At The Influence Lab, our focus is to help Christians use media more effectively to tell their stories so that others will know the most important story ever told – the story of Jesus. Our passion is to mentor media professionals and leaders to create excellent media projects, develop leadership skills, and alert them to insider tips and sometimes the pitfalls of media manipulation. As the Bible commands, we want Christians to “defend their faith” (I Peter 3:15). Having worked in Hollywood for many years, I know how media and entertainment affect our emotional connections and in turn affect our actions and why we must be vigilant to use media and entertainment to tell powerful stories and share the wisdom of God.
Big Tech are the creators of our present-day media platforms and tools and have set themselves up to be media gods and idols in our present-day culture. They, along with Hollywood, are experts in using their fashioned communication tools, skills and crafts to tell the stories they want to be told and followed. These stories are changing what we identify with and even affect our own identities.
What are those stories Big Tech is telling?
Their original story was that of letting everyone have a voice. Whether rich, poor, young or old or whatever social or political group you belonged to, you deserved a place to be heard. They created their tech (now Big Tech) because they believed you deserved an all-access network that could unite people. Each person on the planet has an equal voice and has the right to share it with others. They hoped that we would gain equality and even perhaps world peace through the connectedness of the net and social media because through them, all would have access to equal knowledge and sources for truth. They wanted to bring about a utopia.
Alas, it has done the opposite. It has polarized and disconnected masses of people as never before and initiated wars. The citizens of the world today now live in an ocean of insecurity, fake news and disbelief that is isolating and dividing them into exclusive groups rather than inclusive groups.
How does our identity play into this?
Our identity – what we know about ourselves, is wrapped up in how others perceive us. Media contributes enormously to how we view ourselves and how others view us. For thousands of years, we got our identity from our in-person families and friends and the natural physical communities of people we lived within. That has changed with modern technology. Today children begin to see images and hear messages of what the ideal human being should look, sound and act like from media images on screens and these outside images form how a child views the perfect person and hence their perfect self. Children and young adults strive to become this ideal image which in turn controls their choices and actions. Unfortunately, their tiny, still-developing minds can’t comprehend that perfection is unattainable. Only Jesus Christ was able to accomplish it.
So, they mature but often remain bound to the whirlwind of trying and failing to achieve the “ideal.” Teens and young adults get blown in circles and off course through what they are led or allowed to read, watch, and hear from an early age. As they grow into adults and begin to feel the weight of guilt and even shame for their inability to reach this ideal person, they are subjected to bullying. Not only are they condemned or rejected by their school friends, but they are badgered 24/7 by online “friends,” many of whom they have never personally met except on the net or social media. They feel they can’t escape. Instead, many young people choose to isolate and troll the net and social media for online approval. Unfortunately, acceptance can come from many evil and deceptive sources conveniently assisted by the online programs or bots designed to suck them in. With a blink of an eye and an ounce of curiosity, they give themselves over to destructive forces from addictive substances, sexual perversions and the fastest growing area – rapid gender dysphoria.
The authority of who God tells us we are gets hijacked by what popular culture tells young people they should become, be known by, seen as or “liked” for. We, as media-consuming adults, have also gotten sucked into this media and entertainment vortex in many ways. Our identity and even our business ventures have now evolved into being defined by the number of mentions, click-throughs and followers one has on social media.
In our present “woke” and “cancel culture” world, those who want to change our thoughts and actions have taken lessons from Big Tech. These media giants have taught us how to control a person’s thoughts and emotions, and how to instigate actions before we know what is happening. The Web and the screens we live in 24/7 today have become our extended minds. Our bodily choices depend on what we read off our screens and the “friends” we interact with have become our places of identity. They are the sources of our knowledge and education, as well as our religious, social, and political interactions.
Big Tech’s original story has gone from an inclusion story to an exclusion story, and one of freedom to control. We have given our identity and, in many ways, our authority over to what the Web and social media giants say we are and not who God says we are in Him. Web gods of confusion have taken the Creator God’s place.
Big Tech has become “The World’s Parent.”
Big Tech has taken our identity and put it up for grabs to whoever wants to elevate us or take us down. They control who sees us and where we are known or not known by manipulating our behaviors through the content we choose. Programs or bots control the information we see and read, which affects our choices and actions. Using a “feedback loop” to see how we respond to information given to us, our feedback (choices) tells bots what we want, how we think, and what will make us act. These embedded bots begin to nudge or egg us on using human curiosity to manipulate us and suck us in.
Can we fight back and regain our identities?
Yes, we can. One of the most significant ways is to take Big Tech’s power away through how they use content filters. If the online trolls detect any hate speech, misinformation, threatening language, or anything they deem as “non-authoritative” or “bad,” listening filters have been inserted and are programmed to delete them. Big Tech gets their power because they are allowed to keep these program filters switched on by default. Based on what they believe to be accurate and not what the users consider true or often valid, they are allowed to censor. We can fight back by encouraging lawmakers to regulate the Big Tech web-gods and forbid them from activating these filters without our knowledge or consent and even from nudging us to turn on these filters.
We are being manipulated and distracted, but we are more than conquerors through Christ.
We can fight back and turn the tables if we seek His Kingdom first and are willing to stand up against the agendas of Big Tech. We serve the God who holds the sun and moon in the sky and He will make a way in the wilderness for us (Isaiah 43:15). He will guide us through the healthcare, environmental, social and political disruptions currently being thrown at us and, most importantly, this media assault.
God tells us to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We are not to succumb to confused thinking or identity dysphoria. We have our God-given identity and we must not allow others to steal it. We are commanded to immerse ourselves and stand upon the foundation of God’s Word. We were made male and female and are the sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe. God has given us minds, which when stayed on Him are not confused but grounded in the promises of the Bible – all 7,487 of them. We are who He says we are and are established as eternal members of God’s Kingdom. God knows our name (not our pronoun), and that name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We are “woke” to who Jesus is, and He will never “cancel” us, for we are His people – the sheep of His pasture who know His voice, and He is our One True Shepherd.
Our identity is in El Roi – the God who sees us.