Christians on social media-the purpose, the perils, the promise

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.

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included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others.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.

  1. Post with purpose.
  2. Express yourself (not someone wlse)
  3. Consider the source when reading or sharing .
  4. Confirm the facts-who, when, where, what, how, why
  5. Differentiate facts from opinion
  6. Share videos with value
  7. Report accurate numbers and statistics
  8. Pause before sharing photos: are they real, are they yours?
  9. Share facts, not fear.
graphical depiction of electronic devices, paper, pencil, Bible, coffee mug

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)

man looking at a phone screen

“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.

hands keyboarding

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

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16, ESV

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 good

Amazon

Be Kind Online: Ten Rules for Christians in a Digital Age 

exploring the HEART of responsible social media use

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Please share this post on your social media sites so together we can make the social world safer, friendlier, and trustworthy. Thanks.

Dr Aletha

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

Lightstock-quality photos and graphics site- here. 

(This is an affiliate link)

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

As a physician, I tend to view experiences in medical terms and did on this cruise. I was impressed with the rules and procedures that were directed at keeping the guests and crew healthy and safe.

You’ve probably seen the movie, Titanic. I recently visited the Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri and it was a sobering experience. The loss of so many lives is staggering, especially since it could have been prevented with better preparation, including enough lifeboats for everyone on board.

Titanic museum, replica of ship and iceberg
The Titanic Museum

Earlier this summer I went on a cruise vacation which fared far better than the Titanic. This was the third cruise I have ever been on, but the last one was long ago enough that I had forgotten some of the details.

(This is not a sponsored post, however there are affiliate links not connected with the cruise line. Using them does not cost you extra and will help fund this blog. Thank you. )

As a physician, I tend to view experiences in medical terms and did on this cruise. I was impressed with the rules and procedures that were directed at keeping the guests and crew healthy and safe.

elevators on a ship

I’m not revealing the cruise line’s name, but it is one of the large well known ones, with a good reputation as far as I know. I can’t vouch that this cruise is typical of all cruise companies, so I offer these observations as things that you might want to evaluate if you ever go on a cruise.

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Safety drill- lifeboats, jackets

the side of a ship with 2 lifeboats

Before the ship left the dock, we participated in a safety drill where we all had to assemble at our assigned stations where we would go in the case of an emergency. Once there, the crew took role by check our ID cards (more on this later) to make sure we were all there. We had life vests in our room and there would also be life vests at the stations in case we weren’t in our room at the time the alarm sounded. Unlike the Titanic, we were assured there was room on the lifeboats for everyone on board.

Security, photo id, room key

Upon checking in, they issued us a photo ID card that was also our room key and a charge card for onboard purchases. When we left the ship at the ports, we showed the card which was scanned, then showed it again to get back on the ship.

a line of people boarding a ship
showing ID to return to the ship after a day in port

Children-arm bands

We weren’t travelling with children ourselves, but children wore armbands with identification in case of getting separated from their parents.

Food allergies and preferences.

Food is plentiful on a ship and a wide variety of choices. Some venues are buffets but in the sit down dining room the wait staff always inquired about food allergies and special diet needs before we ordered our meal.

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view
We enjoyed lunch with an ocean view.

Here is a link to my post on How to manage food allergy with confidence

Hygiene

Antibacterial hand gel was everywhere, along with reminders to use it.

Outside of every food venue there were containers and a crew member there to dispense it to you.

There were strict warning about what not to put into the toilets. As we heard at the introductory session, “If one toilet on a cruise ship backs up, they all back up.” Not a pleasant thought.

a sign- IMPORTANT-please do not throw foreign objects into the toilet bowl.

A daily newsletter with cruise information and schedule was delivered to our cabin every day. This note about health was posted daily-

Medical experts tell us that the best way to prevent colds, flu, or gastrointestinal illnesses-such as Norovirus-is to simply wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. After restroom breaks and again before eating.

Should you experience any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness (vomiting, diarrhea) do not go to the ship’s medical facility. Call the medical staff for a complimentary consultation and treatment. A member of the medical staff will see you in your stateroom.

Medical facility on board

If you do need to go the medical station , there is a doctor on duty 3 hours in the morning and afternoon. (On a previous cruise, I visited the medical station for a tour. It looked modern and well stocked.)

Smoking- designated areas only

Smoking is not allowed in any of the cabins or balconies, including electronic cigarettes. There were designated smoking areas outside and in the casino.

Here are some reminders on why it’s wise not to smoke-

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

Stop Smoking For Dummies

Fitness and Sports

If you wanted to exercise, there was ample opportunity.

Swimming and other water sports

a swimming pool on a cruise shop

  • A fully equipped gym
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Walking/jogging path outside.

exercise equipment on a cruise ship

  • Classes in yoga, stretching, cycling, and dance.
  • Competitions in volleyball, table tennis, dodge ball, basketball
  • Ice skating
  • Dance venues
  • Miniature golf

a mini golf course with a beach theme
beach theme mini golf

Spa services

In addition to the usual spa services  like hair and face treatments, they offered

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Teeth whitening
  • Anti-aging treatments
  • “Detox”

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation-watercresswords.com

Potential health risks

Were there any aspects to a cruise experience that might be detrimental to one’s health? Consider these things.

Sun

This ship sailed in a tropical climate so there was ample sun, both while on the ship and in the tropical ports. So obviously there was a risk of sunburn, dehydration, and long term development of skin cancer due to sun exposure. Sunscreen was a must if you stayed outside.

Noise

There were multiple musical venues on just about every deck, as well as the general noise generated by thousands of people. For people who have sensory issues to noise, sensitive ears, or hearing loss the noise level might be uncomfortable.

Motion

We were fortunate to have smooth sailing except for a few hours when the sea was rough, causing me to feel off balance but not seasick. If you are highly sensitive to motion, sail on a small ship, or hit rough seas, you may get seasick, which is not pleasant.

Sea and Motion Sickness

Addictions-food, alcohol, gambling, shopping

If you tend to be compulsive or addicted to  activities like eating, drinking alcohol, gambling, or spending money, a cruise may not be the best place to vacation.

Food is abundant, delicious, varied, and “free”- meaning it’s all inclusive with the price you paid (although there were some special meal venues that cost extra.)

a promenade on a cruise ship
On the promenade there were food and shopping opportunities.

Alcohol  is not included  but is easily purchased in the dining venues as well as bars. (However, they strictly enforced not providing alcohol to minors.)

Gambling was available in the centrally located casino , open from morning until late night.

Shopping on the promenade and in the ports- clothes, jewelry, art, liquor, wine , souveniers, and who knows what else.

an art gallery with bright colored pictures

the art gallery, where they had auctions every day

There were so many activities offered it was impossible to try them all. And there were places where one could escape for some quiet time to read, play a game, or just sit and enjoy the view.

a small chapel
The chapel offered a peaceful quiet place or meditation.

Please share your cruise experiences, good or bad. If you’re going on one soon, let me know how it goes. I may share some of your insights in a future post.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health on a cruise ship with me. Please share this post and follow Watercress Words.

Dr. Aletha 

waves behind a ship
THE END!

 

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