The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

£0.00 0 View Basket

What would you like to explore today?

Back

Discover something new this Wednesday

Never miss a thing!

  • Sign up and we’ll send you a monthly Round-Up – our best content direct to your inbox, and occasional personalised emails too.
  • You can change your preferences or unsubscribe at any time. There’s a link in every email we send. By entering your details and pressing submit, you agree to our privacy policy.
  • Hungry for more email options? Take a look on our Get Involved page.
18.01.2018

In Google We Trust? | Connecting with Culture

What do you do when you don’t know something? Simple, Google it.

Google is the place we go to solve debates in the pub, ensure we don’t look incompetent at work, and even discover the meaning of life.

Alongside this, something else has been happening. Google has become the closest thing the West has had to an all-knowing, all-powerful being since it believed in God. Because everything you do is tracked, recorded, and analysed.

Google knows so much. Then there is Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Tinder etc., who know all your entertainment, spending, and romantic preferences.

The mountains of data of human behaviour that tech giants possess has given them unparalleled insights into how individuals actually behave. Moreover, they have used this data to direct and alter our behaviour.

Today, people often engage in politics via a newsfeed algorithm, which is designed to entertain us enough to keep us scrolling, so we can be advertised to. Nuance doesn’t keep us scrolling. Fake news and one-sided rants do.

So that’s what dominates our newsfeeds. Not because tech giants have an agenda to promote it. They have merely learned what human beings actually do. They then profit from giving the people what they want: clickable-fake-news-rants.

Their god-like knowledge is in the data they gather and it allows them to see our unsanitised digital behaviour.

It’s not pretty: we insult people using words we would never say to their face. We only encounter people who think like us, and mock ‘others’ whilst hidden behind screens. We make our lives look great for the dopamine buzz of ‘likes’; masking and feeding our insecurity and anxiety.

Algorithms haven’t made us like this. The digital world has just freed us to express our existing selfishness, insecurity, and hatred by removing many of the social ramifications of expressing our ugliness.

Human nature hasn’t changed.

So, what do we do? Accepting I’m an ugly mess was the first step I made to become a Christian. I didn’t need unparalleled data to know what my faith has always claimed was true. I’m flawed and the root of that is emphatically not technology.

The challenge is to see our own brokenness, seek forgiveness, and join in God’s redeeming work. What does that look like in technology? Probably much like it does for the rest of life: people dying to themselves; loving their enemies; and inspiring faith and hope in others.

Ben Palmer
Between cups of tea, Ben chases footballs, follows Jesus, obsesses over Ted (his dog), and does the Marketing and Communications for XLP.

A longer version of this piece first appeared here.

Comments

  1. Thank you- great article. And thanks to the link to the original.

    By Paul Hayes - 19th January 2018
  2. So true. Thanks for your insightful reflection and the reminder to dig deep and allow ourselves to be be honest, vulnerable people in our communities.

    By Abigail - 19th January 2018
  3. Thank you for this fascinating reflection. I will certainly you on Google, and recommend this article to some friends.

    By Martin Slabbekoorn - 19th January 2018
  4. Thanks for this – interesting thought as to how I would be characterised from an analysis of my digital activity

    By Richard - 19th January 2018
  5. yes, for me the encouraging thing as a Christian is actually to feel a growing distaste for clickbait and a preference for nuance & depth. There’s a marked distiction between ‘how fallen humans behave’ and how we can and increasingly do behave as we journey with Christ…

    By Bruce Gulland - 19th January 2018
  6. Thank you for this thoughtful and insightful piece. If we are bullying, why do we want to do that? If we have been bullied, how do we stop getting hurt? Whatever our starting point, yes, we are a mess, we are empty inside and we don’t have the answers. Who can we turn to who won’t ever let us down? Not Google, not Facebook, Tinder – all dabble on the surface. Only Jesus – His arms are outstretched longing to draw us to Him and to minister to our deepest needs. We only have to ask Him.

    By Anna Henderson - 19th January 2018
  7. Thank you, great and relevant article. Just shared it with my non christian colleague Nick, we had only been discussing internet rants a few days ago, started a very helpful discussion…..

    By John Ibbett - 19th January 2018
  8. Absolutely spot on – thank you.

    By Michelle McKail - 20th January 2018
  9. Excellent thinking and writing, Ben!
    Keep doing it 🙂

    By Paul - 25th January 2018

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *