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The Dangers of New Media (The Coming Peril)

June 25th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

G.K. Chesterton, one of Christianity’s most prolific writers in the twentieth century corroborates the point.  In a speech in the 1930s, Chesterton offered this prophetic analysis:

The coming peril is the intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the wellbeing of contemporary civilisation. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves.*

Chesterton’s language indicates that overstimulation prevents people from interacting with the world around them.  They are “blinded, deafened, mentally paralyzed.”   In Sayers’s language, the inundation of “events” happening around us prevents us from reflecting appropriately upon them, which ultimately stifles our ability to understand and express them in language that is distinctly ours.   For the creator of new media who wants to be a relevant voice, all analysis is time-sensitive.  This premium upon speed threatens to short-circuit the creative process of fitting the right words to our thoughts and reflections.

The chief danger of new media, then, is that our souls will die for want of silence, solitude, and reflection.  The world of new media is short on Dorothy Sayers’s poets, and if Christians are to make a significant impact through this technology, we must cultivate more of them.  To do so, however, entails setting aside the need for more information and reflecting on the world in a way that ensures our commentary is insightful and powerful.  It means ensuring that as creators of new media, we recognize the danger inherent in overproduction—that we will impoverish our own souls and contribute to an ultimately meaningless and powerless chatter. We must be poets and prophets who speak powerfully, which means that we must be discerning consumers and patient, conscientious creators.

For the previous installment of this series, click here.

*Stratford Caldecott.  “Chesterton Alive Today:  Reviving the Moral and Social Imagination.”  Available at

Taken from The New Media Frontier edited by John Mark Reynolds and Roger Overton, ©2008.  Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,  Download for personal use only.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.