Technology is interesting in that the more integrated into your life a particular aspect of it becomes the more likely you are to take it for granted. And perhaps the less likely you are to consider its impact on your life—for good or for bad.
In the early days of social media (which, believe it or not, was only just over fifteen years ago), I remember how carefully many pastors and mature Christians approached it—with caution regarding what it was designed to do and how it might be used to damage lives.
That statement probably sounds silly to anyone who wasn’t around or aware when some of the earliest networking platforms were first coming on the scene with reports of broken homes, hidden addictions, exploited children, and other disastrous situations closely following. As a pastor of a large church, some of my earliest exposure to these platforms was tragic counseling situations.
Even so, fast forward fifteen years, and here we are—with social media so integrated into our lives that we check it on our phones during thirty-second downtimes, without even making a conscious choice.
The danger in this is not necessarily the social media itself, but our lack of awareness to how it is affecting us and our lack of conscious choice to use it as a tool.
Social media, in fact, can be a tremendous tool. I blog (obviously) and use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram…and I enjoy them all. But if we’re not aware of and purposeful in how we use it, we’re likely to miss out on benefits and become burdened with its negative aspects.
So what are some of the blessings of social media?
Edification—Our words have tremendous potential for good, and social media can magnify this potential. It is a blessing to me to read reports of how God is blessing in other people’s lives and ministries or to receive encouragement through others’ social media posts. I endeavor to make my posts edifying as well.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.—Romans 14:19
Communication—Social media is a powerful tool for communicating with friends and co-laborers around the globe. Being able to see and send prayer requests instantly to many people is a blessing to me. Additionally, I love reading updates from friends in ministry of God’s blessings. Social networking provides added opportunities to rejoice with those who rejoice. I still appreciate the longer, more direct forms of emails, missionary prayer letters, and other forms of communication. But for instant sharing of ministry blessings or prayer needs, social media is tremendous.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.—Proverbs 25:25
Strengthened relationships—Social media 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
Godly influence—Social media 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
Like anything in a fallen world, however, these blessings don’t come without potential for misuse. In what ways does social media become a burden?
Self-focus—Have you ever found yourself mentally composing a post about an event while you were actually in the moment…or, perhaps worse, seeking out an event for the social media currency it may bring?
…be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.—1 Peter 5:5
Gossip and slander—Social media is like a megaphone to the communication sins to which we are already prone. Gossip, lying, slander, angry rants, or foolish conversations—all of these and more too often fill our social media streams. Whether it is our own propensity to engage in these or just the frustration of sifting through them, they sometimes make social media a burden more than a blessing.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.—Proverbs 18:21
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.—Proverbs 29:11
Constant distraction—The online world fights for our attention to feed its voracious appetite for clicks and the layers of engagement and ad revenue that feed off of our clicks and taps. Constant notifications, subconscious scrolling of our feeds, and the ever-present access of our phones combine to limit our focus on work and ministry that really matters.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.—Ephesians 5:16
So is social media a blessing or a burden?
It can be either.
And awareness is a big part of the solution. Recognizing both the blessings and the dangers of social media helps us to use it more purposefully and wisely.
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