Disclaimer: Please note, by pointing out the following, I do not mean to suggest that I have used social media perfectly at all times. These are simply some observations and lessons learned from my own personal experience.
- First and foremost, most people enjoy social media because we are social people and we like to stay in touch.
- The tremendous opportunity and potential:
- Our culture is extremely bound up with social media. (If you disagree, you’re living under a rock; sorry.) Therefore, for Christians to abandon this new realm of social media would be, in a large sense, to disengage themselves from a significant sphere of our culture.
- In a similar way to how Christians used the invention of the printing press to advance the Gospel and Biblical thinking, the emergence of social media (obviously less significant than the invention of the printing press, but nonetheless–) provides us with a tremendous tool to do the same–advance the Gospel and Biblical thinking. Social media can be used to challenge and encourage other Christians and articulate the Gospel and other biblical truths to the lost. By simply creating a Facebook account, Twitter account, etc. (and assuming that you have some people who will “add” or “follow” you), you automatically have a “platform of influence,” a “public voice,” at least on some level. Whereas in previous times, to get something in print on a public level was somewhat difficult, now anyone can do it, which is both scary (con) and amazing (pro).
- First, social media tends to be addicting and a huge time waster. As Christians we are to be “redeeming the time” (Eph 5:16, KJV).
- Social media has a tendency to produce a lot of needless arguing. I have some theories:
- Social media tends to dehumanize people. What I mean by this is that people tend to say things to others that they would never say to them in person. For some reason, communicating via a device (i.e., computer, cell phone) can cause one to forget that he or she is talking to real human beings that have feelings. The lack of face to face communication deletes the “be polite” filter for many people.
- Hiding behind devices causes people to become jerks and the best “one-ups-men” of all time.
- Being able to comment or post with a simple click allows our impulses to get the best of us at times.
- “Statuses” and tweets don’t have a context. What do I mean by this? You may have a specific type of person in mind (i.e., a Christian, coworkers, close friends, etc.) when you post a status or tweet. But if you’re like me and have a large variety of friends from different backgrounds, no matter what you say it’s going to be misunderstood by someone. It’s like shouting an “inside joke” through a blow horn in the middle of a mall. And to ad insult to injury, your large variety of friends from differing backgrounds creates a large potential for “commenting arguments” based on mere misunderstandings.
- Letters on a computer screen lack voice inflection and facial expressions. Even if you use things like “:)” and “lol,” you can still be easily misunderstood and can easily misunderstand others.
- Social media tends to foster a lot of pride and selfishness. Why? You post things about your life, your interests, and your dislikes so that people will 1) read what you’ve said, 2) possibly comment on what you’ve said, and/or 3) possibly “like,” retweet, or “favorite” what you’ve said. It’s a venue for you to get attention (i.e., “likes,” “comments,” etc.) If we’re honest, we’ll admit that a large part of us enjoys social media because we are selfish and prideful.
- Social media can become a place to engage in pity parties (i.e., “my parents suck!” “everyone hates me”). This point is really just an extension of the above point–”selfishness.”
- It’s difficult to filter what you’re exposed to. If you have friends that like to post status filled with cursing, you’re going to see it. If you have friends that like to post and share crude pictures, you better learn to scroll fast.
- I believe social media has negatively impacted language, namely, poor grammar (i.e., punctuation and capitalization). You know what I’m talking about (see, I just ended my sentence in a preposition!)
- You don’t need to share everything. Don’t turn your profile into a personal online tabloid.
- Use security settings and try to stay up to speed on them.
- Find a way to limited your use of social media. Personally, once my wife got me an iPhone for a graduation present, my use of social media shot through the roof. I found myself wasting more time on it than I ever had before. Eventually I deleted decided to delete my Facebook App from my iPhone so that I would no longer be distracted with Facebook throughout the day. But because I still have my Twitter App (which forwards everything I Tweet to Facebook) I can still share things throughout the day without so much time.
- Sometimes “unfriending” or “blocking” people (i.e., stalkers, chronic arguers, individuals who post things that are inappropriate), although it may hurt their feelings, may be the best thing to do.
- Find ways to avoid needless arguing. (Because of my large variety of friends and due to the things I tend to post [things related to faith and it’s practice], I have to be deliberate about this and constantly work at this.) Here are some suggestions:
- Ask,”how could some of friends from different contexts take this?” and “how could what I am about to say be misunderstood?”
- Ask, “is what I’m about to say beneficial and edifying or simply controversial for the sake of controversy?”
- Ask, “am I slandering or misrepresenting?” and “am I stating the truth in love (Eph 4:15)?”
- Don’t necessarily shy away from saying things that are controversial. Many things worth saying are controversial.
- Use social media as a platform to pump out Biblical thinking and to advance the Gospel. There are definitely a lot of dangers and negative aspects to social media, but if it used with caution, I think social media can be a valuable platform from which to pump out Biblical thinking. (Personally, this is why I value social media. If it wasn’t for this potential, the disciplined part of me would tell me to close all my accounts.) So, tweet Bible verses, share excellent blog posts on theology, stay in contact with unsaved friends, etc. Whatever you do, whether you post, like, comment, tweet, instagram, or blog, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
Please share your thoughts, disagreements, agreements, clarifications, additional suggests, etc., below. I hope this post provides a great venue for us to think through some of these issues.