An article from The Atlantic last week weighed in on the burning issue of social media and the menace it presents to civil society. While writer Ian Bogost spends most of his time trying to unpack ways to improve social media, his opening thoughts caught our attention: maybe we just talk too much.
Bogost points out that social media is brimming with chatterers, eager to find larger audiences for their chatter. He wonders if the appeal of social media might be curbed if our contacts or our audience was limited to just a few. Would we pay more attention to what we posted if we were only allowed to post weekly? Bogost quotes a media scholar in the article who says “the problem with Facebook is Facebook.” However, those who have insight into fallen human nature might beg to differ – the problem with social media is people.
While digital tools present their own challenges, it is interesting that this liberal author acknowledges the value of less noise. Scientists know that absolute silence can drive you insane, but Mad Christians don’t need convincing that a bit of quiet is good for the soul. Bogost points out that before digital media, we spoke less frequently and to less people. It’s a rare thing to find some space that isn’t filled with talk today but Finland is an interesting case study. Finns are famously light on small talk, happy to sit quietly, if there is nothing important to discuss. Social media would be a very different place if people kept some thoughts to themselves.
The book of Ecclesiastes points to the “babbler” who “multiplies his words” with his talk ending in “raving madness”. Proverbs has much to say on the subject of speech. Wise men spare their words. We know there is wisdom in discerning when to speak and when to hold our tongues. Untethering from the white noise machines can be difficult, but maybe some advice from Mr Bogost can help – when it comes to speaking, go for quality over quantity.