Sermon illustrations

The Internet

The Dark Side of the Web

In October 2014 Wired magazine reported on the dirty work every social media company must somehow handle: moderating the deluge of exploitative, degrading content posted in unimaginable quantities around the world and around the clock by boors (and increasingly by bots).

This is not simply material that might offend those of gentle or puritanical sensibilities, but truly unthinkable representations of real and fictional violence, abuse of women and men, children and animals, and countless other horrors conjured up by the human mind. Someone has to prevent the average user from encountering these horrors or else all of our news feeds would be regularly infiltrated by retch-inducing images and text.

But this means that a human being has to review every degrading image. And that someone is usually a resident of a distant country, employed by an outsourcing firm—at the time of Wired’s article, largely in the Philippines, thanks to its cheap labor supply and reasonably close ties to Western culture. Philippine young adults do this work because there is no better work to do, and they do it until they are utterly undone by it.

This is the reality of the globalized Internet world, in which the depredations of a few, the pornographers and exploiters who seek power without vulnerability (Exploiting), are foisted on those with no alternative (Suffering) in order to allow the privileged to live in ignorant comfort (Withdrawing). It’s a world in which poverty of spirit is bought at near-poverty wages. The flourishing of a few powerful companies—and we who use their services—is a mirage made possible only if you avert your eyes from the vulnerability they outsource to others.

Taken from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch. ©2016 by Andy Crouch.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

An Information Explosion

To say that our access to information has exploded doesn’t really capture the cataclysmic change. On April 23, 2005, the very first video was uploaded to YouTube. Now “more video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years.” An iPhone has more computing power than all of NASA had in the 1960s. And to underline, bold, and italicize the point of just how much information is out there, you can download the entirety of the actual code of the Apollo Guidance Computer for free on GitHub.

Taken from Hayley Morgan, Preach to Yourself, 2018, p.71, Zondervan.

Our Brains on the Internet

Sometime in 2007, a serpent of doubt slithered into my info paradise. I began to notice that the Net was exerting a much stronger and broader influence over me than my old stand-alone PC ever had. It wasn’t just that I was spending so much time staring into a computer screen. It wasn’t just that so many of my habits and routines were changing as I became more accustomed to and dependent on the sites and services of the Net.

The very way my brain worked seemed to be changing. It was then that I began worrying about my inability to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of minutes. At first I’d figured that the problem was a symptom of middle-age mind rot. But my brain, I realized, wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it—and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became…

As [Marshall] McLuhan suggested, media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, W. W. Norton & Company.

Our Leisure Time Rising on the Internet

Leisure has changed significantly since the dawn of the internet age. A 2008 international survey of 27,500 adults between the ages of 18 and fifty-five found that people spend 30% of their leisure time online. Of all the countries studied, the Chinese spent the largest amount of time online with 44% of their non-working hours spent online.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Information from TNS Global, “Digital World, Digital Life,” December 2008.

The Smiling Selfie in Auschwitz

Did you see the “Smiling Selfie in Auschwitz”? An American teenager touring Auschwitz stirred up a firestorm of criticism when she posted a picture of herself smiling amid a concentration camp (and even included a blushing smiley face emoticon). Her Twitter handle, “Princess [email protected],” played into so many stereotypes of the millennial generation as entitled, spoiled, and insensitive. The iPhone earbud dangling in her photo only enhanced the notion that she was drifting cluelessly through a Nazi death camp to a private soundtrack, trampling the memory of those snuffed out in such a horrific genocide.

To many, her selfie communicated ahistorical insensitivity, her smile seemingly mocking the six million lives lost under the Nazis’ horrific genocide. Breanna was lambasted across social media (and traditional media outlets). As her infamy grew, the Alabama teen tweeted, “I’m famous, ya’ll.” The outrage was swift and unsparing. My family was in Europe when this online debate exploded. We were teaching at a summer program in London.

Thanks to my book iGods, I was invited by CNN to comment on the controversy for their Belief Blog. It was obvious that the student’s reaction (and even her efforts to explain her reasons for smiling) were not easily defended. She talked about connecting with her deceased father through the experience.

