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Over the last year or so, I have become more discouraged about social media and what it is doing to us than I have ever been.
Often I think to myself, “The only reason I use social media any more is because it’s such an important part of my job.” Really, it’s central to my job.
Then, some weeks, what I see on social media encourages me and gives me hope for the medium as a useful tool for the Church.
One of my friends recently left social media entirely. He deleted all of his accounts and isn’t going to engage on Twitter, Facebook, etc. any more. I kinda wish I could bring myself to do that, but every time I consider it, I can’t.
It’s not that I can’t bring myself to leave social media because I have some sort of unhealthy addiction to it or because I need to be informed about what all of my friends are doing with their lives. (At least I don’t think that’s why.)
I think I can’t bring myself to leave social media because I have a sort of strange burden for it as a medium.
Social media can feel like a pretty godless place sometimes. Watching Christians gnaw on the necks of other Christians over everything from biblical sexual ethics to minute matters of Church history is nauseating.
“Hot take” culture, in which we all feel the need to respond with our profound two cents on an issue before knowing all the facts, is, I believe, demonic.
There are times, like the times we’re in right now, during which I question if Christians have any place on Twitter or other such platforms.
Does the good of connecting with people across the world in order to share and discuss ideas outweigh the bad of harassment and rampant sinful communication?
It can be hard to tell.
I’m going to do more writing on this study soon, but according to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of adults have witnessed online harassment.
That’s not OK.
It’s not like it’s getting any better, either, younger people are more likely to witness harassment than older people. Part of this is due to younger people being more engaged online, but it is also likely due to younger people harassing more.
When I see statistic like this, I get discouraged and think Christians, myself included, would be wise to just disengage from social media entirely.
Why willingly participate in an environment in which such evil persists with no viable way to stop it?
We don’t have to be on social media, so why involve ourselves in such negativity if there is no need?
I ask myself these questions and then I remember:
I am compelled to participate in the nasty mess of social media because I have been commissioned as a steward of the only light bright enough to pierce its darkness.
Only the gospel can redeem the hateful poison that fills Twitter timelines and YouTube comment sections.
I believe, as a Christian and steward of the gospel, that I have I responsibility to maintain a presence on social media and do my best to reflect Christ on the various platforms in which I participate. I don’t always do this well, but this burden is what prevents me from deleting my accounts every time I consider doing so.
My life would be so much simpler if I forgot Twitter existed and packed up my Facebook profile once and for all. But I can’t bring myself to do it because I feel as though it would be motivated by cowardice, not by any sort of sanctified step of faith.
Social media isn’t for everyone though. If you lust after the favorites and retweets of others or you can’t avoid berating “friends” on Facebook, you ought to repent and sprint away from social media altogether.
But if you can manage to engage on social media platforms without falling into habitual sin around the approval of others or otherwise, I beg you to steward the gospel in the digital space.
It’s a strange burden, but I think it’s an important one.
It feels as though abandoning social media would be abandoning an opportunity for stewardship.
So, how can Christians redeem social media as a medium? How might we use what so many use for evil for the good purposes of God? A few brief thoughts:
1) Create encouraging dialogue.
If you enjoy a blog post, find the person on Twitter and tell them so.
If you see a friend on Facebook having a rough day, shoot a message to them telling them you’re praying for them (and actually do it).
So much negative dialogue permeates social media, it could use some gospel encouragement from those who steward the Good News.
2) Share trustworthy resources.
Share the content of Christian blogs or other websites whose content you trust.
So many great Christian organizations and Christian leaders are blogging or create other kinds of content with great frequency. There is no shortage of faithful, trustworthy content online. Share it or create some of it yourself.
3) Build sanctifying relationships.
This statement would have sounded weird 10 or 15 years ago, but: I have a number of sanctifying, God-glorifying friendships today that started on social media someplace.
Social media platforms are great places to find like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we may partner in our Great Commission work. If you’re on social media, make friends with people and point each other to Jesus.
Social media is a volatile beast. It is not to be taken lightly or to be underestimated as a force of evil.
But, if you’re like me and cannot neglect the strange burden of social media, take some intentional steps to shining the light in the darkness.