Disclaimer: If you want to become better, like I do, you might want to read this. If you do not want to be challenged and convicted, as I was when writing this, you might not want to read this. (reader discretion is advised)
I’ve sensed for a while now that it’s time for me to rethink the role of social media in my life. For some reason, though, I continue to justify why it’s important for me to stay “connected” to the world. Think of all the great political views and personal commentaries I would miss, all of which are always rich with robust and helpful dialogue; or all the opportunities I have of sharing a post to really prove I love Jesus. What would I do with all the time I would save from not copying and pasting to my status all the warnings that I and others need to be aware of? And how would I get my need for validation if I don’t check the number of blue thumbs or red hearts I get on my latest selfie or post? (Yes, the sarcasm is thick.)
I get it though. There is something to be said about the good that social media platforms afford. Without a doubt, I love to see photos of my grandkids; I enjoy being edified by verses of Scripture and thoughtful insights from someone’s devotional. I love to see and hear what God is doing in His church here at home and around the world. I even love to see an hilarious video clip of kids being freaked out by the “magic sheet and disappearing trick” (just YouTube it). So, there certainly are some redeeming qualities.
But truthfully, much of what seems to show up on my feed, and maybe yours as well, isn’t helpful or healthy. After this past week I have been more disheartened and grieved over the divisive and harsh posts that social media, specifically Facebook, continues to perpetuate. Social media cannot do what being truly connected with other people can do, which is having face-to-face conversations where honest questions can be asked, listening is practiced, and understanding is gained. Just a thought: if you know someone who posts on your wall that has a differing view than you politically, religiously, or ideologically, and you feel the need to comment, rather than argue in a 2-hour thread call them up, go get a cup of coffee at Starbucks (or if you’re boycotting, try Chick-fil-A), and have a sit down conversation that seeks to gain understanding rather than win an argument. That seems more helpful. And it certainly seems to be more biblical . . . well, maybe not the Starbucks/Chick-fil-A coffee, but you get the point.
I recently read an article that was entitled, “If Jesus Were On Earth Today, Would He Use Social Media?” The conclusion that the writer came to was that He probably would, but not in the way that many do today. I agree. He would have leveraged social media as a tool and not a weapon; as a means for advancing the gospel and not arguing a point. Don’t get me wrong, He would have engaged others with truth (and He did), yet it would be personal and full of grace. By grace, just so some may not think I’m saying Jesus gives sin or a distorted worldview a pass, grace is just as much grace in unwavering correction as it is unmerited favor.
On the other hand, if the disciples would have had access to social media, I guarantee that Peter would have had a literal “come-to-Jesus-meeting” on a few occasions. I can see Peter’s posts or tweets right now:
“Mad sword skills.” #Malchus #NotToday #CanYouHearMeNow
“Jesus just said He’d build His church on me.” #Winning #ClassFavorite
“When you have to feed over 5,000 people and Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.” #ComeOnMan #WeNeedAMiracle #JesusTakeTheMeal
Yeah, there would be a rebuke coming.
“Walking on water . . . not so much.” #EpicFail #ThoseWavesThough #JesusIsMyLifeguard (this one I think Jesus would’ve enjoyed.)
When you look at the Bible, Jesus understood the value of sitting down with those who weren’t like Him (Luke 15). He even had conversations with those who had vitriolic hate towards Him (Luke 15:25-32). As Rosaria Butterfield has said, He didn’t sin with sinners, but He did sit with sinners. And I think we would be most like Jesus if we did the same.
With that being said, here are some questions I’m considering, and would encourage you to honestly and prayerfully consider as well.
FOUR QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA . . .
IS SOCIAL MEDIA FEEDING MY NEED TO BE NOTICED AND VALIDATED?
In the book The Simplest Way To Change The World, Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements write, “In The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani writes, ‘The appeal of social networking sites is the ability to simultaneously have hundreds of “friends” without actually risking the emotional investment of a real human relationship.’ The creation of ‘likes’ on avenues such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is one of the most brilliant marketing tools ever created, because we all want to be liked. It’s mesmerizing to check our feed and see who liked our last post, and depressing when we discover that no one has. In fact, some social scientists now describe our endless use of social media as ‘like addiction.’”
We all have a desire, and a need, to be noticed and validated. That’s true for some more than others, but nonetheless it is a need deep within every human being. And, truth be told, no human being can ever provide all that you want or need in this area. It is only in Jesus that we find our true identity; our sense of value and security in knowing that He notices us. And it’s not because it’s all about us, because it isn’t. It’s all about Jesus, but He lavishes His love on us and reminds us of who we are in Him.
It reminds me of the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. As a social outcast and thief, the chances of Zacchaeus being noticed by Jesus (at least in the minds of the people who knew him), were below zero. Yet as the Messiah passed through town, this short man who climbed a tree to see Jesus was acknowledged. And not only was He acknowledged but He was, maybe for the first time, truly noticed. Zacchaeus would go from seeing Jesus from a tree, to sitting down with the Christ at the table in his own house. The point is, Jesus notices you even in your most broken moments in life and He not only wants to meet with you, He wants to have a relationship with you.
