The fool of the book of Proverbs is a vivid illustration of practical atheism, for this foolish man lives as if there is no God and as if God isn’t concerned about human behavior. The fool may not actually deny the existence of the divine, but he practically denies it by choosing to live according to his own way rather than God’s. Though wisdom is available, personified in the form of a woman who cries aloud and begs everyone to follow, the fool chooses to go his own way instead and displays all the devastating consequences of such rebellion.
Solomon’s fool is relevant to every age, and certainly not least to this age when we have such ready access to forms of communication that in any other era would be considered the stuff of science fiction. We have accepted these media hastily and often without carefully examining them to see what ideologies are embedded deep within—ideologies that inevitably attempt to shape us as we use them. While no medium is intrinsically good or evil, each has been formed around certain ideas and certain emphases, some of which will help us and some of which will harm us. For that reason it is wise and good to examine the media we use to see how they are shaping us, not just by their content but also by their form.
A few days ago, as I pondered yet another online battle (which, thankfully, did not involve me), I began to wonder: If Solomon’s fool had been tasked with creating a social media platform, could he have done better than Twitter? Would it even be possible to create a social network that more deeply embeds the particular temptations of the fool? Consider:
- The fool’s social media would encourage its users to speak often. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (10:19).
- The fool’s social media would provide the context in which a person could destroy himself through hasty, ill-considered words. “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (13:3).
- The fool’s social media would emphasize the quantity of people its users follow rather than the quality. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20).
- The fool’s social media would cause its users to interact with foolish people rather than only wise people. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself” (26:4).
- The fool’s social media would make it impossible to ignore the voice of the fool. “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge” (14:7).
- The fool’s social media would encourage wise people to spend time responding to foolish people. “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words (23:9).
- The fool’s social media would allow its users to witness other people’s disputes and arguments so they could join in. “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (26:17).
- The fool’s social media would emphasize back and forth communication and arguments. “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet” (29:9).
- The fool’s social media would make success with the platform dependent upon responding to others, responding hastily, and responding without the social cues that come through hearing a person’s voice or seeing a person’s face. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).
- The fool’s social media would permit no cooling-down period between receiving an insult and responding to it. “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (14:29).
- The fool’s social media would convince people to signal their virtue in the most public way possible. “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit” (16:2).
- The fool’s social media would be addictive to keep its users coming back, even when they feel the desire to break away. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (26:11).
- The fool’s social media would focus on interpersonal communication rather than communicating facts so it would be easy to rebuke or belittle other people. “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (11:12).
- The fool’s social media would be prone to expressions of vanity and to repeating the praise of others. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (27:2).
- The fool’s social media would tend toward inactivity rather than productivity. “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed” (26:14).
- The fool’s social media would prioritize people with a large following ahead of people who have gained great wisdom. “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (26:16).
- The fool’s social media would emphasize what is shocking and outrageous ahead of what is true and good and pure. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” (26:18-19)
- The fool’s social media would make no qualitative distinction between opinions and wisdom. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (18:2).
- The fool’s social media would emphasize the hasty spread of rumors and gossip ahead of the much slower spread of verifiable facts. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases” (26:20).
- The fool’s social media would incentivize responding to insults with insults. “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (12:16).
- The fool’s social media would encourage rash words instead of well-considered words. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (12:18).
None of this is to say that Twitter is intrinsically evil or that Christians must shy away from it. But it is to say that there are specific ideologies embedded within Twitter that can tempt the Christian with hasty, foolish, people-harming, God-denying words and actions. Those who use it must commit to using it well. Those who commit to using it well must be willing to resist its most troubling ideologies. For Twitter has its way of luring the fool and exposing his folly.