Last year, I published a post about social media use, alarmed at the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, and too much good information. I saw people, myself included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others. We were being contentious, disrespectful, divisive, and anything but “social”.
“Fake news” has been an issue with social media, but in 2020 it became a secondary pandemic with inaccurate, misleading, and false posts about coronavirus, lockdowns, public health, the presidential election, riots, protests, racism, etc. Due to the popularity and widespread use of social media sites and personal blogs we have all become “influencers”, like it or not.
In that post I suggested 9 strategies to share responsibly on social media.
- Post with purpose.
- Express yourself (not someone wlse)
- Consider the source when reading or sharing .
- Confirm the facts-who, when, where, what, how, why
- Differentiate facts from opinion
- Share videos with value
- Report accurate numbers and statistics
- Pause before sharing photos: are they real, are they yours?
- Share facts, not fear.
What about the Bible?
In my posts I approached these as secular problems, and they are. But even though I have a strong Christian faith, I had not thought of the spiritual implications; that is until I read a book by author N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts.
N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts
Professor Wright, or Tom as he is called, is an English New Testament scholar, theologian, and Anglican bishop. He was the bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010, then research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland until 2019, when he became a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall at the University of Oxford.
If all that sounds academic and stuffy, he is not. Besides reading this book, I have listened to several videos and podcasts by him, and outside his academic pursuits, he is quite down to earth.
So getting back to the book, Broken Signposts:How Christianity Makes Sense of the World, I gained a different perspective about social media when I read this passage (which is edited for brevity)
“Idols always promise a bit extra-or perhaps a lot extra…start off as something good, a good part of God’s creation…then it attracts attention and begins to offer more than it can appropriately deliver-it starts to demand sacrifices.
Idols are addictive. We know a good deal about the forms of addiction in our society, far fewer people are addicted to cigarettes than 50 years ago, but the same kind of compulsive behavior and often the same kind of destructive behavior, is now associated with not only alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs, but with our electronic systems:smartphones, social media, Facebook, and so on.
These can become self-destructive when people portray themselves in a particular light and then struggle to live up to the image they have created.
Technology can of course be a blessing, bringing people together in all sorts of ways, but in the last analysis real relationships with real people are a form of freedom. Half-relationships with a screen personality can be a step toward slavery. “
What do others think?
So then I wondered what other Christian thinkers, theologians, pastors, or authors were saying about social media. I found several Christian denominations have specific social media guidelines for their clergy and churchs to follow. (I only looked at Christian organizations but it is likely other faiths have similar committments to responsible social media use.)
But what about lay persons I wondered, does the church or other Christian leaders offer guidance? The answer is yes.
Here are links and a brief synopsis of some of the sources I found that address how a Christian can and should reponsibly use social media.
A CHRISTIAN CODE OF ETHICS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA
The first I found in a Facebook post by a relative by marriage who is an Anglican priest. He shared a link to A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media of the Anglican Church in North America.
The following is a simple code of ethics (5 Questions) for the follower of Jesus to consider before one clicks the “enter” button. It is intended for the follower of Jesus to remember that even in cyber-space we are witnesses (either for good or for bad) for Jesus Christ modeling a life which is supposed to emulate him.
A Christian Ethic for Social Media
More ideas came from the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. Denver Institute for Faith & Work is an educational nonprofit dedicated to forming men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work.
The post at this link shares a video by Denver Institute founder Jeff Haanen in which he shares insights to answer the question
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, how can the Bible guide our use of social media?
Biblical Principles for Social Media
This is a blog post shared by Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, who serves as President and CEO of AgathonEDU Educational Group and leads Vyrsity and Colorado Biblical University. Dr. Cone has served as a President (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Tyndale Theological Seminary), a Chief Academic Officer (Southern California Seminary), and as a Research Professor (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Southern California Seminary), as well as several pastoral roles and teaching positions at the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, and Southern Bible Institute.
