Christians in the Age of Callout Culture

How Christians lost the benefit of the doubt—and why we need to find the good in each other again.

I used to get excited to see my Twitter mentions spike. Now I dread it. All that attention inevitably means I’m getting called out for something wrong—maybe a typo or broken link, maybe a bad joke or hasty observation.

Posting on social media has always risked irking angry employers, incessant trolls, or vengeful doxxers, but lately we face backlash from our own friends and feeds. The bar for what merits a public reckoning has fallen as the internet incentivizes us to speak up, call out, and shout down.

Last December, The Atlanticdeemed it the “dark psychology of social networks,” noting studies that found tweets using heated language like “wrong” and “shameful” were 20 percent more likely to go viral. Facebook posts professing “indignant disagreement” got about twice as many likes and shares.

Being on the receiving end of a barrage of negative feedback can ruin your day, your year, or your career. Any defense, explanation, or apology could rile up further condemnation. This critical attitude dampens our dialogue and betrays a cynical attitude toward our digital brothers and sisters.

In a community of believers, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7, ESV). In short, we hope for the best and forgive one another quickly when others inevitably fall short.

Yet even among Christians, today’s online chatter is far less “believes all things” and far more “show us the receipts.”

It can seem harsh and ungracious for commenters to go after a single misworded tweet or poorly formed idea. Why so suspicious from the get-go? Why not give someone the benefit of the doubt? But we must …

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