This post originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of LBF Church’s Scroll newsletter.
One of the unique questions of our generation relates to the use of social media. While questions concerning the wisdom and timeliness of words is nothing new, social media provides unique opportunities for us to broadcast our thoughts to a large audience in a short amount of time. Some use social media to share stories from their lives. Some use it to express their views on current events. Some use it to chronicle the ordinary events of their day.
Our use of social media has led us to the point that we can express our thoughts, responses, and experiences at a moment’s notice. Through social media, we know what we can do. The question I want to explore is what we should do. In order to explore this question, I want to make use of some helpful decision-making criteria that the Apostle Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians. As the Corinthians seem to be focused on making sure that they are clear on what they can do, Paul directs them to focus on what they should do. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul directs them away from the statement, “Everything is permissible,” by reminding them, “Not everything is beneficial.” Paul calls the Corinthians – and us – away from the low standard of asking if we can, and to the higher standard of asking if we should.
Here’s the starting point: There is nothing sinful about social media. There is nothing wrong with sharing pictures, personal stories, reflections, political opinions, or even the mundane events of our lives. All of these are things that we can do. What, then, would give us any pause before posting?
Let’s begin with the negative. A large number of political and social commentary made on social media is volatile and dismissive. Whether it is Trump vs. Clinton, Guns vs. Terrorism, or Black Lives Matter vs. Police Supporters, we must ask ourselves whether our words are helpful. It may accurately reflect our feelings to blow off steam about a politician we dislike or to critique the logic of a policy, but are our memes really impacting people for the better? Are any minds being changed? Is helpful dialogue being facilitated? Most of the time the answer is no.
While we can, it is worth asking, “Should I post something that will reinforce the beliefs of those who already agree with me, while at the same time alienated those who disagree with me?”
I suggest that much of what we have been posting is not helpful.
Now, let’s move on to the positive. Many of our posts are not volatile, but it could be argued that they are trivial. Constant posts about sports, entertainment, food, and passing thoughts are unlikely to offend. But are we missing an opportunity to help by using our voices on unimportant matters? It is not simply that we should be careful to avoid posts that are unhelpful. We also have the opportunity to consider what we can pro-actively post that will be helpful. This is not to say that it is wrong to ever post about trivial matters, but here are five suggestions of ways to use the platform of social media in order to build others up:
1. Share Scripture
Whether you are sharing a reference, a passage written out, or your reflection on a passage, others can be directed to the life-changing Word of God through the platform of social media.
2. Personal Encouragement
We don’t always have to post for a broad audience. Consider bringing encouragement and affirmation to specific people with whom you’re connected through social media.
3. Honest Reflection
If you find God bringing insights and changes into your thinking and behavior, share with others in order to demonstrate your positive change.
We can use social media as a way to celebrate the good things that God is doing in our lives and through His people. The heavy international events of the world can rob of us hope. Share with others the positive ways that God is at work.
While posts about everyday life are seldom either helpful or volatile, we can use opportunities to demonstrate what we believe to be healthy responses to the events of everyday life. This can be a positive example to others.
What can we take away from this?
As we look to follow Jesus’ leading for us in every area of our lives, let’s strive to ask not simply what He allows us to do, but instead to ask how He is calling us to bring a blessing and benefit to ourselves and others through all that we do.