A Christian friend recently posted on Facebook that he felt he was spending too much time on Facebook. Try to wrap your mind around that logic for a minute!
A few days later, another Christian FB friend told the world that he was “taking a 48-hour break from social media to renew his mind and spirit.” This begs the obvious question: if social media depletes his mind and spirit, why come back?
Social media has dramatically changed the way many of us communicate, relax, and even work -- but it seems to be a source of confusion as well. Not surprisingly, many Christians have questions about its use. Is it acceptable and/or wise for us to be involved? Is it a waste of the Lord’s time? Does it promote superficiality, or encourage an attention-grabbing mentality? Does it create an unhealthy competitive or comparative mindset? These are all valid concerns for our spiritual well-being.
The Bible warns us to “give careful thought to our ways” and make the best use of our time (Haggai 1:5, Ephesians 5:15-16). And 1 Corinthians 10:23 also makes us aware that while certain activities may be morally neutral, they’re not always beneficial or constructive. So if something captures a significant portion of our attention and our time, it’s appropriate and God-honoring to evaluate our actions and intentions in line with Scripture. As with other areas in our lives, we should ask ourselves, does social media cause us to lower our standards in areas that should be important to believers?
One of the unfortunate characteristics of social media is its tendency to encourage, and even praise, a low standard of information. When we log onto sites like Facebook or Twitter, our brains are flooded with a stream of mostly ordinary, random, and unremarkable tidbits. We’re drawn into a world where the focus on true achievement and discernment has shifted. Items of very little significance are lauded and shared. We habitually chase data that we have no real use for, and congratulate each other for doing relatively little. We allow social media to steal our focus away from more worthwhile things and lower our standards of what is truly excellent, commendable and worthy of our time.
Similar things could be said of spending too much time in other areas (e.g., video games, internet, watching sports or Netflix…). However, social media is unique in that it not only affects us personally, but enables us to affect and distract hundreds of others as well.
Does this mean social media is a bad thing? Does it mean that Christians can’t enjoy social media, or that everything we post or share must involve an extraordinary event or spiritual moment? Not at all. We can still enjoy social media and be effective in our Christian lives. But let's keep in mind that, as followers of Jesus, we should continually evaluate our activities and motives to see if they measure up to His standards (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 13:5).
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-4, “since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven… Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”
Now when Paul wrote the words, “think about the things of heaven,” it’s safe to say he didn’t have an endless stream of pet photos, mindless youtube clips, or now-and-then slideshows of 80’s TV sitcom stars in mind! Does the Lord really want us to dwell on such trivial matters?
So what are just a few ways we can effectively raise our standards and think more about “the things of heaven” while still enjoying social media?
1. Don’t settle for needless or negative online connections.
Most social media users have many online “friends” who aren’t really friends. It’s interesting to note that when it comes to friends, Proverbs 18:24 emphasizes quality over quantity. Having a large number of “friends” may seem like the popular thing to do, or it may be viewed as a status symbol, but these “extras” simply become more noise we need to filter on a daily basis. Are the lunch plans of someone we haven’t talked to in 10 years really worthwhile information for us? These are distractions that lower our standards by drawing our attention away from things that should be much more important in our lives.
If we’re honest, we also have at least one online “friend” who affects us in a negative way. Even fellow Christians can sometimes create an online presence that just doesn’t resonate well. Whatever the case, there’s absolutely no reason to maintain an online association with anyone who agitates us, or drains our emotional and spiritual well-being. 1 Corinthians 15:33 directs us to avoid friends that corrupt our character, and that would include our online friends as well.
2. Follow more Christian resources.
Matthew 6:33 – “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else.”
A simple way to raise our standards on social media is to add Christian resources to our feeds. After all, social media can be a powerful tool for the Lord! There are plenty of outstanding Christian ministries active on social media. Have we taken the time to look for these uplifting and helpful resources? And if so, have we shared them with others? If we truly desire to seek the Kingdom of God above all else, we should spend the time reading and even commenting on their articles and posts. Choosing positive, insightful content over mindless, inconsequential material sets a higher standard.
3. Aim for a higher standard on our own posts, shares, and “likes.”
Galatians 1:10 – “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
We’re social creatures. God made us that way. We need friends. We want to be liked. And of course we’re proud of the things we accomplish. But let’s be careful. Social media makes it easier than ever to slip into a pattern of boasting, oversharing, and seeking approval / validation from other people rather than from God. We can also enable this mindset in others by showing gratuitous approval for certain posts.
Have we lulled ourselves into a state of self-satisfaction by seeking status and fulfillment on social media? Perhaps a good question to ask before posting is, "am I truly seeking to connect with others on their level, or am I seeking attention or merit for myself?" Let’s think carefully and be honest with ourselves. Do the social media trademarks of broadcasting perpetual “selfies,” posting personal workout data, or sending public love-notes to our spouses harmonize with the context of Galatians 1:10? Just because “others do it,” doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate action to follow. Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
Raising our standards on social media doesn’t mean every post we make has to be serious and/or life-impacting. It’s OK to enjoy ourselves. But amidst all the noise online, let’s set a higher standard and redefine what is truly worthy of our time -- and the time of the hundreds of other people we’re connected to. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:35, “I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” Do we have that same attitude when using social media?
Philippians 3:12 & 14 – “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me… I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
- Ron Reid
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