For me, the prayer ‘lead us not into temptation’ means ‘drag me away from comparisons with others’. In that, I am asking God to overpower the algorithm which shapes my Facebook news feed. It’s there that I stalk ‘could have’s and ‘should have’s with an insatiable thirst. At which Facebook and all its advertisers rub their hands with glee. For with every click on a site that tells me about magical weight-loss pills and potions, what clothes I absolutely must wear in order to be free from shame this summer, and low-fat recipes (“only 5 ingredients! And each only £8.99 each!”- seriously what is agave syrup when it’s at home, and no, dates do not taste like caramel and bananas do not taste like pancakes), there will be more where that came from next time I visit. I.e. 30 seconds later. With cookies following me across the internet (somewhat ironic for someone with a history of disordered eating), I reap what I sow. The harvest reeks of needless self-loathing.
The echo-chamber of social media is dangerous for countless reasons. The effects on our political sphere, civil speech, and social cohesion have been torturously obvious and much discussed (c.f. the last 18 months). But when you have a tendency to be your own worst enemy, and to entrench that self click by masochistic click, that echo chamber can become something of a hellish cavern. And there is no way to click the light in.
My Facebook news feed thrives on urgency: sales are always ending, the world is always on the brink of collapse in as many respects as I have ‘friends’. And I must act NOW. Or rather, I must click. For all that I hear about are issues that I feel powerless to act upon, and so my sense of agency is greatest when I am spoken to as a consumer rather than a citizen. The click-despair-repeat cycle goes on until, who knows, I might just cave and buy that agave syrup if only to feel like I fit in with the foodie bloggers whose ‘slice-of-life’s are sickly sweet. I rarely hear about how I could actually help those close to me, what they need and how they feel. Because rather than using our ‘friendship’ as a covenantal commitment that unites us across time, we look more like sandwich boards than people. We are all Jeremiahs, without the promise of hope.
‘The time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth! The people of the world will see all the good I do for my people, and they will tremble with awe at the peace and prosperity I provide for them.’
As I said in the wake of a recent election: any time you wanna take over Jesus.