I love social media, if nothing else for its ability to communicate ideas rapidly and efficiently with a large populace of people. Social media is where the people are, and in this digital age Christians have an obligation to being present on social media. We look to the examples of Jesus and the Apostles; they went where people were present.
Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing, however. When we look at the life of Jesus and the Apostles, yes they were always present where people were gathered but they were also respectful and relational with those they came into contact with. In reading the New Testament one doesn’t really get the impression that these guys stood on street corners holding signs and shoving gospel tracts down your face. Facebook and other social media can become a similar experience if we aren’t careful. We need to use wisdom in thinking through how we represent ourselves online.
Here are a couple things I’ve thought through on this subject. I’d be interested to know your thoughts as well.
1. I’m Sorry for Blowing Up Your Facebook Wall
Really, I am. I know I can get excited and carried away – and I’m not the only one. Think about this: when people consistently only see you posting one kind of thing on social media, then they’re going to automatically assume its the only thing you think, talk and dream about. If you only post political comments and articles all day, then people will assume that is all you care to talk about. If you just post Gospel Coalition articles and theologian quotes all day, the same thing will happen.
Whether intentional or not, social media is a place where its very easy for us to get pigeon-holed. When non-Christian folks see their Christian friends only posting a bunch of Christian related material, you’re no longer a relatable human being. You’re just a guy whose hobby is reading Christian blogs.
Instead, I think we as Christians need to be intentional about seeing our presence on social media as an opportunity to open up a window into sharing our lives with others. This includes our family life, our church life, our work life and our hobbies. Why? Because Christianity isn’t just a bunch of blog articles and theological quotes, but its an entire worldview and way of life. When we offer people a window into the latter and not the former, we are now people who can relate with others from a distinctly different worldview. When we build relationships with people from this worldview, the doors are open for sharing the gospel.
2. Less is More
One of my church’s leaders recently made a comment to me that really articulated what the Christian blog/social media machine feels like. He essentially said that often in the Evangelical (specifically Reformed) scene, we have far too many leaders, authors and bloggers all sharing and writing about the exact same thing. When a large Evangelical charity organization does something disappointing, do we really need 5 dozen blog posts about it? What kind of message does that send?
Carry this scenario downstream and what ends up happening every time something “big” happens in the church is that everyone starts posting a multitude of articles written by a host of different authors about the exact same thing. Now, most of these articles are really well written and communicate truths that I wholly agree with, but what does it look like when a large majority of Christians on Facebook start sharing the 5 dozen posts all over social media? Honestly, it makes us look mean, angry, and divided; like our only objective is ganging up on people until their reputation and livelihood are completely destroyed. Whats worse, I fear that many of these blog posts are written more for the sake of driving site traffic than genuinely edifying the church.
There aren’t any lines in the sand that can be drawn here, but we need to be wise about how much of and what we write about in this increasingly social and digital age. What would it look like instead for less articles to be written about these big issues and events because key pastors, leaders and authors were taking the time to meet, pray and talk through these things for the Church?
3. Be Careful About What You Post
The temptation in trying to share our lives with people online is that we can open the window a little too far. Men, be careful about what you post and make sure its respectful to your wives and families. Ladies, don’t post suggestive selfies. Remember, the point of opening a window into our lives on social media isn’t to look just like everyone else, but to show our lives from a distinctly different point of view.
Another note here: parents, be careful how much of your kids you post on Facebook. Many kids are growing up today with their entire life documented on the internet by the parents. Not only is this unnecessary, but its not safe for your kids. Please use caution.
4. Enough With the Arguing
Because of its inability to communicate tone or intent, social media is a place where arguments never, ever go well. Its time for Christians to just stop engaging in arguments on social media, and the internet in general – especially in public places like twitter feeds and Facebook statuses. Not only do these arguments make us look dumb and stupid, but we aren’t loving on folks if we aren’t engaging them relationally and in a more personable manner. We can – and should – do better than that. J.I. Packer says that we need to “earn the right” to evangelize, and these kind of public internet debates don’t help that cause. After all, winning an argument on the internet is like arguing over third place in a pie eating contest – at the end of the day, you still look silly. Take the high road, and if you want to talk to someone about something important, do so privately.
What about you? Do you agree with these points? Do you have any others to add?