Navigating the Minefield of Social Networking

A Look at Blessings and Pitfalls of Social Networking

Do a word search in Scripture for “twitter,” and you’ll find nothing. Make it even broader to include “social media,” and you’ll get the same results.

Yet every mature Christian understands that God’s Word has much to say regarding social media. It is our responsibility to examine God’s Word and apply its timeless truths to the present reality of our daily lives. For Christians in the twenty-first century, these realities include social networking.

Early on when I began using Twitter, I listed biblical principles that I saw applied to the social media phenomenon. Later that year, I wrote a booklet, Blessings and Pitfalls of Social Media.

Reviewing this list of principles years later, I see it as just as applicable as it was when social media was relatively new—or at least newer.

Perhaps reviewing these principles in light of your social networking would be a blessing to you as it was to me. I’ve split this list into two sections:

  • Potential Blessings of Social Networking
  • Potential Pitfalls of Social Networking

Potential Blessings of Social Networking

1. Witness for Christ—When I began my blog and later my Twitter account, I vowed to the Lord that I would regularly include gospel-related truth and that Christ would be the focal point.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15

2. Teach biblical principles—The internet has opened tremendous potential for affordably and effectively sharing biblical truths.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2

3. Encourage others—One of the greatest gifts we can give is a word of encouragement. Social media can be an instant medium through which to do this.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.—Proverbs 25:11

4. Communicate with friends and co-laborers—The Lord has allowed me to meet thousands of pastors and Christian workers around the globe with whom I can stay in contact because of modern technology.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.—Proverbs 16:24

5. Stay connected with relatives around the world—One hundred years ago, missionaries would often wait six months between communications with family. Today we can stay in touch instantly.

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.—Proverbs 25:25

6. Receive prayer updates—Being able to see and send prayer requests via Twitter is a blessing to me. It allows for instant backing in prayer during a time of need or special ministry opportunity.

Brethren, pray for us.—1 Thessalonians 5:25

7. Learn how God is blessing—I love reading updates from friends in ministry of God’s blessings. Social networking provides added opportunities to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice…—Romans 12:15

8. Uplift a biblical use of technology—When godly Christians actively apply biblical principles of communication to social networking, their examples teach young people and new Christians that God’s Word is timeless and applicable.

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

9. Strengthen godly relationships—Social networking will never be a replacement for face-to-face relationships, but it does strengthen existing relationships and can provide a greater sense of connectedness.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17

10. Exert godly influence—Social networking provides a free platform from which to exert a godly influence. It provides another context in which we can be a voice for biblical truth.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.—Mark 1:3

Potential Pitfalls of Social Networking

1. Bragging and focusing on self— People who are heavily involved in social networking are often preoccupied with what they are going to say about themselves online.

…be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.—1 Peter 5:5

2. Creation of a false identity—The Internet provides ample opportunity to pretend to be someone you’re not. It allows you to dabble in fantasy and disconnect from reality. Guard your heart, and find your identity in Jesus.

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:—1 Corinthians 1:30

3. Time wasting and distraction—Time spent on social networking can be a terrible distraction from essential relationships and responsibilities.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.—Ephesians 5:16

4. Communication interruptions—Do your family or friends fear that your time together will be continually interrupted by your smart phone notifications? Give your best and greatest attention to the relationships God has given you as responsibilities.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;—Romans 12:10

5. Materialsm—It’s easy to focus on name brands and personal experiences and elevate materialism over stewardship.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.—Hebrews 13:5

6. Lack of Christ-centered discussion—The dynamic of hiding behind a computer screen or a screen name can make a person feel comfortable saying things he would otherwise never say. Scripture instructs us that in all things Christ should have the preeminence. All things include web things!

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.—Colossians 1:18

7. The public nature of posts—Before you post something, ask yourself, “Will I wish someday I could retract this comment? Will I be embarrassed if another audience reads this?”

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.—Proverbs 13:3

8. Gossip—Gossip and slander are just as damaging and sinful in social networking as they are on the telephone or in face-to-face conversations—if not more so!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.—Proverbs 18:21

9. Potential for improper relationships—In many cases, social networking has pulled down the walls of safety and accountability, leaving singles and spouses alike vulnerable to improper male/female relationships. Make it your goal that your communication would clearly reflect the purity of Christ.

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.—1 Timothy 3:9

10. Danger of sexual predators—The dangers of pedophiles tracking and taking advantage of young people is magnified through social networking. Parents absolutely must remain 100 percent involved in their children’s online activity.

…I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.—Romans 16:19

11. Associations with the wrong crowd—I wonder if some tweeters would want to be listed as a “follower” of the people they are currently following. Biblical principles concerning those who influence us are as relevant today as they were before the advent of social media.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.—Psalm 1:1

12. Online philosophy becomes reality—Young men play computer games such as Grand Theft Auto, and the results are the increase of violence in our society. Adults who follow wrong influences on the Internet will find Internet associations to be just as influential in their lives

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.—Proverbs 23:7

13. Becoming a stumbling block—This pitfall is the ripple effect of the previous ones. For if you fall into one of the previous pitfalls, the impact will surge through your life to those you influence. Be careful to avoid any activity that would cause others to stumble.

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.—1 Corinthians 8:13

Neither the blessings nor the pitfalls listed here are new or unique to social networking; Christians have been cautiously steering clear of them in other areas of communication for centuries. They simply represent the same game on a new playing field.

But like any other area of communication, the minefield of social networking must be tackled intelligently to survive victoriously. We must wisely identify the dangers and choose to avoid them.

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