As we do in every good thing, we need to be careful how we steward the potentially valuable tool of social media.
I recently encouraged a friend to sign up for a Twitter account. Why, you ask?
Good question. It took me a good long while to finally plunge into the social media world. I resisted for three reasons:
- Time: Who has enough of it? You can’t manufacture more of it, so why add something else that can become a major time-drainer?
- Soul Danger: There are several subtle dangers lurking behind the happy social media world, including its addictive pull. It caters to the ugliest part of us: our pride. The system is set up to fuel narcissism. It’s like the junior high popularity game on steroids. “Experts” are now telling us that social media sites can lead to feelings of unhappiness, jealousy, discontentment, and inadequacy. I’ve not experienced that, but I felt like I needed to include the warnings in this post.
- Stumbling: In the multitude of words there is greater opportunity to intentionally or unintentionally harm someone by something I post online (Proverbs 10:19). The Internet removes “face-to-face inhibitions” encouraging some users to post ugly comments they would never say but feel comfortable typing on screen. Pictures and information are passed through these sites that are nauseating and alarming.
So why would I encourage anyone to add one more thing to their lives that has these potential dangers? Because of:
- The gospel
- The glory of God
The Internet community provides a base of operation to spread the gospel, to send encouragement to the needy, and to disciple others on a larger scale than we could possibly do without the Internet.
I can sit with a friend who needs discipleship at our local coffee shop and spend an hour sharing truth. That is beneficial to the kingdom—that is making disciples. But I can also spend an hour working on a blog post that has essentially the same message and spread it to hundreds, maybe thousands of women who need to hear that instruction. Both forms of discipleship are important.
I see social media as an opportunity to exchange information, ideas, pictures, encouragement, and catch up on what is happening with loved ones. I see it as a ministry opportunity (both ways—I give and receive) as well as a recreational activity.
But what about the dangers I mentioned above? I’ve put in place some protective measures—they aren’t foolproof, but so far they’ve been helpful to me.
The first thing I noticed when I joined Facebook is how much faster time flies while you’re on that site. You can be browsing through picture albums of family and friends and before you know it, two hours have flown by! I don’t seem to have enough time as it is, so I’ve established a few personal guidelines:
- I don’t have social media sites installed on my phone. I’ve found this to be a time-protector for me, and it also prevents the bombardment of a continual flow of distraction.
- I never go on social media sites without first having my devotional time.
- I briefly go online to post a Facebook status or tweet that directs others to a post I think might be helpful (discipleship). I usually try to find at least one truth or statement from my morning study that I can distill into 140 Twitter characters (this is a good literary discipline as well).
- On Twitter, I “follow” (receive tweets from) less than forty people so I can scan my twitter feed quickly. I don’t follow all my friends and family (I use Facebook for that), but I follow people who consistently post good quotes, helpful links, or newsworthy items. When I scan these, I save interesting links for later—during time allotted for reading. I rarely scan the Twitter feed without finding something that is helpful, inspirational, that motivates further study/investigation in the Word, or that is in some way beneficial.
- On Facebook, I use the settings to be selective about how much information I receive from friends. I post things that I hope will serve to disciple or encourage others and I save my Facebook cruising and picture viewing for recreational time. My husband and I like to do this together on Friday or Saturday evenings.
- Sundays are a rest day from the Internet world. I rarely go online on a Sunday; I need that day to reset my mind and heart for the week.
Social media sites can be addictive and also fuel narcissism, so I’ve put a few protective measures in place:
- I don’t check to see if people are “retweeting” my tweets. What does that matter? How will that serve me well if I discover my tweets are being passed on? It is a little more difficult with Facebook as I can easily see how many people “like” my pictures or status updates.
- I don’t keep track of how many “friends/followers” I have. My goal is not self-promotion, popularity, or “likes.” If I post things with the perspective that this is “an offering for the Lord’s use,” it protects me from seeking personal applause.
With a larger community and more conversation and information being spread, there is greater opportunity for harm. As Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
- I treat my words online as though my conversation includes Jesus—because it does. I try not to state anything in this public medium that I would be ashamed to say to Jesus’ face.
- I use Philippians 4:8 as a guideline for the type of content I allow in my media feeds.
I can’t say that social media is the right choice for you. As with anything there is potential for harm. For me, it serves as a venue for spreading the gospel and doing a limited form of discipleship. But just like in every good thing, we need to be careful how we steward this valuable tool.