There is a reason we call the girl who is loud, and wears tight clothing, and is overly inquisitive, and suggestively opinionated, and all those things combined, an attention whore. It has nothing to do with her sexual activity, though, it is tangentially related to it. And also, a reason why that character I have just produced in your mind does not have to be a She to be an attention whore. Plenty of dudes filling that role too. Because what whores do, and what people who visit whores do is a matched set with the concepts of attention and how you give and get it. It's a currency. And how we spend it matters. So I'm going to propose something for parents and pastors alike right now, that will seem out of place. That Porn and Social Media are one and the same, or at least the same kind of thing. But seeing how Social Media and Porn are essentially the same kinds of thing, requires that we know what at least one of these things is to make the comparison.
You see, it's not that there's porn on social media, it's that porn is social media. Social Media is just the kind of porn with no nudity.
And the reason that concept seems strange to you, is because you likely don't get your definition of what porn is from the Bible. You get it from the film ratings and the motion picture association. from what you were and weren't allowed to watch as a kid but not the reasons why you were or weren't allowed.
We get the word Pornography from two Greek words
Pornos: Strongs 4205
A debauchee, libertine, fornicator, or whoremonger.
Grapho: Strongs 1125
To grave, write, or describe.
I'm by no means a Greek scholar but you don't need to be to see how this word works and to then infer how similar workings need to be put into words today.
Slap the two of them together and you get what is essentially the writings of the debauched, the descriptions of fornicators, and the graven images of whores. Sound familiar? It should. This is a no-nonsense labelling of the multi-billion dollar porn industry. They make money by the commodification of fornication, adultery, and whoremongering. They turn these illicit sexual activities into a product that can be bought sold and advertised for. They do this by taking in person and real-life events and capturing enough of their essence and appeal through different forms of media. They do so for money and attention. They need one to fuel the other in that dichotomy. In this case, predominantly male attention and money for commodified females.
What's important to know though is they, the porn industry, started this commodification before the advent of social media as we know it. In crude terms. Porn stars were giving us pictures of what they would put in their mouths, well before Instagram gave influencers a place to post their brunch pics. But the reason that the influencer and the star do both actions is the same. The commodification of an activity or experience, hinged on the gathering of satisfaction from an audience.
Pornography, was the first social media, by any and every definition we try to apply to the fully clothed version owned by Zuck's and Musk. They were the first selfies on the web and the first places where user-generated content ended up. That TikTok and Instagram do it with clothes on is beside the point of social media as a concept. Turns out the Mennonites were wrong and dancing didn't lead to worse things, it was the other way around, at least Tiktok.
The commodification of an activity or experience. That's the "pornos" part of this bait and switch that most people don't see because they don't take their understanding from the Bible they take it from everywhere but the Bible. Speaking of...
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
Romans 3:23 English Standard Version
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 English Standard Version
What these four verses show us, from hundreds of verses that could illustrate the point, is that there are no morally good or neutral people creating social media accounts, running social media sites, or moderating social media content. There are sinners that know Jesus and sinners that don't. And a smattering of both that know where the word pornography comes from or tragically do not. People who have since day one of their use of the internet, let pornography on the internet, dictate what being a fornicator or a debauchee or whoremonger might look like. Instead of taking anything the world might hand over to them on the plate of convenience and speed and comparing it to a word more true than anything graven so far. You don't have good people on twitter alongside bad people. You have bad people alongside bad people who are covered in the blood of Jesus, on twitter.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17 English Standard Version
You've likely heard it a couple hundred times by now. A pastor is about to make his first point of a sermon after the opening joke or story. What does he quote to define his subject? Websters? Google? Wall street journal statistics? Whatever version of ChatGPT we're on? What's happening here is a strange form of persuasion steeped in everything but the word of God that's supposed to be preached. And it's indicative of a generation that doesn't take that word of God as seriously as it could for the aforementioned sake of convenience or speed.
For parents teetering on the philosophical fence of what to allow their teenager or pre-teenager to do on their phone, or if they should have a phone at all, they hit an all too often wall of specificity in the scriptures. Where the word of God doesn't speak about smartphones or social media on smart phones. So how and I or any other parent supposed to know what God really wants for a child's life in this regard.
They're not wrong and not alone, but they are also not reading their Bibles enough, maybe in frequency, but not in understanding.
