Published by B&H Publishing on February 1, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Do we use social media, or are we being used by it?
Social media is brilliant and obscene. It sharpens the mind and dulls it. It brings nations together and tears them apart. It perpetuates, reveals, and repairs injustice. It is an untamed beast upon which we can only hope to ride, but never quite corral. What is it doing to us?
In Terms of Service, Chris Martin brings readers his years of expertise and experience from building online brands, coaching authors and speakers about social media use, and thinking theologically about the effects of social media. As you read this book, you will: Learn how social media has come to dominate the role the internet plays in your lifeLearn how the “social internet” affects you in ways you may not realizeBe equipped to push back against the hold the internet has on your mind and your heart
Social media (and the Internet at large) has pushed human behaviors to the extreme while making more people more aware of those behaviors. It’s easier than ever to share information (and lies), to make friends (and enemies), to build others up (and tear them down). It is a tool for good and evil. It makes our lives easier and more difficult. It wields an incredible amount of power. And it come about so quickly and morphed into this ubiquitous thing before most of us could really think about what it was doing to us. In Terms of Service, Chris Martin—content marketing editor for Moody Publishers and a social media consultant—takes readers through a history of social media, how it shapes us, and how we can use it for human flourishing.
Terms of Service is divided into three parts. The first deals with an introduction and history of the social internet—not just social media but all forms of socializing that occurs on an Internet platform. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book, as most of the foundations for this were being laid before my time or as I was coming of age.
The second part, the meat of the book, follows five ways the social internet shapes us:
- We believe attention assigns value.
- We trade our privacy for expression.
- We pursue affirmation instead of truth.
- We demonize people we dislike.
- We destroy people we demonize.
All of these are rather simplistic generalizations, of course, but I think any of us who have engaged online for any length of time have seen all five of these things and probably have found ourselves in many, if not all, of them. These are all things that we know, but Terms of Service provides us the impetus to actually take them seriously. Privacy, for example. We all know that Facebook knows everything about us. We’ve willingly handed over that information. What we may not realize is how deep that knowledge goes and how social media giants manipulate us and our online experiences to help them profit. Martin lays it all out in a brief, easy-to-understand way while offering simple, reasonable solutions to maintain some level of privacy.
The third part of the book discusses how to use the social internet for flourishing. I’m someone who grew up as the social internet was exploding. I met my wife in a web forum. My closest friends are people I met online. I now live in a different country than where I grew up and maintain relationships with friends and family using social media. Even this review is a form of social media. Personally and professionally, the social internet has enriched my life. Terms of Service makes readers aware of the social internet’s pitfalls but also is sure to tell us about how it makes us better and what we can do to mitigate the negative tendencies of social media.
Terms of Service is perhaps especially useful for older audiences who joined social media after it became clear that it was now part of functioning in the Internet age and younger audiences who are digital natives and have never thought critically about the influence of the social internet because it’s always been with them. But regardless of your age, there’s something within these pages for you even if it’s only a reminder that corporations aren’t your friends and there’s real-life humans behind the screens.