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There’s a story shared about the famous Roman historian Edward Gibbon who, though he was a Member of Parliament in Britain for a number of years, he never once gave an address or speech. When asked why, he said the examples of the good speeches and bad speeches deterred him from doing so.

As I see social media posts and discussion these days, I do see a number of really good posts. Meanwhile, I see a much greater number of terrible posts, ranging from rancorous political discussions to vicious back-and-forth personal attacks. Like Gibbon, the examples of the good and bad comments and posts have deterred me from saying much.

About 10 years ago, popular author and pastor John Piper wrote a piece called “Why and How I am Tweeting,” which has both informed and haunted me ever since I first read it. Piper said this:

“I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and others. One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.”

Piper continues, “The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.”

I agree with Piper’s diagnoses. In fact, all of the negative consequences he predicted 10 years ago have come true—and even worse consequences than Piper or any of us could have imagined today. Meanwhile, I tried to operate by his prescription to try to redeem social media, but it is getting increasingly difficult to do so.

That is why I know many people who once were enthusiastic participants on social media but now have walked away altogether. I applaud them for taking this bold step, and part of me envies the more peaceful life they must enjoy as a result.

While I don’t (often) tweet or post nowadays, I do give the issues at hand much thought. And while I long for a day in which social media becomes a more civilized and uplifting platform for discussion, I am afraid that I don’t see that happening any time soon. If we ever do turn a corner, though, and social media becomes a more grace-filled place, maybe I can tweet about that.