What is it that makes us jump at every beep when we are online? It is that desire to find out who wants to communicate with us. In this age of Social Media, the number of ways we can make ourselves appear important are endless. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing a picture on Facebook “liked” or a tweet “Favorited” by another user? Why do we love to keep track of the number of shares from our posts, or the number of times we get re-tweeted. it is because we become intoxicated with the popularity contest that comes with online participation. On the other hand, if we do not get many likes or responses to our posts, we begin to feel anxious or insecure about our status. That in turn, may cause us to post more updates or tweets in an effort to bolster our virtual presence trapping us in a never-ending cycle of addiction in the virtual world.
Areas of Danger With Social Media
1. Social Media can be a Distraction
I have experienced the lure of Social Media, and often ask myself how I as a Christian should to deal with its enticement. The issue is that Jesus demands that our love for Him be total. We are to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength (Mark 12:30). If we are drawn in by the intoxication of Social Media, we are in danger of making that our god, and giving it a place that is above where Jesus demands to be in our lives. This is exactly the problem with the thorny soil in Jesus’ parable. Jesus explained that “the cares of the world … and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Social Media surely can very easily become a desire we have for “other things”, and that can make us unfruitful for Jesus. Similarly, we are encouraged to run our Christian race with purpose, and to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb 12;1)
2. Social Media Enables Us to Wear Masks
Here is another challenge that Social Media poses to Christians. If we were to use Social Media to post too many things about ourselves (think “selfies” and status updates) we will be tempted to make ourselves look cooler than we really are. It is natural that we desire that others think that we have it all together. We fear that if people were to see us as we really are, they will not like us. However, if our lives were really that well put-together, then Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. Apart from Him we were all in a desperate situation, and there was no possible way our lives could have been salvaged, except that Jesus chose to step down from His throne and die on the cross, bearing the wrath of God against all of our sins on Himself. How can we proclaim the wonder of Jesus has done for us if we are so eager to make our lives look so completely put-together? In what ways would we be any different to those who do not know Jesus? Social Media makes it very easy to proclaim our so-called “achievements” and those of our children. However, every last one of them is also a generous gift from God that we did not deserve (James 1:17). So how can we boast in them without disparaging our generous God the Giver? This is probably why Paul said that he decided to “know” nothing among his hearers except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2), and that he counted all his achievements as “rubbish”, in order that he could gain Christ (Phil 3:8). Alongside our “achievements” one can also usually find pride, sin, suffering and brokenness, which we are not so enthusiastic to share about. So to use Social Media to parade just our achievements and those of our families would skew our portrayed image of ourselves in a more favorable light than the real truth.
3. We can Send a Wrong Message Through Social Media
Let us take this a step further. The masks that are so easy for us to wear on-line can rouse envy in others who wish they could have the life they perceive that we have (and let us face it – maybe deep down inside we do really want that to happen)! Often we prefix our posts with phrases like “God has been so good to me”, etc. In this way without realizing it, we are making an underlying implication that God’s goodness is measured by the physical blessings we have in our lives.Then when people say they are “blessed” by our posts, they are perhaps looking at an unrealistic picture of what the Christian life is about. What if we are feeding a deeply cherished hope within them that if they are good enough and serve God well enough, they will also be physically showered with God’s favor they way we portray ourselves to have been? However, that is the exact opposite of what the gospel really is in so many ways. In Jesus’ parable, the hearts represented by the seed that was sown in rocky ground hear the Word and “immediately receive it with joy” (Mark 4:17). However, that kind of faith is not genuine, because they “endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:17).
Positive Benefits of Using Social Media
Although there are many dangers inherent in Social Media, on the flip side, Social Media is a tool that can be used in many positive ways as well.
1. Social Media Enables Connections With Old Friends and Acquaintances
Social Media is a tool that can enable us connect with many of our friends, classmates from school college, and our old work colleagues – some of whom we may have lost touch with for several years. Many of them may not know Jesus, and the connections that Social Media facilitates can provide a means by which we can share the love of God in Jesus Christ with them. Paul says that he had “become all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). Since most of our friends and acquaintances are connected through Social Media, this is one of the means that God can use to enable us to reach out to them with the good news about Jesus.
2. Boasting Only in Jesus
So how can I as a Christian redeem my use of Social Media? I want to try to take the approach that Paul did and boast only in Jesus Christ. My desire is to be honest about my weaknesses, sin and failure, so that I can show how much I need Jesus, and that His grace is sufficient for me. I am ashamed to say that I have a long list of failures as a man, a husband and as a father. However, as I review my walk with Jesus that spans over three decades, I can see His hand on my life in unmistakable ways. He has relentlessly stood by me and pursued me when I have wandered away from Him (and how I wish it did not happen so often)! I have experienced His severe but loving hand of discipline that has drawn me back on multiple occasions, and I can affirm with the Psalmist that “the Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1), and that He is “my Refuge and Strength” (Psalm 46:1), and He is always with me (Matt 28:20). I would like to be honest. The road in following Jesus is very costly. It crosses deep valleys that require much loneliness and suffering. The difficulties are enhanced because not all of it is due to devotion to Jesus, but also because there is so much sin in my life. I have destroyed friendships and relationships by anger, self-righteousness, insensitivity, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. Sometimes my pride gets in the way of seeking reconciliation and it goes on for years. This causes deep heartbreak, and I am to blame for some of it. Yes, there are some ugly parts of my life that I deeply desire healing from, but the process is taking much longer than I would like. However, the wonder of it all is that Jesus has not given up on me. He still whispers His precious promises to me through His Word and assures me that He will never let me go. He tells me that there is nothing I can do that will separate me from His love (Romans 8:39), and that He will keep working on me from the inside and will gradually enable me to become like Jesus (2 Cor 3:18). His relentless love for me enthralls me. Jesus also tells me that a day is coming when all my difficulties and the battle against my own sinful nature will be over once and for all (Rev 21:4). On that day I will be able to bask in His presence forever (John 17:24), and I cannot even imagine how wonderful that would be!
How I have Determined to Use Social Media
So this is how I have decided to use Social Media. I want to talk about Jesus. I want to talk about my failures and my sin, and the way Jesus has forgiven me, cleansed me and restored me. I want to avoid making posts about myself or my family, unless it makes a strong statement about how wonderful Jesus is. My deep desire is that my circle of friends in Social Media know that I passionately love Jesus, and I don’t want any of my posts to distract them from getting that message.
Please note that I am not making value statements about how Social Media should be used, but am just evaluating my use of it, based on my own proclivities.