Here’s how such groups use social media to affect our thinking and behavior:
Social-media activism gets a lot of criticism, some of it deserved, some of it less so. (There’s even a somewhat pejorative term for it: slacktivism.) On one hand, it’s an easy way to reach a lot of people, and it often amplifies the voices of the marginalized. On the other hand, changing your profile picture for an awareness day (something Autism Speaks asked people to do for Light It Up Blue) might just be the smallest possible unit of support for a cause. If not backed up by money or deed, it’s little more than lip service. But lip service is not nothing—if enough people do it, it could help shift cultural norms, as Melanie Tannenbaum wrote in Scientific American, about people supporting marriage equality by making equals signs their profile pictures.
“Based on everything that we know about our brains and their bafflingly strong desires to fit in with the crowd, the best way to convince people that they should care about an issue and get involved in its advocacy isn’t to tell people what they should do—it’s to tell them what other people actually do,” Tannenbaum writes. “And you know what will accomplish that? That’s right. Everyone on Facebook making their opinions on the issue immediately, graphically, demonstrably obvious.”
(Julie Beck in “What Good Is ‘Raising Awareness’?” The Atlantic, April 21, 2015)
So, whether its consciousness raising for a cause, raising awareness for a disease, or sensitivity training for minority issues, be aware of how others are attempting to shape your behavior by shaping your thinking.
Peer pressure is an undeniable dynamic – like gravity. Attempting to deny such a dynamic is counterproductive. Instead, you need to make such a dynamic work for you instead of against you. For example, gravity works for you if your feet are planted firmly on the ground, but against you if you jump off a tall building. Similarly, peer pressure works for you if you choose the right peers, and against you if you don’t.
Wise parents have always sought to position their children with peers (that is find friends for them) who lift up rather than pull down. And wise investors know that the worst house in the best neighborhood is a better financial investment than the best house in the worst neighborhood.
Most of all, teach yourself and your children to walk in the presence of the Lord. He is the Peer whose presence – gently and always – pressures you toward godliness.