not do as he was appointed),. He has made no rapid moves to ascribe to the executive branch undue amounts of power nor has he exercised his power in such a way as to lack precedent. Rhetoric alone does not a dictator make and it is important to note that Hitler did not allow criticism of him. There was no Bill Maher show to incessantly mock him. There was no Twitter or YouTube and there certainly was not a women's March in Berlin. 

Another thing to note is the lack of racial policy. By 1937 Hitler and his party had passed the Nuremberg laws, regulating activity and rights open to Jews and other undesirables and activities not open to them. In fact Trump's son and law and daughter and grandchild are Jewish. It has been a year and a few months since Donald Trump has taken office. Yet there has been no work towards a racial policy. Many claim his speeches pertaining to illegal immigrants are really dog whistles about Mexicans. This comment however, is riddled with racist assumptions. The first is that all Hispanic people you see are Mexican, the second is that all illegal aliens are mexican and the third is that illegal immigrants are a separate race. In order to be “racist” one would need to hold that one race is superior to another. Illegal is an immigration status not a race and if you're assuming without proper evidence that it is a dog whistle you are acting by unbiblical principles. Beware the Christian who froths at the mouth about Trump’s racism. 

Trump ran on an almost isolationist campaign promising to pull out of NATO if other nations didn't pay up and other comments made about our involvement in the middle East. He has since reneged on these promises but if we're comparing him to Hitler one must know what Hitler promised and did. From the onset Hitler promised military expansion and lebensraum in the east, (Russia and the Baltic states),. He also promised to regain/gain lost German lands and populations in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria and Eastern France. Trump has not talked about expansion of territory. He has spoken about rebuilding the military but so did Bush, Reagan, Nixon and Kennedy. Nobody called them Hitler, wait yes they did. 

What needs to be understood is the left's constant reliance on the “Hitler” card. I've seen it done in conservative circles as well but nowhere near as much as leftists do and the thing about it is that that creates more Hitlers than at any time since 1945. We are fueling this. In my case leftist propaganda certainly fueled my pre-Christian beliefs. If one pulls up on Google statistics about right wing hate groups we will quickly find a BBC study saying that hate groups are on the rise in the u.s. The main source of their belief? Southern Poverty Law Center. The same people that cite everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders as holding Nazi sympathies. This includes Focus on the Family and Milo Yiannopoulos, the Gay, Jewish, British conservative commentator who makes constant jokes about his preference for interracial relationships. This is not to justify his actions but it is to highlight how ridiculous the SPLC’s system of classification is. Ben Shapiro is also on their list. Both men have had college students riot to prevent them from speaking. The doublethink it requires to call the opposition Nazis while rioting and burning your own campus to prevent two Jewish men from speaking is astounding. 

The SPLC says that there are over 1,000 hate groups operating within the u.s with over 10,000 members. This is against an overall population of 324 million people in the u.s. which means about .03% of the u.s population is a member of a white supremacist group. This in comparison to Islamic extremism in the world. There are over 1.9 billion Muslims in the world in which it is estimated that 7% is engaged in extremist violence. That's 75 million people engaged in holy war. That is accounting for only those who engage in violence. The unknown number of sympathizers must be large indeed. In the united states there 9.9 million Muslims, of which is 3.75% of the overall u.s population. Let's apply the conservative estimate of 5% to active jihadis for the u.s population. That is 450,000 men and women who have possibly been radicalized. 

However, Muslims are still a minority in the United States. Look at other nations where they are not. France and England notably. In fact of you look at statistics more British Muslims have joined ISIS than have joined the British armed forces. Yet if you look up hate crimes in the U.S Charlottesville is the first to come up. However, that is amongst the slew of other notably false hate crimes such as the woman who claimed three male Trump supporters ripped her Hijab off on a New York subway. Police resources were wasted investigating this crime and it was proven to be false. No charges were brought against the woman. Nothing more was said but numerous people went on believing this crime happened. The news sources that so eagerly reported this crime, CNN, MSNBC and many others were slow to or downright refused to print or report a retraction. In fact these fabricated hate crimes are all too often brushed over as genuine with no consequences. 

Charlottesville is high profile however. And it gets granted a huge amount of scrutiny. Like them or not America grants everyone a right to free speech and these men and women were granted the right to rally before it was unfairly retracted for political motivations. When they went ahead ANTIFA,(a noted terrorist organization that uses violence to accomplish it's ends), disrupted the rally violently causing a reaction. I have seen the first hand videos. The punch a Nazi in the face slogans and the bottle throwing. Blocking highways and attacking people. Yet these are considered to be single incidents to the media. The Charlottesville incident however, that is a condemnation of Trump and his supporters, (who are all neo Nazis to the media),. 

