I have mixed emotions about the benefits of social media. I have been posting Christian materials over social media of various forms for about 6-9 years now, sometimes in larger quantities and sometimes in smaller quantities. And of course, sometimes too much.
Why do I have mixed emotions about social media?
1. There is a lot of pretension on social media. You get appearances, but not necessarily reality. Just because someone confesses the Lord Jesus Christ on social media, that does not mean they are confessing Him with their lives and their thoughts.
2. There is a lot of envy over social media. It is easy to compare the number of likes and shares.
3. There are a lot of conversations that become fights rather than discussions. I wouldn’t doubt that there have been a few church splits that have involved miscommunication through social media. That would go for relationships between husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, families, and other friendships as well.
4. People seem to become much bolder behind a laptop screen. Somebody who might be a quiet person in general is much more willing to call you an idiot over social media. Also, once it hits the web, it is a lot harder to take back.
A couple years ago I read an article by Russell Moore entitled ‘Fake Love, Fake War’, on the sins of pornography and video gaming. While social media is a different ball field, I strongly believe that it is all to easy to become involved in fake relationships over social media. That is why our world is so interconnected and yet so lonely. Depression rates are sky-rocketing, and I don’t doubt that social media plays a part.
And yet, I do believe that social media can be used for good, and by seminarians and pastors as well. Yes, we can become busy-bodies, conflict junkies, bold behind the computer and yet cowards in real life, carried away on certain hobbie-horses that are unedifying, and total and utter fakes. But I have a list of thoughts here about how I seek to use social media. I have not always used social media in this way, but there is always room for reform. Also, I am also open to private or public feedback with your thoughts for the use of social media.
- I seek to stick strictly to theological and religious posts along with the odd joking post. I don’t think it is necessary and even unwise to divulge all the details of my life over social media. Be assured, I find weaknesses of character in myself and I find myself repenting in day to day life. There have been hard things to deal with on a year to year basis. But I probably didn’t even need to say that.
- Sometimes it is good to post an article, or something that will engage the minds of at least a few readers, even if it only gets 2 ‘likes’. To be honest, I have found the most appreciative responses to certain material from people who neither ‘like’ or ‘share’.
- Thanks to my good wife, I now try to avoid as much as possible the more conflict oriented discussions on social media. There is a time for conflict, but social media is not always the best place, because individuals dig their heels in the sand. Also, people cannot see whether I am smiling, whether or not my tongue is in my cheek, or that I am still typing in Christian love even if I disagree 100%x10. I try to focus on discussion, and I am willing to delete comments/posts when people start getting nasty.
- My principle is that if I wouldn’t say it in real life, then I won’t say it on internet. I have not always held to that standard, and sometimes it may have made me overly bold in real life (yes, when I believe something to be important and crucial I can be quite honest and stubborn).
All in all, I don’t mind if people stay off social media, if they drop it, or if they get involved in more intense debates. The reasons are the most important factor as Christians use their Christian Liberty and discern the spirits. But the ends should also make us think about the means. Also, there are a lot of relationships that can suffer as a result of social media, and conversations can develop that can be less than edifying. And I am sure I have contributed to that, and in the places that I have, for that I apologize.
In the end, I plan to keep using some of the forms of social media (except Twitter because it is completely and utterly shallow and annoying). And may it be to the glory of God.