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Please Stop Boosting Bad Takes On Social Media

October 18th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Ian Harber




Did you see a bad take on social media? Please don’t boost it. I know you want to correct them, and they probably have a lot of followers who will see their bad take, so it seems important to present the counter-argument. I imagine you’re hoping that someone following them will scroll through the quote tweets, see your rebuke, and change their minds from the dark to the light side. I bet you have good intentions, really. The only problem is that this really makes things worse, not better.

These people who say the most outrageous things that make your blood boil and your fingers twitch until you type know exactly what they’re doing. They know that all press is good press and that by saying something outrageous, they will multiply their views and engagement because their supporters will amplify them, and so will their enemies. They know you’re mad, and they want you to share their post. Every share is more eyeballs for them, and that’s what they’re going for.

Also, you’re only proving the point to their audience. You might think that your well-reasoned argument or incisively witty remark will make a difference, but to those who agree with the original post, it only comes off as virtue signaling and tribal entrenchment. It really doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. Social media doesn’t reward the truth. It rewards tribal identity, and your rebuke mainly just serves that end to those who see it. I know you’re not meaning to, but you’re spreading dangerous and false ideas by rebuking those who post dangerous and false ideas. Your solution sadly contributes to the problem, not because of your intentions, but because of the social media platforms' inherent structures. I’m not trying to blame you; I just want you to be aware of it.

That said, we should measure our motives in situations like this, too. When we do post, are we genuinely trying to contribute to the good of others and the correction of dangerous and false ideas, or are we just trying to grow our own platform? Because if you’re trying to grow your own platform, then ignore this. Doing what I’m warning against here is a great way to grow your platform because you’re perpetuating this vicious cycle by participating in it for your own gain. But then you have to ask: At what cost? Is gaining a significant following worth being captured by an audience who doesn’t know you or love you, doesn’t have your best interests in mind, and will turn on you in a heartbeat the moment you make a mistake or don’t toe the party line? Is it worth it?

That’s not to say everyone with a large following has done this. That wouldn’t be true in the slightest. But it is certainly the easiest and quickest way to rake in followers. The incentive structures of social media don’t care about your soul; that’s why it’s a spiritual distortion zone.

Does that mean you should never quote-tweet or respond to a take you disagree with? Of course not. But it really is important to stop and discern if you’re being baited. Is the person who is posting an otherwise seemingly trustworthy person who seems like they have good intentions and are open to good-faith discussion, or are they a notorious troll whose mind closed long ago and will never be persuaded by a social media debate? 

As Christians, our online presence should be marked by the fruit of the Spirit. Even on the internet, we are called to love both our neighbors and our enemies. We’re naive if we think we can be kind, caring, and compassionate in the real world while being mean, aggressive, and polarizing online. We can’t live with distinct, disintegrated selves for long. Eventually, one will overtake the other, and the gravitational pull of sin is stronger than we would like to admit. If we don’t consciously practice the fruit of the Spirit online, we might find our real lives bearing the fruit of the flesh more and more.

Are there better ways to engage? I think there might be. Here are a few ideas.

    1. Ignore them. I’m serious. Just ignore them. The bad actors with the bad takes who feed off of as much attention as they can get are usually just worth ignoring. When you give them attention, you feed the beast, and it only grows stronger. Starve them of attention, and they might one day fade into the background noise, where they deserve to be.
    2. Present solutions. You don’t have to acknowledge them to respond to them. See something harmful making the rounds? Maybe write your own thread presenting the opposing perspective. Even better, get a Substack and write your thoughts in long form so they get the space they deserve. Or even better, get your article published in a major outlet so your ideas reach the audience they merit, all without ever acknowledging the original post and contributing to the problem.
    3. Thoughtfully reply. Maybe the take is bad but the person is good. In that case, reply in good faith. Ask clarifying questions. Nuance the hot take. Affirm what you can and correct what you must. It doesn’t have to be a debate; it can be a group project in search of the truth. You can help them see something they’re missing with their good in mind. If they turn aggressive towards you, it’s probably best to simply bow out of the conversation instead of adding fuel to the fire. But it’s always possible that the outcome of the conversation will make everyone better, and then you both can share the result. This, in my opinion, is social media at its finest. I promise these kinds of conversations are possible.

I don’t think social media has to be terrible. I really don’t. But we’re easily caught in its incentive structures in ways that we aren’t aware of or we don’t want to admit. It forms us into people we never meant to become. It’s happened to me. I feel it all the time. I’m not immune to this. I’m preaching to myself as much as I’m preaching to you. But it is possible to resist, not by our own power, but by Christ being formed in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

So please, next time you see a bad take, please don’t boost it. Boost the good, the true, and the beautiful. Boost Jesus Christ and him crucified. We don’t wage war against flesh and blood, even if that flesh and blood is mediated to us through the pixels on our screens. Christ can still shine through us, even if it’s through our posts on the Wild West of the internet.

Ian Harber

Ian is a marketing manager at Endeavor and is a digital marketing practitioner with 10 years of experience. He has written about faith and technology, deconstruction and reconstruction for The Gospel Coalition and Mere Orthodoxy as well as appearing on podcasts such as Reconstructing Faith, The Alisa Childers Podcast, Love Thy Neighborhood, The Living Room Disciple, Everything Just Changed, and more. Additionally, Ian has contributed to the book, Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church (TGC, 2021) and is the author of an upcoming a forthcoming book about deconstruction with InterVarsity Press (2024). Ian lives in Denton, Texas with his wife, Katie, and son, Ezra and is a member at The Village Church Denton.

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