The Bible says nothing directly about social media but that does not mean there is no scriptural basis for concern. The Scriptures were finalized more than nineteen hundred years before the Internet was invented. However we can examine principles found in the Scriptures that are pertinent to this modern day phenomenon. There are several platforms for social media but a few of the most common ones are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Social networking can provide helpful and meaningful connections with family, business and friends but once created, sites like Facebook make it easy for gossip and slander to reach a wide audience. Its popularity is evident by its amazing growth. Facebook was started in 2004, today it is one of the largest companies in the world valued at seventy billion dollars.
The proper use of the internet must be carefully considered by every Christian. Most people are aware of the possibilities of predators lurking on sites and the explosion of pornography which is harming many marriages. In addition there are many less obvious pitfalls to guard against. Every one of the Ten Commandments is frequently violated through social media. Computers allow people to create gossip faster than ever before. The audience can be not just your friends or even those who live near you, but the whole world! People can say almost anything online and get away with it, especially when they do so anonymously.
Proverbs contains many warnings about our speech. “It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Proverbs 18:5-9. “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” Proverbs 29:11. Peter also warns us about our relationships with others. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” 1 Peter 4:15. A good rule to follow concerning gossip is, “If you’re not part of the problem or you’re not part of the cure you should not be a part of the discussion.” The following list of dangers is not exhaustive but it is extensive enough for us to take heed:
1. Seeking the world’s approval
Everyone wants to be accepted. Likes and retweets provide a superficial way for us to improve our self-worth. Seeking validation online is a danger that can lead to a shallow and insincere experience. Seeking external measurements to our worth misses the biblical truth that we should primarily seek God’s approval. We should be seeking to please the Lord by walking by faith and obeying His commandments.
2. Comparing ourselves with others– Likes, shares, friends, comments, views etc.
We must stop comparing ourselves with others and stop envying what others have done. It is a dangerous road to compare ourselves with others. God has a plan for every person and our goal should be obedience to Him. It is a mistake to try to edit our image to be something we are not. There are times when we must stand alone and be strong in the Lord. It doesn’t really matter what others do or don’t do. We should be a man or woman of God! “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. The Christian’s standard is to be like Christ.
3. Venting our feelings and having an opinion about everything
Many participants grow bitter from what they see on social media. If someone likes someone else more than they like you or someone says something about you that is unfair or untrue you can become angry. The Bible teaches us how to deal with gossip and it is nearly impossible to deal with it on social media. Maybe the best cure is to step back from the platform that fosters a bitter heart.
4. Caring about the Wrong Things
We should care most about real, tangible things—like relationships with others. Instagram is perhaps the most used app by young people and so much of it is vane and some of it is lewd. The virtual world is just that, virtual. It is not real. The danger of popularity can turn a believer away from the Lord.
5. Overwhelming information
Today the world is informed to death. We know what happens seconds after it occurs no matter where in the world it happens. It is impossible to keep up with all the world events or for that matter even the local events. Because of the clutter and barrage we tend to digest only bullet point information. Filtering what is noise from what is essential unfortunately becomes increasingly difficult with social media sharing everything.
6. Convenient Friendships
We don’t have much risk with a relationship on social media. We can easily block or ignore someone if we have a problem or disagreement with them. It is easier to glance at someone’s profile to learn about his or her world. Unfortunately, this makes a relationship convenient and easy with no serious commitment. The best foundation for a long lasting relationship is a willingness to commit one’s self to it.
7. Wasting Time
Time is valuable, which means we shouldn’t waste it with people, interactions and advertisements that offer no return for our attention. Social media causes us to waste time. It’s better to invest our valuable time in something of greater value. The average time spent on social media is three and one half hours daily.
8. Living in Isolation
On social media, we are in a world within a world. It’s easy to shut ourselves off from interaction because we believe our interaction online is enough. It’s easy to not see people all day, but rather see them online. Until the onset of the internet people ate meals together, sat on the front porch and discussed daily events.
Distance yourself from this tendency to isolate. It is abnormal to sit alone in a basement or bedroom communicating through a screen on a phone or on a computer. Man is meant to have meaningful relationships and this requires your physical presence.
There are cases of suicide caused by statements made on the internet. This impresses upon us the need for good and wholesome words. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29. Any coward can make a disparaging statement from the corner of his bedroom. If it can’t be said directly to the person it should not be stated on social media for all the world to see.
It seems that a great amount of interaction through Facebook and Instagram type programs is to hear of a tale or to tell a tale. “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:16. So much of what is found on the internet is not true and some of it is salacious. It is difficult to verify statements and discern fact from fiction. If something disparaging is stated about a person the biblical way to deal with it is to go that person before it can be believed. This is nearly impossible and produces a trap for honest people who are seeking the truth. Words stated are forever present on the internet and false statements can bring great harm to people. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Proverbs 26:22.
We often talk about addiction to drugs or alcohol but many people today are becoming addicted to their phone and their computer. For some people they cannot live without their smart phone and they even take it to bed with them. Their lives have been overwhelmed by and dominated by social media. Like drugs and alcohol some people need professional help to overcome its effects on their lives and their family.
The internet and the applications it provides can be a tool to do good but its use does not come without warnings. The following suggestions may prove helpful to monitor its use.
1. Restrain Your Words
“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:27-28. God’s people need to know when to say something and when to restrain our words. We need to be people with Spirit controlled temperament.
2. Develop relationships in person
“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” Proverbs 18:1.
If we’re not careful, social media becomes an “echo chamber,” where we only hear voices who agree with us. If someone says something we don’t like, we block them or unfriend them. The problem is, some of those voices may be people with “sound judgement.” The only way to grow is to allow those with differing viewpoints to speak into our lives. Discernment becomes the key virtue when listening to advice.
3. Take Pleasure in Understanding
“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” Proverbs 18:2.
Everyone wants to share his opinion, but few want to listen. We don’t want to understand. If we just want to be heard it’s time for a change.
4. Don’t Dishonor Yourself
“When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.” Proverbs 18:3.
If you post or get “tagged” in something that reveals wicked behavior, don’t get upset when people “judge you.” Dishonorable behavior brings disgrace and contempt.
5. Be a Blessing
“The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” Proverbs 18:4
Strive to have a Christian presence online. Let your words and the things you share be refreshing and life-giving. Words are so powerful. They can either heal or they can destroy. Choose your words wisely.
6. Don’t give an opportunity for evil
“A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7. Don’t be the kind of person who invites a verbal “beating.” When you share an article that is filled with hateful and derogatory comments about a politician; you know you are going to make that politician’s supporters very angry. Ask yourself, is it worth it? Does this really need to be said? Am I being mean, cruel, or hurtful?
7. Keep busy with your work
Social media sounds like a modern version of the Athenian leaders. “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Acts 17:21. There is much to do in serving the Lord and the internet can rob us of precious hours. If we are doing our job we will be limited on our use of social media because we won’t have time for it.
8. Don’t Answer Before You Hear
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”
Proverbs 18:13. People comment on articles without actually reading them. The headline of an article will pose a question and people will attempt to answer the question without actually reading the article. We must be people who listen more often than we speak. We should investigate and find the truth before we jump to conclusions.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17.
The internet is an amazing invention and there can be many profitable uses for it. But a Christian must not sacrifice his testimony through its use. Too great of an exposure to it can cause great harm to a believer and his family. May God give us wisdom in its use.
With a Heart for God,