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23 March 2018

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

David Smyth is public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland.

I don’t do Facebook. As an adult in the UK this puts me in a minority of about 22 per cent. Globally more than 2.2 billion people are active monthly Facebook users with over 1 billion people using it daily.

This week Facebook has come under fire for policies that allowed third parties to extract data without the explicit consent or knowledge of its users. One business, Cambridge Analytica, has been accused of harvesting data and using it to profit themselves and for political ends. It is alleged that more than 50 million accounts were breached, and that information could have been used to influence voters in 2016 ahead of the US election and EU referendum. Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook, stated yesterday that a ‘breach of trust’ had occurred.

The Edelman Trust Barometer[1] measures public trust across 33,000 people in 28 countries. In results published just a few weeks ago they found that in the UK just 36 per cent of people trust the government and 43 per cent of people trust businesses. More than a third of Britons believe that social media is not good for society and a large proportion of Britons believe that social media companies are not sufficiently regulated (64 per cent), lack transparency (63 per cent), and are selling people’s data without their knowledge (62 per cent).

In 2016 it was reported that more data would be produced in 2017 and 2018 than in the previous 5,000 years of humanity. Some of this new data is clearly prized but I wonder if we haven’t ‘flooded the market’ and devalued our words and communication. Putting this together, it turns out that a large number of people who use social media do so while believing that their private data is probably being sold. While this doesn’t legitimise the actions of Facebook or other organisations in any way, it does make the story a bit more complicated - it brings the issues of trust and truth a little closer to home.

If we’re willing to continue to use platforms that we don’t trust, what does that say about how we view a world where trust is so limited?

We are right to question these multinationals when it comes to social media, but can we trust ourselves?

The loss of truth in a society leads to a loss of trust: if I can’t believe you, I can’t trust you.

The loss of trust in a society leads to a loss of relationship: if I can’t trust you, I struggle to be in relationship with you.

The loss of relationship in society leads to a loss of community: if I can’t be in relationship with you, our community becomes fractured and I withdraw into myself.

I’m not sure I can trust even myself.

Yet still Jesus invites us to trust Him, to acknowledge and follow Him as the way, the truth and the life. In John 14 Jesus says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” Jesus is Lord, even over the new virtual world we are creating.

He invites us into new, living and embodied relationships with God and everyone around us. He asks us to trust Him, He asks us to believe in Him as the truth, He asks us to be part of the family of believers, .

Jesus’ call to trust is a bold, provocative and refreshingly simple message, a message of trust, truth and community.

Who can you share the message with this weekend?

[1] https://www.edelman.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Website-Edelman-Trust-Barometer-Press-Release-2018.pdf

Image: CC0 License