Even though online interactions may be virtual, they have real influence on our own lives and the lives of others.
Social media can be a powerful tool to connect with friends, family, and even strangers who share our interests. However, it can also be a maze of content that ranges from benign to downright dishonoring to God.
It’s easy to get lost in the status updates, the Instagram filters, and even the memes. So how should a Christian behave on social media?
Below are five things Christians need to remember when using social media:
1. You Are a Representative of Christ
Not long ago, the only way anyone would interact with another person was, well, in person. Someone who knew nothing about Christianity would actually have to meet a Christian.
However, today Christians and non-Christians alike are online with access to each other’s lives. A Christian on social media may be the only Christian someone might interact with.
Are we using social media in such a way that if a nonbeliever stumbled upon our profile, they might be inclined to look into Christianity? Or at least, think that maybe Christians aren’t such terrible people?
Jesus’ directive in Matthew 28:18-20 to go into “all the world” to make disciples is easier than ever in a digital age where posts spread across the globe in seconds. However, it also makes it easier to misrepresent the gospel to “all the world.” We need to remember this calling when interacting with others. (Check out this article for 7 Effective Ideas for Sharing Your Faith on Social Media.)
2. You Are Interacting with Real People
As we use social media, are we building others up, or tearing them down?
The anonymity of the screen gives many people confidence to say things they wouldn’t dare say in person. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Internet trolls and bullies abound.
Even those who aren’t trying to be mean may make hurtful comments. For example, Christians can sometimes viciously mock beliefs online that other Christians may hold. Some may comment on photos to point out flaws. Others make snarky public comments, calling out others on posts they disapprove of instead of messaging them privately or talking to them in person.
A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, you probably shouldn’t be saying it on the internet.
Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean there isn’t a flesh and blood human on the other side of the screen with feelings and emotions just like you.
3. You Are Putting Thoughts in Your Mind
Interacting with others aside, what is social media doing for our personal faith? Are we using it in a way that honors God and brings us closer to Him? Or, are we using it to access content that dishonors Him and corrupts our minds?
With so much available quite literally in the palms of our hands, it’s easier than ever to get sucked into questionable content and activities.
Social media makes it possible to anonymously view content that no one will ever know you’ve seen. This doesn’t just include pornography; there are plenty of depressing memes, inappropriate jokes, discriminatory content, heretical ideas, and violent or distasteful posts on every social media platform.
- If you find yourself depressed after going on social media, you might need to limit yourself to positive friends and content and stop following accounts that bring you down.
- If you find yourself thinking inappropriate thoughts you wouldn’t have had before, you may need to install content filters or change what you view.
It’s easy to become desensitized to things that aren’t of the Lord. Periodically ask yourself whether what you are doing is drawing you closer to God or putting stumbling blocks in your relationship with Him.
4. Social Media Isn’t Real Life
A lot of prep goes into those Instagram photos. The models you see are often photoshopped and airbrushed. Even the “I’m so blessed” posts on Facebook that show happy families were likely proceeded by an earlier temper tantrum.
People put their best face forward on social media. They post about their dramatic triumphs, not usually about their mundane laundry or changing diapers. They post about their promotions, not the endless days spent in a cubicle to get there.
When it seems like everyone around you has it all together, they don’t. All of us are muddling through life. Don’t let social media tear down your self-worth.
Instead, as Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Interact with others, but don’t let the virtual world distort the way you see the real world.
5. Likes and Shares Can’t Replace Physical Interaction
It’s great to like and share to support a cause. Commenting “I’m praying for you” under a friend’s post about a hard time can help them feel better. However, these things don’t hold a candle to doing something tangible in person.
When a friend posts that they’re struggling, don’t just give them a sad face reaction on Facebook. Ask what you can do. Bring them meals. Sit with them. Talk with them. Pray with them.
When you see an organization you think is doing amazing work, or when you see a post about a need, do more than share it. Do something about it. Rather than only posting about the plight of the homeless in your city, consider volunteering, or asking others to volunteer, in a soup kitchen or donate clothing to a shelter.
Whatever the situation, likes and shares are most effective if those who see them are willing to do something about it.
Whether you’re browsing to smile at cat pictures or to encourage your friends, hold fast to the wisdom of Colossians 3:17:
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Becca Tapert