JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Vol. XXXIII 2021
SOCIAL MEDIA & THE SELF:
THE PROMISE OF CONNECTEDNESS
JIS XXXIII 2021: 1-18
PHENOMENOLOGY OF COMMUNICATIONS:
TOWARD A CULTURE OF GRACE (Editorial)
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
This essay explores the intersection of communication and culture. It proposes that a new interdisciplinary field of inquiry–a phenomenology of communications–implicates culture in that all communication helps shape and reflects a society’s cultural assumptions and aspirations. In an era of social media and electronic communication, the impact on culture has accelerated. Both positive and negative aspects of social media reverberate in American popular culture that Christopher Lasch described as a culture of narcissism and David Brooks calls a culture of the “Big Me.” The essay revisits a documentary about Mike Tyson’s life and career that exemplifies what it means to be an American, renewing a culture that aspires to redeem the American dream of a more perfect union beyond preference and prejudice. It shows also why American culture needs to be transformed from a narcissistic, self-referential, tribal perspective of identity politics and false tolerance toward a culture that respects individual autonomy and privacy, reconnects rights and responsibilities, and encourages true diversity, inspired by transcendent norms and ideals worthy of a creature created in the image and likeness of God.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 19-42
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF CONNECTEDNESS:
LIVING IN A NEW VIRTUAL WORLD
William R. Clough
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
Social media facilitate and intensify communication to an unprecedented degree and humanity is adjusting to this new state of affairs. Internet connectivity enables the human desire for sociality, personal relationships, and social acceptance to a remarkable degree. But human communication evolved in a face-to-face world, where people experienced one another as well as hearing one another. Modern communication has removed the interpersonal experience factor, leaving people to interpret the messages, not of flesh-and-blood individuals but of stereotypes, beliefs about a general class of people. This essay surveys some classic understandings of communication, followed by analysis of some of the characteristics and pitfalls of social media. It concludes that social media are a huge change in human communication requiring personal and society-wide adjustments based on principles that have stood the test of time, including self-awareness, self-control, and care to take the moral and interpersonal high road in online communications.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 43-58
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE COSTS OF DISTRACTION:
NEUROBIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON QUALITY OF LIFE
Interdenominational Theological Center
There are well-known studies about how heavy use of social media is not conducive to happiness. Although poll data are mixed on this matter, one should be especially cautious in view of the apparent promise of internet connectedness. This essay examines recent research in neurobiology on what social media seems to be doing to human brains. It explores how regular social media use scatters concentration because the prefrontal cortex is not activated. This has negative implications for long-term and working memory. Even more problematic, the less use of the prefrontal cortex the less likely we are to exhibit empathetic, emotional maturity, love, and live with a sense of the transcendent. As with every advance in human technology, one needs to begin using social media with realistic expectations, ever seeking to safeguard from potential abuses associated with it. The conclusion calls for moderation and balance in use of the internet, with a Biblically-based, scientific plea not to overlook those activities which activate all parts of the brain, which with heavy internet use can be allowed to atrophy. Balance is the key to the quality of life.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 59-82
PILGRIM FRIENDING AND THE PLACE OF PEACE:
RESPONSE TO CLOUGH AND ELLINGSEN
Bruce N. Lundberg
Colorado State University-Pueblo
William Clough and Mark Ellingsen explore the goods, harms, and challenges brought by a new powerful digital social media. Clough uses perspectives from social sciences, ethics, and Biblical theology–self and society in reciprocal relation through language, art, institution, and God’s friending Word. He urges caution, applying universal ethics centered in love of God and neighbor, and respect for facts and science. Ellingsen applies brain sciences to explain social media downsides and encourage a balance of good habits and activities. This essay relates their contributions to human subjective, moral, interpersonal, communal, and religious experience and traditions. Protection in a place of peace amid social media may be fostered by realizing aspects of human life and nature unseen through the optics of modern sciences, in “pilgrim friending” toward virtues such as forgiveness, chastity, humility, and diligence, trusting and following God’s Holy friending received through nature, solitude, prayer, Scripture, and covenant community.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 83-104
CONVIVIAL SOCIAL MEDIA SELVES?
A SOCIO-THEOLOGICAL EXAMINATION OF
Joshua D. Reichard
Omega Graduate School
Computers were destined to be “connected” because their creators were created to be “connected.” While sociologists attempt to examine the self in relation to the phenomena of ever-connected social media platforms, theological insight can provide a transcendent teleology, a “directionality,” toward which such connectedness points. This essay draws on Ivan Illich’s vision for “convivial tools” for an interdisciplinary examination of the self in context of social media. Commercially designed, corporate-controlled social media platforms are not convivial tools by Illich’s definition, and cannot patch all existential wounds, but they can synthetically ameliorate the deepest longings of the human heart. Ultimately, social media selves hearken to a spiritual vision of a world where such alienation and brokenness are supplanted by personal and relational wholeness.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 105-122
WHO ARE WE?
IDENTITY IN A SOCIAL MEDIA AGE
Taylor J. Bradman & David M. Gustafson
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Social media have become a normative part of culture, with both positive and negative implications. More recently, studies demonstrate that social media may contribute to mental health issues. This essay seeks to understand this issue through the lens of self-objectification and self-comparison theories concerning why some who use social media to gain the approval of others as the foundation for their identity still end up unhappy after receiving approval. The essay proposes that those who engage in this behavior remain unhappy because they do not understand their status as an image-bearer of God, and how images are to function in society. A sound understanding of images is essential. The essay engages Biblical theology as a helpful guide to demonstrate that social identities are to be cultivated and formed through friendship. Friendships help shape who we are as human beings and build a sense of belonging through the organic formation of a community.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 123-140
U.S. PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP STYLES AND MEDIA:
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Michael E. Meagher
Missouri University of Science & Technology-Rolla
U.S. presidential leadership styles speak to us today as we seek to understand the dynamics of the current political universe. The stances adopted by especially twentieth-century U.S. presidents point to certain norms being upheld by the nation’s chief executives. Some were more talented in exercising the rhetorical presidency, while others were more successful in achieving policy goals. These presidents operated under the technological mechanisms of their time. In the twenty-first century, new social media technologies are emerging that challenge previous orthodoxies. The presidency of Donald J. Trump differed significantly from previous presidencies. Identity politics that predated the twitter presidency shaped the Trump years. Does the Trump model represent the future of presidential communication? This essay concludes that future U.S. presidents will face new challenges as a result of the fractured social contract, a legacy of identity politics.
JIS XXXIII 2021: 141-163
COMMUNICATION, ETHICS AND RELATIONAL PEACE
Kenneth R. Chase
Although social media often is trumpeted as an answer to the divisions bedeviling humankind, social media users also lament the violence enacted on one another through digital interactions. How ought persons communicate through social media? Is digital interaction capable of fulfilling the hope of human community? A baseline understanding of ethical communication is crucial for answering these questions. Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophical analysis of relational peace lays the groundwork for an ethic of dialogic communication that may guide everyday interactions. As individuals navigate the call of unending responsibility for others, and the strength of existence that arises from a genuine encounter with others, the peace of human relationship becomes a hopeful possibility. The relational mode of asking questions operationalizes this peace. Whether face-to-face or digital, human communicators ought to subordinate their instrumental exchanges to an interpersonal approach of dialogic questions. Therefore, rather than seeing social media interactions as primarily the occasion for agreements or disagreements, one nurtures hope in human community by approaching interactions with a curiosity nurtured by the primordial call of the Other.
FORUM FOR DIALOGUE