We are the press. We can instantly write editorials on our blogs, comment on tragedies via twitter, and document triumphs on Instagram. With a smartphone and a few clicks, we can do in seconds what used to take newsroom hours to accomplish. We can communicate with the world more effectively than ever before.
In short, social media is amazing. When used well, Christians can influence millions for the gospel with 124 characters and a picture. But the instantaneous nature of social media also brings great danger. What used to be limited to an ugly letter that never got sent can now become world news thanks to Facebook and Instagram. With few clicks, we can attack celebrities, businesses, and even our closest friends. In a matter of seconds, we can destroy relationships, compromise our faith, and divide our church.
But social media doesn’t have to be deadly. If we submit our social media life to the Scriptures we can find a better way forward. Admittedly, the Bible doesn’t say anything about social media. But, it says a lot about human speech and human interactions. In James 1:19-21, we read:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
1. Post slowly. While there is nothing wrong with using social media to inform our opinions, we must always be slow to speak. We must resist the impulse to comment on everything everywhere. Before we post, comment, and tweet let’s ask ourselves these questions: “Will my post offend my friends and coworkers; will my comments glorify God; will anyone be encouraged by my interaction?” If the answer is no, then we don’t post. And if you are posting simply to correct someone, don’t. No one asked you be their teacher. And a loving rebuke should always be delivered in person (Matt. 18). If you don’t have someone’s phone number, let it go. A couple of years ago, I tried to teach a former acquaintance how to be a better Christian via his Facebook wall. After a few days of arguments, he defriended me. We will not win a brother from a distance. Besides, God can mature people without our witty corrections. Let’s be slow to post.
2. Don’t post in anger. Remember that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. If we are angry (even rightfully so – which doesn’t happen often), let’s take our cause to God. We often turn to social media because we don’t want to submit to God and to divine justice. We want instant gratification. Instead of making God our refuge, we find comfort in letting the world know that Bobby is a jerk. We find comfort in saying, “I don’t usually callout people, But…” And as the number of like’s goes up, we feel justified. But we’ve not won Bobby. We’ve not helped him get right with God or even grown in our faith. Our anger has only made the relationship worse. Our gossip never produces their holiness. The next time we are angry, let’s put down our phones, let’s stay away from our laptops, and let’s turn off our tablets. Let’s ask God to show us the cause of our anger. Let’s spend time toppling our idols instead of murdering others on social media. And if we have been mistreated, let’s trust God to vindicate the righteous.
3. Speak the truth with love. Those who use social media well will direct people to others. Instead of filling our pages with ugly comments, lets praise others. Let’s post things that have encouraged our souls and that will encourage others. Let’s rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Let’s daily spend time in the word and let the Holy spirit inform what we tweet, video, and post instead of our emotions.
I mention the above rules not because you need them. I need them. My heart is wicked and can be persuaded to post all kinds of dumb and hurtful things in cyberspace. I still regularly have police my tweets with the above rules. Although no one can perfectly master their social feed, (we can never perfectly master our hearts this side of heaven) we can become more like Christ each day. In turn, our use of social media presence can improve!