Dr. Cone writes
there is an even more valuable question we can consider with respect to social media: what would Jesus do – or more precisely, what would Jesus have us do with social media? We certainly would be unwise to retreat from social media – if we desire to interact with people, social media provide fantastic tools to do that. Paul cautions believers not to disengage from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), and again warns believers not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). One principle in view here is to be deliberate about using tools like social media to accomplish specific (His) purposes, and not to fall into the trap of being taken captive by those tools.Dr. Cone
The American Values Coalition has a mission of “growing a community of Americans empowered to lead with truth, reject extremism and misinformation, and defend democracy.” On the blog, writer Ian IcCloud suggests telling stories as a way to avoid the polarization that he calls “harmful to American civic life.”
3 Ways to Combat Extreme Polarization
We all need to be better at telling stories and, more specifically, better at listening to the stories of others. Stories have the power to draw us out of ourselves and move us to care for others in ways we wouldn’t otherwise choose or know to choose.
But stories only work as an end to polarization if we’re willing to admit that we can change. More bluntly, stories will only work if we are ready to accept that we could be wrong and in need of change.
15 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media
Writing for Relevant Magazine, Tim Arndt, lists 15 rules under the headings of Attitude, Distractions, Image, Discernments, and Nastiness. And a “bonus” rule
It seems like having a civil disagreement has become a rare phenomenon, but we need to learn how to disagree with charity.On social media, I’ve had disagreements with people on a wide range of topics like abortion, atheism and racial issues. I try my best to be civil and if the other person is too, I thank them for that.Tim Arndt
Social media has changed the world and the very nature of communication. We are all able to broadcast our every thought and opinion at an unprecedented scale. But Christians must not forget that everywhere we go, we represent our savior.Tim Arndt
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
THINK before you post or share
Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why. And apologize, if warranted.
Harvard School of Public Health recommends we THINK twice before posting or sharing on social media-
- Is it TRUTHFUL?
- Is it HELPFUL?
- Is it INSPIRING?
- Is it NECESSARY?
- Is it KIND?
Using Our Online Conversations for Good
Explore a Christian viewpoint on social media use with this book by Daniel Darling, an author and pastor. (this is an affiliate link)
Sadly, many Christians are fueling online incivility. Others, exhausted by perpetual outrage and shame-filled from constant comparison, are leaving social media altogether.
So, how should Christians behave in this digital age? Is there a better way?
Daniel Darling believes we need an approach that applies biblical wisdom to our engagement with social media, an approach that neither retreats from modern technology nor ignores the harmful ways in which Christians often engage publicly.
In short, he believes that we can and should use our online conversations for goodAmazon
Be Kind Online: Ten Rules for Christians in a Digital Age
exploring the HEART of responsible social media use
Please share this post on your social media sites so together we can make the social world safer, friendlier, and trustworthy. Thanks.
Lightstock-quality photos and graphics site- here.
(This is an affiliate link)
7 thoughts on “Christians on social media-the purpose, the perils, the promise”
Wonderful and wise post. If we all would use our words, both written and verbal, gently and kindly so much more would be gained. The division which has developed over the last few years is so disheartening. May we remember we are accountable for our words before God. May we use our words to honor and glorify Him.
Joanne, thank you for our comment. No one seems to expect to be held accountable for anything these days, it’s too easy to justify what we say or do, no matter the cost to ourself or someone else. For good or bad, our words count for something.
Oh, if we all would take this message to heart and use our social media accounts with intentional goodness instead of just not thinking about what we post. Thanks for your encouragement. May we all learn to use every technology to share God’s love.
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Thanks Lisa. For me, the pandemic and the election were wake-up calls about social media. The unpleasant discourse about those two events from people I know surprised and disappointed me. And the fact that I replied similarly disappointed me in myself. So like you say, I have tried to post with “intentional goodness” or not post at all. I appreciate your encouraging comment.
Althea, what a fantastic article. You really spoke at the heart of the matter here. I pray God leads those who need to hear this to your article. This is very insightful and informative. Visiting today from Friendship Friday #33
Thanks Paula, I pray so also. As I researched the issue, I was encouraged to see so many Christian thinkers have the same concern. I appreciate your feedback, it is so helpful.
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I have to tell you I bookmarked this to share with friends. You’ve got such a wealth of information here.
Thank you for sharing this with Sweet Tea & Friends this month sweet friend.
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