They had studied the Holocaust together just before he passed away. While most wondered, “What kind of monster could walk through gas chambers and come away smiling?” I saw a teen, perhaps still in personal grief, connecting with her father across time. Rather than attack, I chose to offer a defense of this teenager who was being grilled across the Twitterverse.

Craig Detweiler, Selfies: Searching for the Image of God in a Digital Age, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, pp. 1-2.

Two Options to Deal with Online Critcism

In this short excerpt from Brant Hansen’s excellent book, Unoffendable, the author shares a “hypothetical” example of how he deals with online criticism. Generally speaking, it never goes the way you think it will, and in the end, you usually regret saying anything:

Option 1:

4:10 p.m. See insulting comment from Bob371 on blog.

4:15 p.m. Stew about it.

4:20 p.m. Craft amazingly thorough, literate, snarky reply to set Bob371 straight.

4:30 p.m. Hit “submit” and walk away from computer, “drop the mic”–style, all smug and cool. 4:40 p.m. Return to computer to delete my smug reply.

4:41 p.m. See that someone has already replied to my smug reply.

4:42 p.m. Delete my reply anyway, but write another one.

5:30 p.m. Eat dinner with family, but distractedly, because I’m bugged by comments on blog.

5:45 p.m. Decide it doesn’t matter what people say. I was right.

5:50 p.m. See another blood-boiling response from the Big Jerk formerly known as Bob371.

5:52 p.m. Decide to write something sort of nice, but still, you know, making my point.

5:55 p.m. See new comment. Someone else, whom I respect, thinks I was being a jerk in my original comment. Respond to that person via e-mail, to apologize, but not really, because the jerk formerly known as Bob371 is a bigger jerk.

6:10 p.m. Write another comment, commence stewing about the whole thing until 1:30 a.m. That’s one way to handle it.

Option 2:

4:10 p.m. See insulting comment from Bob371 on blog.

4:15 p.m. Thank him for it; point out what I appreciate about it. If I want to continue the conversation, fine, but otherwise, it doesn’t matter.

4:20 p.m. Go play Madden NFL with my daughter, get beat 75-0, then eat dinner with the fam and laugh about stuff.

Brant Hansen, Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Up for Sale?

One of the early hits of the internet had to be eBay. Suddenly getting rid of your old junk, or otherwise unnecessary “stuff,” could be sold, not just to your neighbors in a yard sale, but to anyone with an internet connection and an eBay account. And because human beings are, well, human (aka odd), there is a never-ending supply of strange things that have been auctioned off on the site. For instance, a haunted rubber duck, which the seller purported to have the ability to possess children.

Who wouldn’t want a haunted rubber ducky? Well, apparently enough people to drive the price to 107,000! What about a grilled cheese sandwich? Not interested? Well what if said sandwich came with the face of Mary, yes that Mary, the mother of Jesus? That sandwich sold for $28,000. If you are starting to think some people have too much money (and time) on their hands, you are not alone. One of the strangest items to go up for bid, however, ended up breaking the eBay terms of service.

One 10-year old girl from England tried selling her grandmother. I’m not exactly sure why she was ready to cart off her poor grandmother, but maybe she was desperate for something–a doll perhaps?

Perhaps the strangest item to be put up for sale was a man’s own life. This is what the ad said:

My name is Ian Usher and I’ve had enough of my life. I don’t want it anymore. You can have it if you like. Whatever it is, it’s all going up for sale in one big auction, everything I have and everything I am. On the day that it’s sold and settled, I intend to walk out the front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else. And then get on the train with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me.”

Ultimately, Ian sold for $305,000 and with that money, the man moved to Australia. It turns out his wife had left him after six years of marriage and he was so dejected, so rejected that felt his life no longer had any purpose.

Ian clearly needed a reset, but was selling his life the solution to his problem?

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Video is Everywhere

Video is now everywhere. Whatever happens in front of any other Wi-Fi-connected digital camera in the world can be mediated to us and to our vision. Amateur video is pouring into public platforms every second of the day.

More than twenty-four thousand minutes of new user video is uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. This means that the tonnage of new video content uploaded to YouTube in the next fifty-eight hours would require an unbroken lifespan of eighty years to watch.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p.30. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.



See also Illustrations on Attention, Distraction, Smart Phones, Social Media, Technology