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included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others.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

7 resources for responsible sharing on social media

In this time of social distancing, the digital world can be a valuable source of connection if used responsibly. Thank you for joining me .

In another post I shared 9 strategies for responsible social media posting and sharing. Here are the online resources that I used and some others for you to check out.

Take A Seat — Chuck Sigars

Mr. Sigars blog post isn’t so much about how but about why it’s important to post responsibly. I include it here because the situation he describes was part of what prompted me to address this problem. He wrote,

we end up living in a world in which casual truth and lies exist in the same moment and we’re too overwhelmed and busy to figure it out. We believe what we want, and disbelieve the rest, and now that I think about it, this is exactly the world we live in. Never mind.

man looking at a phone screen
4 Tips for Spotting a Fake News Story
One tip is-

Pay attention to quality and timeliness.

Social Media Tips – Viswanath Lab

Be the weak link-you may be unknowingly contributing to the spread of false information forwarding anything and everything you receive.

THINK before you post or share.
graphical depiction of electronic devices, paper, pencil, Bible, coffee mug
How to Avoid Falling for Urban Legends, Rumors, and Conspiracy Theories

Why would we believe unfounded and sensational claims and theories about people and events that could be easily explained otherwise?

They help us make sense of and manage threats. Most pieces of misinformation address things we fear (diseases, kidnapping, murder, mysterious creatures, crime, etc.). We often don’t fully understand these threats, so we use misinformation to make sense of them and to cope with our fears.

5 ways to spot disinformation on your social media feeds

Remember that the creators of disinformation purposely make content that is designed to trigger an emotional response,

so if you find yourself having those reactions, please pause and consider the questions listed in the article.
The Simplest Way to Spot Coronavirus Misinformation on Social Media |

The SIFT method described by this digital literacy expert can be used with any information, not just about coronavirus-Stop, Investigate, Find, Trace.

hands keyboarding
Tips & Tools – Media Literacy & Misinformation – LibGuides at Monmouth University

Manmouth University sponsors this website dedicated to Media Literacy . The site offers advice on

  • how to choose a news source
  • how to fact check
  • how to image check
  • how to check your own bias
  • how misinformation spreads
  • how to evaluate sources
  • conspiracy theories

“The problem is not that some people might believe something that’s not true. The problem is that most people might stop caring if anything is true.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Director, University of Virginia Center for Media & Citizenship 

Try these tips now while reading-

Microchips in our vaccines?

Use these resources to evaluate this blog post by Dr. Gretchen LaSalle. Whatever you already think about vaccines, microchips, and Bill Gates, identify your own bias, then objectively consider what she says. Fact check her references, think critically, consider all sides, identify your emotional reaction.

And if you choose to share the post, consider using the strategies I suggested in my previous post.

Use these 9 strategies to share responsibly on social media

People use fear to motivate and manipulate. Using phrases like “they don’t want you to see this”, “share before they remove it ”, and words like racist, fascist, communist, conspiracy, censored, socialist, control, right, left, etc. imply an urgency that usually isn’t realistic or rational. Sharing verifiable information allows your friends to draw their own conclusions based on fact not fear.

But if we have learned anything in the Internet Era, it is this… We can’t always believe what we read. Even legitimate news outlets get it wrong sometimes and people have agendas which can color how they report “the news”. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s time consuming. But we HAVE to do the work of researching these claims to make sure we are not part of the problem in spreading falsehoods and misinformation.

Gretchen LaSalle, M.D.

exploring the HEART of health on social media

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.

I appreciate your commitment for making social media a safer, more valuable, and healthier place to connect and share what we know and what we feel. In this time of social distancing, the digital world can be a valuable source of connection if used responsibly. Thank you for joining me .

Dr Aletha

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