So, what if instead of spending so much time looking for what we can’t get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even Snapchat, we spent that time scrolling through the feed of God’s word? I promise you that you’ll discover that all you need is found in all Jesus is.
AM I SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Ok . . . #3. Yeah, we’d like to not take time and honestly evaluate this, but we need to. Business Insiderfound that people spend 20% of their time on the Internet viewing social media. To put that in perspective, if you spend 8 hours of your day sleeping (which most people don’t, according to a recent Gallup poll), of the remaining 16 hours of the day, you will spend, on average, over 3 hours just on social media. For some, 3 hours is an understatement.
In light of the research that validates what most of us know to really be true, here are some statements I often hear that make me say, “Really?”:
“I don’t have time to read the Bible.” (Oh look, another Facebook poll question to answer.)
“I’m too busy to reach out to my neighbors.” (I wonder what [insert neighbor’s name here] is posting about?)
“I’m too busy to come to church on Sunday.” (I’ll just watch it online.)
“I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done.” (See “Business Insider” research)
I know, maybe a little too close to home, or maybe the heart. I’m asking these same questions of myself as well. What I’ve discovered, though, is that the margin we lack and long for in our lives is not because there isn’t enough time or space available, it’s that we can easily fail to choose wisely how to spend the time we’ve been graciously given wisely. The apostle Paul encourages us well when he says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15
So, what if instead of spending so much time on social media and missing opportunities to develop deep relationships with people and enjoy that which really matters, we spent time growing in our relationship with Jesus; developed meaningful relationships with our neighbors and friends; connected with others in a faith community of believers for encouragement, exhortation, and enjoyment; and just took time to get outside and enjoy God’s creation? I think we’d be healthier and happier because we were all created for that kind of rhythm of life.
WOULD JESUS BE PLEASED WITH WHAT I AM ABOUT TO POST?
Whatever you are typing in your status, about to tweet, would Jesus be pleased with it? Would it reflect the character of Christ that, as followers of Jesus, we are to display to a watching world? Are they words that edify and build up, or tear down? Are they words that speak truth in love, but in a way that doesn’t require a face-to-face conversation in order to be helpful. The right thing said at the wrong time and in the wrong way is never right. That’s why the apostle Paul admonishes us when he writes, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
Talk about practical wisdom for a social media age. When Paul uses the illustration of “salt” you have to understand that in those days it was used as a preservative, it was highly valuable, and added flavor to their favorite meal. So with that in mind, is what I’m about to say life-preserving to those whom I am speaking? Is what I’m saying sincerely adding value to the conversation? And is what I’m about to post so flavorful that it would cause people to say, “I really would love to hear more from this person.” Or, “I’d really like to sit down and have a conversation with this person.” There’s wisdom in that, as Paul says, especially towards those who are not true believers. Imagine what might happen if instead of coming across as mean-spirited, argumentative, combative, and rude, we see every post, tweet, conversation as an opportunity to walk in wisdom, make the most of our time, and make much of Jesus so that others are left with the taste in their mouth of wanting to know more. #Winning #TheGospelAtWork
God, forgive us for failing to do this well in the past. Help us do better.
So, what if instead of posting what we really feel in moments of frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment, etc., we prayed before we posted? I think we’d allow the Spirit to guard our hearts, our minds, and our words, and in doing so would help us walk in wisdom and add flavor instead of leaving a taste of bitterness.
IS THERE A BETTER PLATFORM FOR ME TO BE HEARD?
Yes, there is. I hope that you’ve seen it throughout what I’ve written. The best platform to hear and be heard is in relationships with others. Looking at a screen can never take the place of looking into the face of another individual. We’re wired for something better, something deeply relational. When is the last time you sat down with someone who had a completely different view politically, and had a conversation involving talking and listening? What about with someone of a different race and sought to gain understanding by listening? There are many more conversations that we could have as well that would be greatly helpful, and would open more opportunities to make much of Jesus and the hope of the gospel. Personally I’m for creating opportunities for dialogue, rather than closing doors on what could be God-ordained conversations. You may never come to a place of agreement with whomever you are conversing with, and that’s ok. The goal isn’t agreement as much as it is understanding. If I walk away from a conversation understanding someone better, it helps me love them better. It helps me pray for them more specifically; and not so that they would come to see things my way, but that God do what He desires to do in them. It is God’s responsibility to change the hearts of people, not mine. But He does call me to love my neighbor, even when that neighbor is considered by you an enemy. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .” Matthew 5:43-44
So, what if instead of using a social media platform to hear and be heard, you started creating opportunities for conversations to take place in a way that you gain understanding about a person rather than judge them from the soundbite of a post? I think we would add value to meaningful conversations, and maybe, just maybe, point people to the solution rather than add to the noise.