What was your last status update on Facebook? Are your last 140 characters on Twitter making the world a better place right now?
The internet is an amplifier. It doesn’t discriminate, it gives sound to the best and the worst of us. Connection to social media and the ubiquitous use of mobile devices has made each of us a player as we gather an audience and broadcast our every thought for comment. Our best lines are not limited to the hearing of the people within the room, but can be heard by every person we’ve ever met.
The flip side of this is that the poor side of human nature gets plenty of time on the stage also. Ill chosen comments, graceless thoughts, and selfish tendencies, are communicated to our kindergarten pals and college buddies, to cubicle neighbors and to Grandma Jo, all in real-time.
Should we throw out social media and the internet all together? I think not. There is substantial opportunity for the church to use the tools of social media and the internet to advance the gospel and build the kingdom of Christ. We should, however, remember that the rules for Christian conduct haven’t changed in the age of the internet.
Whether our communication is happening digitally or in person it must reflect biblical love, forgiveness, charity, selflessness, and many other Christian traits. The following list includes a few habits we should avoid as we take dominion over cyberspace. I am sure there are many more, perhaps you can add to this list in the comments below.
Five Social Media Habits Christians Should Avoid
1. Sharing without checking. Gossip isn’t something that only happens in whispered tones and false testimony doesn’t occur only within the walls of a court room. Every time we click share on a photo, blog post, or news story, we are spreading something. We would do well to take a moment to consider the truth of what we are sharing. The web is home to countless Photoshopped images, “news” stories with obviously sketchy sources, and blog posts which spout firm opinions with little but strong feelings to back them up. Proverbs 29:20 tells us, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
2. The personal message to an “anonymous” friend posted publicly. You know the ones:
Thanks for treating me like the trash that you are.
Your Heart Broken Friend
These messages are usually posted to ensure that the someone who has hurt or offended you knows how you really feel. The bonus with this method of venting your anger is that you get lots of sympathy and affirmation from your other friends for how you’ve been mistreated.
The down side to this type of status update is that it is a flagrant disregard for the biblical method of rebuking your friend. God’s Word tells us to go privately to rebuke a friend, and if he listens, you have won him (Matthew 18:15). A public rebuke made in anger drawing attention to a personal offense does not help your friend; neither will it heal your pain.
3. Trying to live an Instagram life. Photos can be filtered, life cannot. None of us like to post photos of ourselves that just look like us. Boooring. They need to be staged, or filtered, or from our best angle. Beware of vanity. It’s no sin to take artistic photographs, or utilize filters to make them interesting, just remember that filtered photo isn’t reality. Life doesn’t always have a golden hue and scenic backdrop. If you get too wrapped up in projecting that image of yourself all the time, you’re likely to be discontent with the reality of your life. Word to the wise, everyone else’s filtered photos aren’t real either. Their lives include bad wardrobe choices, cellulite, and mundane activities performed in ill lit environments. They just don’t post pictures of it on Instagram.
4. Complaining. When anything small or large annoys you, what is the easiest thing to do? Post your rant to Twitter or Facebook and let the agreement from your friends roll in. I did this just the other day when I was annoyed with the weather. I have a weakness for this kind of thing, and my rants tend toward the snarky. What I need to beware of is a complaining spirit and a thankless heart. While these kinds of posts can be amusing, they may also be a stumbling block for others and spread a spirit of discontent. They don’t do me any good either if they turn into a way for me to win likes for my own bad attitude. I would do well to remember that, “a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15) and forgo the fruitless grumbling.
5. Being self-involved. There’s no place on earth where it is so easy to waste time as on social media. You can scroll through feeds for hours and there will always be something more to look at. One thing you can do to redeem your time on social media is to learn to use it in a way that serves others rather than yourself.
One of the things that gives social media a bad rap is its tendency to keep people digitally connected all the time while keeping them disconnected from the real world. Turn that connectedness to your advantage and send encouraging messages to someone you know is going through a hard time. You may not be able to be physically present with your struggling friend, but your words of encouragement can meet them at just the right moment. You can transform social media from a time-waster for you into a lifeline for the heavy-hearted.
The internet has the potential to be a great blessing or a weighty curse. It is a great place for learning, conversation, and public discourse. Like the advent of the printing press which broke down many barriers between regular people and God’s Word by putting Bibles in the hands of the masses, the internet again breaks down the barriers to communication on a large scale. Ideas spread farther and faster than ever before. The possibilities of what can be done with this tool to build Christ’s kingdom are expanding daily. As we wield this mighty tool in the service of the King we must seek to remember a command which is as true today as when it was given: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).