Theology of Steemit Series - #2 - "Up-Voting" as a "Calling to Bless"
Steemit as a platform has several “moving parts” that give it pretty remarkable potential. As a platform designed around the concept of allowing people to be rewarded for their creations and creativity as well as their willingness to interact and appreciate one another’s contributions, Steemit stands in fairly rare company in the “Crypto-Sphere.” In this article, I’m inviting you to theologically reflect upon one of those “moving parts” with me… specifically I want to look at the concept of “up-voting” through a lens of discernment to consider how it contributes to the whole of Steemit, but also how and perhaps more importantly “why” it is also one of those places where a great deal of consternation and even at times animosity is fomented among we “Steemians” due to how the system of up-voting can be and is being used by at least some.
I’m not here to pass judgments, but I am here to consider what is “good” and at least present my thinking for why I would call certain uses of up-voting “good” for Steemit verses “bad” for the platform and community. Ultimately each one of us will do as we see fit, for reasons of our own choosing… consider this an opportunity to peak inside someone else’s head and decision making. Perhaps as you look into my thinking, it will serve to clarify in your own thinking why it is you do as you do… what values you consider most worthy, and what behaviors are most useful for you in your interactions with this community.
As I had shared in the post where I had introduced the series, I am writing from within a framework of a Christian-worldview. I am not claiming to be representing this worldview with authority, but it is my lens through which I am examining Steemit and it does inform my own sense of values and habits and norms.
So here we go… lets look at “up-voting.”
First Principles: The Lens of Scripture
Spend any time at all in the body of work considered authoritative by Christians, the Old and New Testaments and one inevitably comes upon the concept of “blessed to be a blessing.” This is the theological concept underneath the base understanding of what it means to be a “chosen people.” Though defined differently in each of these Testaments, the idea is present in both. God had chosen a people for a particular relationship, but perhaps even more importantly for a particular calling, a particular responsibility… they were to become a “light unto the nations.” (see Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 60:3) The book of Proverbs speaks to the wisdom of the act of “blessing” and even “watering” as being the source of the person likewise receiving the same in return (Proverbs 11:25-26)
The various books of the prophets speak over and over and over again of God’s judgment upon His chosen one’s who had disdained their calling to be a source of blessing particularly to the vulnerable, the outcast, the widow, the foreigner, the orphan living amongst those God had called to be caretakers and a source of blessing to these most vulnerable ones. Judgment, correction, wrath, separation from God were all ways the various prophets were given to voice God’s displeasure over the abdication of this responsibility in particular (though not exclusively for this reason by any means… but it IS in there!)
The New Testament continues this same calling and if anything doubles down on it. Jesus places the entire hallmark of being recognizable as his disciples by how well his followers “love one another.” Paul’s writings are replete with admonitions to generosity speaking to how one’s own benefit is directly tied to first one’s willingness and actual generosity with others. Whether it be couched in “sharing,” “bearing one another’s burdens,” “building up,” “encouragement,” or several other ways of speaking the New Testament too is filled with the expectation that God’s people are given the freedom AND responsibility to become blessings for the sake of others.
So the short of it… if one is to take the biblical witness seriously, caring for others is A REALLY BIG DEAL to God and ought be a REALLY BIG DEAL to those who seek to follow faithfully God’s callings in their life.
Second Principles: Observations of Humanity
Where there is a strength inherent within an individual, there is longevity and multiplied strength within a community when it is well functioning. Groups that look out for one another tend to be the one’s with the durability to weather most any storm. Is this simply an extension of “you gotta sleep sometime??” or some other dynamic? I cannot say I have an absolute proof of this observation, but when I look at communities both historic and contemporary, it seems to me to be the one’s that have at least some component of the well being of others as a defining characteristic that seem to last even through the midst of tremendous adversity. I think of the early Christians as one example. During a time when it was actually quite dangerous to be a person of “the Way,” the community thrived and even expanded and grew.
