The Who, What And When Of Social Media

IPhone_5s “Christianity,” Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, “has something to say about the whole of our life. There is no aspect of life which it does not consider, which it does not govern. There must be no compartments in our Christian life.” Now, the Bible never talks about social media. Not one word. But it is full of principles that we need to apply to our social media habits. Without these guidelines, our social media use devolves into an unhelpful, “the hashtag for Twitter and Twitter for the hashtag” scenario (1 Cor. 6:13). It’s not enough to use social media the way it was meant to be used; it’s designed by people without God. How can we redeem our use of this form of communication so that it becomes a tool for Christian service and worship?

Who “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” the Westminster divines remind us. It’s really easy to agree with that in theory and deny it in facebook practice. Who is your feed about? What themes loom large in your tweets and shares? Your work? Your amazing holiday? Your children? Your pets? Your skills and projects? Your results in that personality test? Your extra ordinary love for bacon? Your humblebrag? Are you doing it to self-market, to build up a personality brand? Are friends and followers directed to think about your world, or are they encouraged in their walk with God, directed to look more at Christ, lovingly challenged to live holy lives, and built up in fellowship? Sharing a huge album of your Caribbean holiday and tacking a, “God gave us a wonderful time!” on the end might not actually be making it about the Creator. And maybe tweeting a helpful quote from a talk you just heard would be more useful than a picture of you with the speaker.

Not that everything has to be obviously “spiritual”: asking for the name of a reliable mechanic, sending pictures of the kids to a grandparent, or commenting on the tornado you just saw rip through town isn’t wrong. But if the trends in the feeds are generally you, even if they are Christianized, maybe the focus needs to change.

What Is what you’re posting lawful? Probably. I would guess that very few of us, if any, are doing anything illegal with our feeds. But is what you’re posting helpful (1 Cor. 10:23)? That’s harder. At least, I found it that way; being helpful takes thought and selflessness, while being legal only requires base morality.

Posts about the evils of certain politicians rarely honour governing authorities (1 Peter 2:17). Absolute statements about the impending collapse of western civilization foster worry about the future, not trust in the Lord’s provision today (Matthew 6:34). Then there are those boasting posts (often way beyond humblebrag), when we tell everyone that our kids are the smartest, our husband/wife is the best, or even that our dinner was the most delicious. Those are simply not boasts in the Lord, which is the only kind of boasting we’re allowed (Jer. 9:24).

Does what you share reflect a humility, considering others better than yourself (Phil. 2:3)? Is anything done out of ambition or pride? Then it’s wrong. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, tweet and post about these things (Phil. 4:8).

When We also need to be aware of when we are posting. One of the most obvious ways we can go wrong in this area is using social media too frequently. When did you last update that profile pic? How long ago did your last tweet fly off? Is that a wise use of the limited time God has given you on this earth? Sure, if the house is clean and the bills are paid and the kids are in bed and the laundry is done and things are ready for the morning, tweet away. If it’s not distracting you from your calling(s), then it’s a legitimate time to do it.

Then there are the other “when’s”. Are we really angry? Wait (Prov. 29:11). Are we putting up Brian Regan clips (totally lawful, arguably helpful in some cases) the day that another church member is burying a spouse? Are we warning a young couple about the expense of children when they announce their first pregnancy? Sharing our thoughts on life in a new 6 bedroom house while a friend struggles with unemployment? These violate the basics of rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15).

It also takes wisdom to know when we are engaging in fruitless or foolish discussions or debates. Social media is a great place to link to articles or blog posts, but it’s often not a great place to conduct a profitable conversation over a disagreement. And it’s certainly tempting to comment on other people’s obviously dumb statuses. That’s when we need to know when to walk away (Prov. 26:4); there’s a time when it’s not helping anybody.

In other words, social media is a place that fosters selfishness and narcissism; attitudes and mindsets that focus thoughts and words on ourselves. Scripture helps us fight these tendencies as it lodges in our hearts and the Spirit enables us to worship God and serve others, dying to self even in our social media use. Whatever we do, whether we tweet or post, let’s do it to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).