Patrick Deneen of the Front Porch Republic has written a highly instructive piece in response to an article blaming social networking sites like Facebook for higher rates of divorce among Baby Boomers.
While there exists strong statistical evidence for a correlation between the breakdown of marriages and social networking, Deneen opined rather compellingly that the article gives too determinative a role for social networking technology, saying that the breakdown of the institution of marriage was already entrenched with centuries of conceiving marriage as exclusively a Lockean contract between two individuals. Social networking sites, therefore, are but intensifications of a long existent atomising culture of Liberalism.
Deneen’s post comes highly recommended, and should give Christians pause to too easily blame the manifestation without addressing the underlying cause. That being said, Deneen may be too easily discounting Neil Postman’s main argument in his Entertaining Ourselves to Death, that the technology used in communications is not neutral, but comes with certain presumptions about what people are and how they think. The mere presence of a particular technological form steers the users attention not to data in general, but particular forms of data, and prescribes particular responses to that data. And this comes regardless of the intentions of the user of that particular technological form.
This means that there needs to be a more nuanced account about the interaction between the user as agent and the user as immersed in a culturally loaded structure. James KA Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom provides some very helpful material in looking at the centrality of desire, and the role of structure in tweaking that desire, in steering the agent towards particular modes of behaviour.