So it seems that even outside of faith itself, there is something to be said for co-operation and the strength that emerges when people actually look out for the well being of the “other.” I’ve heard some compelling arguments for the definition of “civilized” that is actually directly connected to aspects of this notion of seeking the well being of others as a key component. I’m not here going to argue it one way or another… I simply want to acknowledge it as a possibility (perhaps even a strong one… sue me I do have an opinion on this too :)
Just as easily one could reflect upon the number of pathological behaviors connected with a lack of concern for the well being of another – sociopaths, psychopaths, psychotics, narcissists and the like. Each of these behaviors leads to the ascendancy of the individual, but in each instance at the ultimate destruction of human relationship at minimum and often the demise of community ultimately.
So it seems that looking out for one another not only seems to be a big deal to God (for those who confess this) but it also seems to be one of those things humans in general have tended to know and attempt to enact for most of their history.
So what’s the Issue then???
Lets put this simply… just because we are both called to seek the well being of others through faith AND “know” the truth of the importance of co-operation from lived experience, neither actually guarantees we will actually do it when faced with our own human desires, motivations, impulses, advantages, and perceptions of personal gain. In Christian theology we would call this “sin” as a broad category. Defined in a multitude of ways perhaps a simple way of thinking about the nature of “sin” is this (and I am melding concepts of Scripture with a bit of Reformation theology as per Martin Luther here):
“Sin” - rebelling against God and God’s desires for what makes us truly human resulting in being “curved in upon oneself.”
Or to put it another way… sin means we do not really give a crap about anyone else.
As a person who takes theology quite seriously, I see sin alive, present and well throughout humanity and quite honestly within my life regularly. Do I see it within Steemit… sure thing, but then I’d also say, that’s no great surprise because I actually do think AND believe that sin is a universal human problem. Where there are humans… there is sin mucking things up. Since Steemit is ultimately a human endeavor… there is sin mucking it up too.
As a Christian our theology and theological categories are not to lift us out of this world as though we are somehow above it all… but rather it is to give us some tools to actually live in the world that is and into which we are called to interact. So lets think about the practical implications of what a Christian believes to be true as to our callings while at the same time acknowledging the reality of “sin” in the world as these apply to the Crypto-land we know as “Steemit.”
The “Up-Vote” - A road of two forks…
On any given day, on any given post I am faced with needing to make a decision… will I click “up-vote or not.” Underneath this decision point are several underlying realities that may very easily go unspoken, but present nevertheless. Lets at least put out the one’s I can think of:
I only have so much “Steem-power” to work with on a daily basis… it is a limited resource before it is depleted for the day. (Now I can only speak as one who’s account is small enough that I do not yet have access to the “magic slider” that allows for a finer control of how quickly one’s voting power is depleted. Currently I can only provide 100% upvotes which if my understanding is correct, I can only offer 20 full powered votes before my Steempower for the day will be unable to replenish within a single days time.)
I am as free to click on my own postings, comments, and responses as those of any other community member.
Personal gain as conveyed through the rewards allocation of the weekly pool of STEEM and Steem Backed Dollars (SBD’s) are largely connected to how many times personal items (posts / comments / replies) have been Up-voted (yes there is also “Curation” rewards… but even then, when I am free to upvote a comment of my own and get .02 directly – or upvote another’s post and get .02 x 25% divided amongst all up-voters as a curation reward, I’d submit that the vast majority of one’s personal gain is yoked into this discernment process… though I WOULD love to hear how / if this discernment process is different for those who are really focused on curation as their pathway of success!)
The design of the Steemit platform means that the posts and comments with the largest accrued upvote values are the one’s most likely to be seen. They rise above the “clutter” AND this is irrespective of whether these posts are “quality” or not… the fact is they do not have to be either subjectively NOR objectively “quality posts” - They simply have to have been up-voted by one or more with the accrued Steem-power to get them visible.