"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1:9 English Standard Version
No, the Bible doesn't speak directly and specifically to how your teenage son is going to find pictures of barely still teenage girls on his phone, through his Twitter account. But it does speak very plainly about what teenage boys should be thinking about, who they should be avoiding, and what the actions of immoral people are in explicit detail. Our blindspot de jour is one of thinking that Bible verses that speak about sexually immoral people aren't also talking about immoral people in general because there's sex involved. And is the same mental gymnast accident that sends us off that horse and into the hard ground of reality.
There is no sin simplistically in having a Twitter account but there's also no sin simplistically in recording yourself masturbating in video format. Sin enters the picture when the two of those mediums meet for an exchange of media. Then the message is clear. That media is attention and what we give it to in excess and for sin. Because you can find all kinds of things labelled as porn that wouldn't make your network admin at work batt and eyelid. Garden Porn, Car Porn, Gun Porn. everything and anything ramped up in aesthetic value with 0% sexual content. Hell, I'm waiting for the Theology Porn trend to hit Tiktok given the current state of the slippery slope. All this so that you can find exactly the kind of car of your dreams driving the exact road you want to see it drive. Interchange any hobby, interest or collectable and repeat ad absurdum, and what you have is every discovery algorithm out there being sold to you as social media, instead of just porn. Then again both are free and give you exactly what you want when you want it. Maybe there isn't any selling going on, just exchanges for attention. What we're missing is that in that kind of environment, it might not matter what is being displayed for consumption it might matter that it's being displayed for consumption.
Because consumption and communication are two different things, and porn is not a medium of communication, it's the media of sexual consumption.
"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
Proverbs 3:6 English Standard Version
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes."
Deuteronomy 11:18 English Standard Version
The Christian way to interact with and use social media isn't limited to the posting of certain things and the avoidance of posts of other certain things. It's in the assessment of any part of our lives from a perspective blinded by the word of God. Like it were a phylactery between our eyes obscuring the vision that would be used to tempt us otherwise. It's a biblical reproof and correction of the sinful people that make social media work and the sinful people that use it as well. When we stop to take that kind of biblical look on the platforms that are consuming more and more of the everyman's day, in near mindless algorithmic streaming and scrolling, we can see that, yes, there is potential for the gospel to be communicated here but, no, that isn't what these places were designed for. They were designed as traps for the human mind and work great at that. But can be used to trap those same minds in a cage with the gospel.
Having a bear trap that you intend to use and having a bear trap used on you with intent, use almost all the same words and motivations but both shake out in very different ways for the guy in theological flip-flops. And this is why in the decade or more that social media has been out the gospel still hasn't gone viral like you'd think the life-changing power of it would. Not that it couldn't but it would require that same gospel to be preached on something that might be inherently broken or even antithetical to it. Ask yourself, how many people with a smartphone know what the baby shark song is, or any number of dance/meme trends on Tiktok, or who Pewdiepie is. How many of those same people have heard or could have heard about Jesus via that phone and those social media apps. Everyone knows who Joe Rogan is, Maybe we just need Jesus to come back and sit down with him and Dr. Jordan Peterson.
Why isn't this working the way it is for the pop culture of the day?
Because our God doesn't just use anything because it works. Asherah poles and high places worked great for worship services throughout the scriptures, but they were still torn down for a reason. And this isn't me saying that I'm not for a good Boniface option now and then. But our adoption of any given social media platform for daily use and ministry, and the chopping down of Donar's Oak to build a church, are again, two very different things in the shakedown even sans bear traps.
Christian-flavoured paganism won't get the kind of outpouring of the Spirit needed for a revival in our times. Because of how the sacrifices of praise are shared and filtered. But it will look like it works because it needs to traffic the attention of anyone who gives it to exist in the first place. Social media doesn't care that the gospel isn't going viral on its platforms. It cares that Christians don't care that the gospel hasn't gone viral on its platform. Because if there was ever a demographic that was easy to sell to, it was the kind of crowd that is based on unending tolerance, forgiveness, and grace. That kind of person never returns what they've paid for. It defeats the whole purpose of being works based. Which is why we need to care about how we use it.
In short, we need a theology of the internet. If only someone was writing a book about it without the assumption of its necessity.