We are spending more and more time online. Although some of this time is filled with people posting and watching cat videos on YouTube or checking email, most people are spending countless hours on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), in an inherent desire to do part of what we were created to do, participate in relationship with others.
Social media is in its infancy and we are still trying to understand this new medium and vehicle. Like anyone understanding a new vehicle, there is a training period where one learns its abilities and limitations. Social media is no different. As we live increasing amounts of our lives online, knowing how to do this well is becoming increasingly apparent. The Bible has lots to say about how we engage this new world.
Using the Bible, I would like to suggest five guidelines for life in social media:
- Social media is NOT a place to confront someone. The Bible teaches that if someone has done something wrong, you are to first go to him or her privately (Matthew 18) before making it public. Humanity’s temptation is to bypass relationship and instantly cast judgment rather than seek understanding and, with humility and love, help the person that needs confronting (Matthew 7:1-6). Thus, a public Facebook status or Twitter tweet is not a healthy way to confront someone about something they have said or done (or not said or done) because it does so outside of relationship, understanding, and love.
- Social media is social – keep it that way! The tendency with social media is that it can become a convenient means to express our love of self. If social media is simply a means of self-promotion, it ceases to be social and ends us isolating people further. Jesus calls us to “love our neighbour as ourselves.” (Matthew 22:39) Thus, we need to celebrate others and foster relationships rather than just use Facebook or Twitter as a place to celebrate our own lives, family, accomplishments, etc.
- Social media is public – what goes online stays online. The Bible calls us to live lives of integrity – for our private life to be consistent with our public life. Thus, if you are not able to tell the world about something you have done (with photographic evidence perhaps), then maybe it is a caution to you doing it in the first place. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!”
- Social media is powerful. The Bible teaches that the tongue is extremely powerful and has the ability to be used for amazing good or tremendous evil (James 3). Words are powerful. They can be used to build someone up or they can be used to tear someone down. Just as the tongue is powerful, the type or text is powerful and can extend the reach of our hatred, jealousy, selfishness, bullying, or unhealthy relationships. Therefore, understand the power of social media and wield that power for your love of God and others, rather than for love of self at the expense of others.
- Social media expresses our thoughts. Our thoughts should represent the renewed mind we are called to have in and through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” May what we post, view, and read, represent these qualities. If we did this, imagine the kind of place the virtual world would be; imagine the kind of place the physical world would be.
Technology is not evil and wrong but technology does extend our reach and sometimes, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we reach for evil and wrong things.