Social media carries many blessings. Through it we can connect with others, communicate truth beyond our normal spheres and enjoy humorous moments. Without it we wouldn’t see nearly as many pictures of grandchildren, kittens and breakfasts. (Sometimes we overdo it in those areas, but I digress.)
Social media, however, can also become a swampland of negativity. It often degenerates into name-calling and personal attack. It can play loose with facts and serve to belittle and demean.
What is a Christian to do? Do we join the degraded culture of social media in the mud? Do we ignore the potential good and ban ourselves from the medium altogether?
Here are some thoughts on how Christians might do better in this brave new world we face.
1. Be kind whether in person or on social media. We are to be kind because the bible tells us to be kind. (“Be kind and compassionate to one another” says Ephesians 4:32 and many other verses like it.) Sometimes we will be more unkind at a distance than we would in person. But kindness always applies.
2. Let love be the motive even when telling unpopular truths. The moment our motives turn to something other than love for the Lord and for others, danger appears. We should desire to speak out of love, tell the truth out of love and even to disagree out of love. (See the words of Jesus in John 13:34-5.)
3. Consider what is best said in personal conversations as opposed to public forums. Social media is public. Anyone can read it. Some conversations are best held in person. My wife and I have disagreements. But it is best for us to work out our disagreements personally and not publicly. Much rebuke offered on social media would be better offered privately. And our witness to a lost world is not likely enhanced by public bashing of fellow believers or churches.
4. Treating others as you wish to be treated applies to social media. The golden rule would serve us well on social media. Asking ourselves if that is how we would want to be treated should the situation be reversed can keep us from much mischief. No one wants to be misrepresented, for example, and we ought not do that to others.
5. Being charitable to others is not a sign of weakness and being a bully is not a sign of strength. Social media bullying is just as ugly as any other bullying. Giving the benefit of doubt on social media is just as right as doing it in other situations. Forgiving those who speak poorly or have a lapse in judgment applies in this arena as it applies in our personal interactions.
6. Truth is not enhanced by shading. Truth doesn’t need to be enhanced. It just needs to be proclaimed in love. Beware misrepresenting someone or something to fit an agenda. We should love the truth, stand on the truth and rightly present the truth. Our posts should be true and fair.
7. Our goal is more than winning an argument or gaining followers. Let’s face it–negative sells. Attacking others gains followers. Even in the Christian world it gets attention to publicly attack brothers in Christ or imperfect churches. But want to be more like Jesus? Well, that is a different goal. We are not just on social media to argue louder than others. We are there to help others discover the better way of God’s grace and the hope provided through Jesus. We are there to impact the world for the glory of God.
Use social media for good. If you are in that world, ask God to help you be a faithful witness there. Glorify God by what you write and by how you write it. Let others see Jesus in you- even on social media!