Last week a friend asked a really honest question in response to a blog post I had written. She wanted to know whether I thought social media has had an overall positive or negative impact on Christians and the church. Most days, it seems hard to tell. There’s so much good, inspiring content and there’s so much bad theology and narcissism. There are posts that make us want God’s best for our lives and then there are online catfights between celebrity pastors. There are bloggers trying to inspire and there are blogs that exist to criticize, tear down and divide. It all feels like a real mixed bag.
As much as I understand where the question is coming from, I think we need to shift it a bit. Asking whether or not social media has been good for Christianity is a lot like asking whether the printing press has been good or bad. After all, the printing press made both the Bible and Mein Kampf available to the masses. There are great books and worthless books, great tweets and worthless tweets. Neither Facebook or magazines are inherently good or bad. The real point is that social media is here to stay. Sure, there will be specific platforms that come and go (remember mySpace and that one day everyone cared about Google circles?). But humanity has found a new way to communicate and I don’t think we’re going to put it back in the box.
The real question is how to use social media well. It’s in that spirit that I want to share the four verses that have shaped how I think about social media in my life. Three of them apply to how I consume social media and one applies to how I contribute to social media:
- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8) This one just about says it all – I don’t waste time on junk that doesn’t add value to my life. Political rants, cat videos and photos of your family vacation (if I don’t know you) are all out. So is anything that stimulates comparison in my heart, whether it shows up in the form of pride (oh look, I really am better than you) or envy (I would just be happy if I had that).
- “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;” (Ps. 101:3) Yes, this is the theme verse for anyone fighting pornography. But it also eliminates a lot of the silly chatter on our NewsFeed…not inherently evil, just worthless.
- “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) It’s possible to waste a lot of time online…guessing you already knew that. I often set a timer to pull me out of Facebook land after 5 minutes.
- “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11) As a pastor and leader, I try to post with others in mind, not with a desire to show off, glorify myself or waste your time. I don’t mind posting things that encourage us by shaking us out of our complacency but even that is done with the intent of building one another up.
I’m not perfect in following these rules (especially the one about not wasting time), so if you see me slip up, call me out! But the more I try to follow these verses, the freer I feel. I’m guessing they’d do the same thing for you.