Social media is today’s reality, and for whatever it’s worth, it appears to be here to stay. It can be a blessing, but it can also be a “Pandora’s box” opening up new ethical questions about the way we conduct ourselves online. While it may be easy enough to separate this reality from who we think we really are in person, the fact is that how we approach and use social media can be quite revealing. Sadly, what it often reveals isn’t very pretty. Christians, then, as in all other areas of life, need to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). The devil still seeks whom he may devour, and we need to be sober and on the alert (1 Pet. 5:8). This is as true with our time online and in social media as much as anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the use of social media can signal many spiritual problems, even for the child of God who believes in holy conduct. The following areas, for example, can reveal much about our spiritual condition:
The language we use. Anything from innuendo, to OMG, to outright cussing reveals a use of language that is more in line with worldly thinking than with words professing godliness. Are we watching what we say? Do we know what we mean when we say it?
The pictures we show. Suddenly Christians appear, through their pictures online, in clothing (or lack thereof) that may not reflect a mind that first adorns the teaching of Christ and also reflects the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (cf. Titus 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:4). The need for modesty (not overdoing it) and avoiding nakedness (not underdoing it) still apply when posting pictures to social media.
The topics we discuss. Social media houses pretty much every topic that anyone can think about, and sometimes it may be best just to move along and avoid some discussions and topics. If we are tempted to post something that we know the Lord would cringe at, we need to pause, reflect, and make a wise choice about what we are about to say.
The attitudes we display when we discuss. This is not just what we discuss, but how we discuss it. It’s real easy to allow ourselves to slip into a mode of getting ugly in our responses toward others. This problem is heightened by the fact that we can’t hear how someone might say something, and we need to be aware of how others might take what we are saying. Still, kindness needs to be in mind as we discuss any topic that is suitable.
The causes we support. Do we show support for the kinds of causes that are in line with God’s word? Even if the cause is secular in nature, we need to make sure we aren’t throwing in with something that lends itself to ungodliness.
The links we share. First, are we sharing links that, again, promote what is right? Are we careful about where the links may take us? Second, and this is a major problem in social media, are we sharing what is true? I’m not talking about obvious humor, which itself needs to be evaluated properly (I’m not against humor). I’m talking about alleged news media sites or other sites that post false information. Then we just run with it and spread the slander. The child of God needs to think critically before sharing. Do your homework before clicking “share.”
The pages, photos, and statuses we like. What we like shows up for others to see, and it tells people (get ready), “I like this.” Now maybe you don’t mean it that way. But these “like” buttons can be problematic if we aren’t careful. If it shows up on others’ walls that you like something that is inappropriate, then you need to asking yourself what you really wish for others to see about who you are.
At this point, we might expect for some to say something to the effect that what they do on social media is nobody else’s business, and that we shouldn’t be judging anyone. Mirroring the “don’t judge me” mentality of the world, Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that what they do is not open for anyone else to make any judgments about. Unfortunately, that’s naive. When we engage in online public activities, we’ll be judged by the same. If we don’t want to judged by others online, then we shouldn’t be showing our hand (or more sensitive things) to the world.
We aren’t so much talking about those times here or there where we know we messed up, though these moments, too, can be an issue. Surely we’ve all had discussions we are embarrassed about or posts we should have never shared. I’m as guilty as the next guy. We are talking more about continuing patterns that begin to emerge as we post, like, comment, and share. We cannot afford to disconnect our online world from the reality of who we are supposed to be as Christians. This would be like the apostles disconnecting their writings from who they were in person. What they wrote was as much a part of their influence as what they said and did in person. Today, we are on a worldwide platform with social media where what we say and how we say it is out there for the world to see. What we show and how much we show matters. If we don’t like that, then we have the option of not using it.
We don’t have to post anything on social media sites, but if we do, know that it says something about who we are and what we think—just like anything else we do. It’s out there on display for others to see and judge. This is the reality before us, and we need to understand our need to glorify God here as much as anywhere. It is the Lord Christ whom we serve, and if we aren’t using social media to serve Christ—that is, it is merely a selfish outlet for a narcissistic world—then it’s time to repent and figure out where our loyalties lie.
Posting good content does not necessarily mean we are righteous, but posting bad or questionable content does certainly show a spiritual problem. Let’s recommit ourselves to using all of our opportunities, whether in person or in social media outlets, to glorify God and share Christ with a broken world.