These realities are the context within which we do our “practical theology.” When faced with something of limited quantity, there is a definite tension between the calling to look out for others and the impulse to maximize one’s own benefit. When freedom exists, I can absolutely decide to act one way verses another… for that is the very definition of freedom, but freedom exercised outside of discernment, particularly moral discernment can lead just as easily to horrible outcomes as beneficial… it is actually the discernment that guides the exercise of freedom toward desired outcomes (what in Christian theology is often the conversation of the difference between concepts of “freedom from” and “freedom for”)
So it’s not just “do” I up-vote or not, but it’s also “whose” do I choose to up-vote.
Up-Voting as a Calling to Bless
One of the things that most attracts me to Steemit as a whole is that conceptually it is the first Cryptocurrency idea I’d come across that actually is designed around the concept of rewarding another for their creative contribution to the community through their posts, comments, and replies. The UpVote to me almost directly connects to the theological calling to care for the well-being of another. The other is “blessed” each time I find value in their contribution and click the button. But here’s the thing, it’s not JUST that they are financially rewarded… the blessing is often that they feel noticed and appreciated. The very human element of being upvoted is a positive reinforcement of a desired behavior… it says “keep coming back… keep participating… keep contributing” or to say it another way… “this community values you and your contribution!”
So each time I “upvote” another, I am able to communicate to them a reason why they should continue to participate. One of the concepts I’ve come across ever since I really started noticing cryptocurrencies at all is the concept that holds that the value of any currency is a direct function of the number of those who are using it. If I am hearing it correctly, this simply means that the more people who use a token or coin, the more valuable it becomes. So to have at my disposal a tool that allows me to not only “bless” that one person, but by encouraging their ongoing contribution and participation help secure the long term value for us all… myself included … well now that begins to sound like a tool with ENORMOUS impact and power depending of course on HOW I USE IT.
If I use it as a source of encouragement… that seems “good.”
If I use it as a way of supporting another in their life circumstances… that too seems “good” - I’d even call it incredible particularly when I see the posts of how this is seriously giving hope and economic development in places that have incredible challenges to overcome!
If I use my “limited resource” only to secure my own future (extensive self up-voting)… I’m actually likely going to contribute to people growing frustrated with the platform and departing never to look back which I would submit is “bad.” (Some may find this an overstatement of the case, but within my first couple weeks of involvement I’d seen this as a pretty significant thread woven into Steemit.)
If I use my vote to attempt to get my own voice heard at least for a time because I feel like for that instance I have something I think is particularly useful / valuable / beautiful or even just personally interesting… well then I’ll do so, but with full knowledge that it is probably best to do so but only as a function of trying to meet the call to bless the wider community with the majority of my efforts.
If I begin to feel the need to “curve in upon myself” and look out for my own interests first and foremost, I likely need to grow more attentive to the power of sin and the destructive ramifications it wreaks within not only myself, but communities as a whole.
Friendship and deep relationships can be formed with simple acts of generosity. I’ve already seen and been welcomed in by some pretty remarkable folks who went from “total stranger” to person who checks in and invites me to do the same, simply because there was a willingness to seek their well being through comments of encouragement but also the “Blessing” or an “Upvote!”
So bless someone today, tomorrow, and each day that you are able. Do it in your “real life” but I’d encourage you to do it within your life as a “Steemian” as well. We are all better off and this community is stronger when we take up the call to bless one another and look out for the well-being of others as a first importance and calling. For those of a faith persuasion it is part of our faith itself… you just cannot escape it. For those of limited or even no faith persuasion… I hope you see that if nothing else it just “makes sense” for the well being of the Steem community. However you get there make little difference to me ultimately... though I am partial to the faith road... but you knew that already didn't ya... ;)
I hope you find this meandering road something worthy of your time to have engaged. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
If you would be willing to help get this circulating through a re-Steem, I would be truly thankful. UpVotes of course are always great! If you would like to follow along for the next installment of The Theology of Steem.. do so here. I also put out prayers and other things connected to faith… someday I’ll probably throw out some board-game stuff too as that is another of my “rabbit holes!”