Celebrities are in on it as well. From Ashley Judd screeching that the ghost of Hitler is in the white house to Jim Jeffries screaming profanities at Piers Morgan saying “Hitler didn't kill Jews on the first day” we can see Hollywood flipping. In fact no anti semitism can be traced to Trump himself which is odd for a Nazi. He's painted by an association he has disavowed numerously. A disavowal from president Trump however, is not enough. He must spend his presidency atoning for it. In fact he has to spend his presidency not doing what he campaigned for to make the left happy. But Obama escaped his association from the hateful Jeremiah Wright and Terrorist Bill Ayers without a sigh. The media said that he was a separate individual and couldn't be painted as one. But Trump is guilty solely on his supposed associations. 

When it comes to Trump’s comments about African Americans none can be found. In fact he only cited source of his anti African racism is a comment with foul language about “*blank* nations”. The left’s reaction was scathing. In fact I saw many posts saying “he calls OUR nations that”. Two leftist dogmas are defeated by this assumption. The first is that any nation “belongs” to any group of people. The idea that African nations belong to unique African people is racist and discriminatory. The second is that immigration is good because these people have horrible chances in their own nation and need better lives. If Trump was wrong, and Somalia is really a sparkling Paradise then there is no need for immigration. Leftists in their Hysteria cannot even keep their stories straight and will find any excuse to justify their own preconceived notion of President Trump. They assume his motive and then look for evidence to support their verdict instead of vice versa.

Why is Hitler so polarizing though? Especially to leftists. The spectre of Stalin, who killed 20-30 million people, or Mao who killed 60 million should be more polarizing. Even Che Guevara, whose face can be found on leftist t shirts, is the perfect anti progressive. He was the executioner at La Cabantuana prison and oversaw 2,500 executions ranging from political enemies to homosexuals and kids who listened to rock and roll. Che even said that “the black is indolent and lazy and spends his money frivolously”. Yet Jay Z wears his face on his shirt. What makes the Austrian painter the most horrifying in a century of secular violence?

Utopia is my answer. Hitler's Utopia is different than the one leftists hold. His was racial while theirs is classless. That is why everyone against them is racist and their heroes are unblemished. 

Nazis have grown in number but nowhere near the level of hiding under every bed. The alt right is doomed to failure as they are not homogenous and not a dedicated party. Every evil has its roots in Godlessness and every evil and sin is cured at Calvary. I left that life behind me because Christ's love for me is greater than my hatred of others. To anyone who feels these things. To feel disenfranchised, hated or alone I hope you hear me and most of all I hope you hear Christ. From the Nazi to ANTIFA none of us are clean and our hatred and violence towards each other proves. Your Utopias are built upon sand and will crash with the surf. Only the Lord has the way. God bless all of you.


Why Moderates Can't Save Us From "Extremism"

By: Jonathan Harris

A recent article in the New York Times actually draws attention to a real issue. The author notices that there is a problem in communication between the left and the right. This is for the most part true. However, the author’s solution will never work.

One of the fallacies of our modern time is thinking that extremism is the problem. As long as people weren’t so extreme they could actually have dialogue with one another and make progress. This could not be further from the truth. Someone who is extreme in regard to their love for others does not need to be moderated. Similarly, someone who is extreme in regard to hating others does not need to be moderated. One needs to be championed and the other defeated.

The author seems to think that the solution for our political problems is going to come from the moderates. The moderates though are just as human as the liberals and conservatives. Consider the reason someone may describe themselves as moderate. Perhaps they have not thought through the issues as deeply and therefore are unwilling to take a side. It should go without saying that no solution will come from someone who has not thought through it. Or it may be that they have an alternative view on a particular topic. If this is the case then a third potential for extremism has just developed. Problem not solved. Still a third option could be they may have a chosen side but their tone is softer and more attractive. This probably comes close to the moderate described by the author. So potentially sneaky extremists, or extremists with better manners are going to save us?

There is no way to defeat trolls and smug elitists by condescending to trolls and smug elitists. The solution must come from defeating evil wherever it is found by another form of extremism. An extremism that teaches loving radically, speaking truthfully, and not mincing words when it comes to evil is the only way to combat the alleged extremism the author complains about.

What the author is really complaining about is a left and a right devoid of Christian value. The solution is to go back to Christian standards of belief and etiquette. Those will not come from moderating between two standards devoid of them. They will come from adhering to the once cherished standard of Christianity- something that Is not part of the make up of the ideal moderate because it sounds too conservative. Political discourse got worse when Christianity became less influential. A failure to recognize this is why the author’s solution will not work.

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