What You Should Know About the Internet
We have a large-screen television on the wall in our offices. It’s become a favorite show-and-tell spot when we give guests a tour of our space.
It’s a boring screen, in one sense — no movies or fancy graphics, but just a dashboard of the current traffic to the website. But once you learn what the numbers mean, you get a sense of the significance. The main purpose of the screen is to remind our team, as we write and edit and craft social media, that tens of thousands of real-live users access the site each day. The dashboard stays on constantly during work hours so that we can monitor at a glance the number of current visitors, what pages are being viewed most, and where the traffic is coming from.
During tours, we pause at the screen and explain how it reminds our team that we’re not simply building and curating webpages and apps, but that human souls are on the other end, coming for nourishment, education, correction, and inspiration. Typically, eyes open wide in manifest surprise that we’re actually able to track, to a precise figure, the number of people currently on the site, the particular pages being viewed, and even who referred them to our site.
How the Web Works
Over time I’ve learned to turn that surprise into a teachable moment.
You’re never alone when you’re online. Not only is God watching — which should be significant enough! — but others are watching too. Every click counts, and is counted. Whenever you retrieve information from some server out there in the world, that server knows it was pinged. And that specific ping can be tracked. Someone can find out what particular page you viewed, how you got there, how long you stayed, where you went next, and even where your cursor hovered on the page.
You should assume that every time you click, someone knows exactly what you clicked on — and that information informs whether the builders of that site will deliver more of the content you accessed.
Every click matters.
Every Click You Make
Yes, knowing a little bit about how the Internet works has plain implications for the fight against pornography — both personally and collectively. But knowing how the web works helps with much more than just avoiding “bad places” online. There’s not just the negative effects, but also a million positive opportunities. And the significance is not just momentary, but eternal.
Every click is a kind of vote. Every time you click, you say, in effect, I want this — and more of this. And someone hears you. When you click on seedy links and ads, and click around at sleazy sites, you’re not just showing and shaping the health of your own soul, but you’re also feeding the strength of those sites one click at a time.
The private use of the Internet is a mirage — a satanic illusion to deceive you into thinking what you do online really doesn’t matter. But there is no such thing as truly private use of the Internet. Every click has a public dimension. And every click shows and shapes. It’s not only a current expression of your heart, but also has an effect on who you will be moving forward.
Every Click, Swipe, and Pinch
Clicking, then, is a gift from God in that it serves as a way of objectifying the smallest movements of our minds and hearts. Every click is a small, but significant, external registry of the tiniest movements of our inner selves. Which means there is no such thing as a neutral click, swipe, or pinch. You’re choosing righteousness or unrighteous one touch at a time, both for your own soul and for our world.
And it’s not just about surfing to new urls. Everything that can be tracked online is increasingly being tracked, like what apps you open, and for how long, and where you click around in them. It matters not just who you follow, but whose profile you linger over, scroll through, and click to enlarge. Not only what thumbnails load onto your screen, but whose headshot you touch to get a better view.
And of course, there’s who you “like” and “follow” — who your account votes to help make influential, or keep famous. Who you let whisper into your ear with regular updates.
Learn to Bounce
Negatively, the implications are plain enough. Every unrighteous click expresses and encourages sin. Every sordid click casts your vote for more sordidness online.
An important lesson to learn online as Christians is that one bad click is no excuse for another. Whether you sinned in clicking somewhere you knew you shouldn’t, or clicked on a righteous headline only to find a page with an unrighteous ad, learn to “bounce.” Look to the top or bottom left of your browser and cultivate the reflex of clicking there when you discover you’ve made a poor click.
That’s another thing websites track: the bounce rate. Think of it as a small way to partially act against a bad vote you’ve already cast and can’t fully undo. Don’t linger. And don’t take it as an excuse to pause there in sin, or click further in. Yes, it would have been better not to navigate to the site, but it’s worse to click through to the second page at a bad site. Bounce.
Every Click Is an Opportunity
We should beware the dangers, and learn not to surf passively, but don’t hear me saying I’m down on the Internet. I work for a web ministry. The existence of the Internet is part of what puts food on the table for my family. We should not only mind the dangers, but also open our eyes to the remarkable opportunities.
Every righteous click has some small righteous effect in our world. When you make a good click, you register a vote for righteousness. And what content you “share” will be seen by others who otherwise may not have seen it. What you “like,” and comment on, contributes to algorithms that serve up quality content to others, even people you do not know. Clicking alone will not complete the Great Commission, but it’s not irrelevant. You make the world a better or worse place with every click.
Who Are You Becoming?
Every righteous click also has a righteous effect on your soul. It’s not only an expression of who you are, but represents who you are becoming.
Every moment of every day, in every thought and feeling and word and deed, we are becoming who we will be. How you click always matters. Where you click is never removed from who you are and what you’re becoming. Every click makes you something new.
Every moment in life, and every moment online, is not only a peril, but an opportunity. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). With God’s help, will you click from one degree of glory to another?