Has social media become the modern tower of Babel?


James Deakin

You know your parables, right? Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark etc? Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all religious on you. I’ve just found myself thinking a lot about them lately because, well, regardless of what religion you subscribe to (if any at all) if history tends to repeat itself and man is a creature of habit, I think we’re seeing a similar pattern emerge here—one filled with valuable lessons that our forefathers have already paid for.

And isn’t that the main point or purpose of parables? To share a valuable moral lesson so we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again? It’s basically our ancestors way of saying we don’t have to place our hand in the fire to know we will get burned. Because regardless of how much man evolves, human nature essentially remains the same (or has trouble catching up) and these parables, myths, fables, tales or whatever you prefer to refer to them as, use the power of story telling to save us all the pain. Well, so long as we choose to listen to them, at least.

So back to the parable of the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel is a story from the Old Testament of the Bible about the construction of a tower that was intended to reach heaven. According to the Bible, up until this point, the whole world spoke the same language. This gave the people the ability to communicate with anyone across the world, which was good until it eventually led to hubris, so they decided to build a tower that would be so tall that it would reach all the way to heaven and they could tell God what to do, I guess.

Legend has it that God saw what they were doing and clicked his fingers (or something more symbolic and dramatic) which confused their language so that they could no longer understand each other. As a result, the tower was never completed and the people were scattered all over the earth.

So think about it. What if social media is the modern tower of Babel? But instead of a tower, we created a platform where we could all communicate, regardless of what country, in real time, anywhere there was an internet connection. The platform gave us a universal language, so to speak, because it tore down borders. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that in principle, but the problem is, as human nature kicked in, everybody started talking and nobody was listening. This led to conflict and a lack of tolerance for one another, eventually leading to us becoming tribal again with our ideologies and imposing them on one another until we literally couldn’t understand (or stand) each other again. And the whole thing started to collapse.

So when you look at it like that, maybe it wasn’t God who did this to us, but something we did to ourselves. We all talked over each other till we couldn’t hear ourselves through the noise. So the lesson here is not that we shouldn’t collaborate to build great things, but that we should spend twice as much time listening to each other than we do talking. After all, God gave us two ears and one mouth, right?

We see this scenario play out every single day on social media. With everyone screaming at the same time, we feel we need to cancel each other out in order to be heard. And all that has done is rob us of the power of unity. Because when you allow yourself to get all worked up over the silliest things, like what this blogger said or who that celebrity slept with, we leave ourselves no room to be heard when it really matters—like when we witness a blatant perversion of justice and some powerful figure get acquitted of a serious crime. It just gets lost in all the noise. Blowing up over every insensitive post or comment is the cyber equivalent of the boy who cried wolf, which is yet another fable that has a powerful lesson.
So in 2023, learn to pick your battles. Save your aggression. Rise up only when it counts. Otherwise you're just babbling.