They’re watching me.

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Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

I know they’ve been watching me. I’ve known it for a long time.

No, I’m not paranoid. I’m simply aware that the advertisements that frame my searches and litter the news articles I read are not random. They are reflections of me. They are linked to things that I have either searched for, shopped for, or recently purchased.

As I was recently reading a New York Times article about Haiti and its people on my phone, I noticed that the advertisements that showed up every 300 words or so were for yogurt. Usually the ads are for Harry’s Razors (which I have purchased) or Stitch Fix (from whom I sometimes buy clothes) or some Mac maintenance software (I own a Mac). But yogurt?

After a bit of thought, I realized that I had just bought one container of yogurt at a local grocery store recently, after a long period of not buying any yogurt at all. Hmm. Another ad that kept showing up was for Target. I hardly ever shop at Target, but I had gone there just a week ago to pick up a few items. Hmm. I had been searching for some information on reading and writing short stories, and Medium suggested a few articles for me. Hmm. Someone is watching me. Someone knows what I am doing. Someone knows the places where I go.

Apparently, they are watching what I buy and where I shop, as well as what I am looking for. In some ways, this is threatening. In other ways, it’s kind of exciting. Rather than getting a lot of junk advertising – and I get plenty of that – I get stuff that actually interests me. And I learn some things about myself. I don’t pay much attention to what I buy or where I shop. But someone does, and if I pay attention, I discover something about me.

So now I am thinking, “How can I tap into this?” If someone knows what I am thinking and doing, then someone knows what other people are thinking and doing, too. Like the members of my congregation. Like the people I preach to each Sunday. If I could tap into that information, I could hit the nail on the head every week. I would know exactly what sins to mention and how to shape my presentation of the gospel. I could cut right to the chase each and every week!

As I write those words, they sound kind of crazy. But they aren’t. I could pay and get that info. I could acquire mountains of data and details about my members’ lives. But I don’t have to. Like wise Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” No one is inventing any new sins. We just keep doing the same old ones. Immorality, dishonesty, and hate. You got a body and a mind? You know exactly what I am talking about. I do. And I do.

More than a few times, someone has spoken to me after church and said that I must have bugged their home. What I talked about that Sunday addressed the very thing that had been going on in their lives that week. Of course, I hadn’t. And it wasn’t even me who was addressing the situation. It was God. It was his word speaking to them, to their situation, and to their hearts.

So I’m not all that worried about someone knowing where I’m going, what I’m doing, or what I’m thinking. Someone already knows. The one who counts already knows. It’s convicting. He’s forgiving. And it keeps me on my toes.

 

 

 

Sounds good to me.

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Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I read a lot of articles on Medium, another publishing site, as well as blogs on WordPress and Blogger. A lot of pieces have titles that begin

“The ultimate guide to…”
“Simple tips to…”
“What it takes to succeed at…”
“How to become…”
“Strategies that really work…”

I know these titles are meant to get readers, reposts and ratings. And they work, because they get your attention and you think for a second, “This is just what I need.”

Maybe it is. But what do you know about the author? What’s his or her experience and expertise? What are their credentials? How do you know they know what they’re talking about? I’ll bet you don’t. Chances are you don’t check. Most of the time, you accept their words as authoritative. You read their advice, tips or strategies and think, “This is just what I need…”

That’s scary. Without knowing anything about the source, you are just taking someone’s word for it and implement their suggestions! Why is that? Why do we so easily give credibility to the massive amounts of information we take in each day via blogs, social media, and digital newsletters? On top of that, our friends and family are very quick to share, “So-and-so says we should try this…or go here…or eat this…” No wonder fake news works so well. Or bot-generated comments.

There must be some science to this. I’ll have to do a little research. What makes an anonymously generated idea so believable? Can we learn to be more discerning?

I’ll let you know what I find out. And I’ll bet you’ll believe me, too.