Social media is here to stay. People of all walks of life use various platforms to stay connected, find out about news or express themselves to the world. I am active on several social media services myself. As much fun as I have had at times, I have also seen that, despite the benefits, the social media world brings great potential to cause harm and damage the witness of believers to the world around us.
I can’t help but shake my head before I open Twitter and ask myself what is the trumped-up, out-of-context controversy of the day. Some people even tune in for the train wreck! The question for a believer is: How should we conduct ourselves in a social media world?
I want to propose five considerations before you get involved in social media.
1.Start with a commitment to God to glorify him with your posts.
Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Social media engagement is an extension of the words we speak. Therefore, a commitment to honor God with what you say applies wholly to our online interactions. Before clicking Send, Post or Tweet, ask yourself if God would be pleased or disappointed in the words you are publishing for all the world to see.
2. Before you engage someone or in some debate on social media, discern the likely outcome of your engagement.
One of the most perplexing passages in the Bible is found in Proverbs 26:4-5, yet they are most instructive when it comes to social media involvement: “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness, or you will become like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.” Starting with a presupposition that the Scripture does not contradict itself and recognizing that Proverbs are general principles about life suggests that both of these statements are true. A complete exposition of these verses is beyond the scope of this article. Still, these two verses have helped me discern whether I should engage in a social media debate of controversy at a basic level. Typically, you know who you follow or are friends with on social media platforms. As such, it should not be tough to discern where to engage. If you know that an individual is unlikely to change or be moved by your input, resist the urge to wade into the discussion.
On the other hand, if your input is likely to be well-received, feel free to enter the exchange. Admittedly, I have discovered that a personal call or text to someone I know about something they have posted is more effective than conveying concern or understanding the heart behind a post than a simple social media engagement. Consider the type of individual you are dealing with before you engage.
3. Consider the state of your heart.
If you are consistently drawn to social media debates, arguments or controversies, I suggest you check your own heart. The Bible tells us in Luke6:45, “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil in his heart for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.” What flows from our fingertips onto the World Wide Web reflects what we are inside. If Christ dwells in us, we must be careful to reflect that reality in our social media presence.
4. Find someone to hold you accountable.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” I have found it exceedingly helpful to give someone permission to speak into my life whenever I need to consider something or whenever I need correction on my thoughts and attitudes on social media platforms. For me, this is my spouse. My wife is the voice in my head that I hear as I reread a post before publishing. I’m a bit of a night owl, and she is an early riser, so as I am up late getting ready to engage on social media, I ask myself what she will say to me when she wakes up and sees my latest update. The fact we have been married nearly 20 years helps with this inner dialogue. The longer you use an accountability partner, you can anticipate their input about whether you should post what you are thinking. I’ll admit this consideration has kept me from writing something I would later regret.
5. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Matthew 5:19 says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” These words, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, underscore the seriousness with which Jesus views sin. If social media is causing sinful thoughts, behaviors and attitudes, then it has no place in your life. There are two ways you can act on this consideration. First, you can walk away from social media for a short, prescribed time. I try annually to take at least a week, sometimes a month, away from my social media platforms. It is amazing how refreshing and beneficial for self-reflection and focus this time unplugged can be. Second, you can walk away from the social media world is permanently. If it consistently drags you into a world in which you fall short of God’s mark, then perhaps you should consider walking away forever.
We have a responsibility to represent our Lord with how we behave and engage others online. We would do well to remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Brothers and sisters, think before you tweet.
Published March 1, 2022