In its inception, social media for the consumer existed to traverse large distances, (re)connecting people who could not otherwise be connected. More than email, social media was a platform to share stories, prompts, and pictures from everyday life in both a quick and informal manner. As social media transformed, the reasons for engaging in social media have also transformed, or at least have become more numerous. From finding companionship, whether formal or informal, to sowing deep discussion or deep discord, social media is now a complex tool that can enhance or encumber one’s life.
Over the last year and a half, much has been written about the engineering of social media in order to draw more of people’s attention and capture more of their time. For them, this is basic marketing because it increases the platform’s access to a person’s life translating into more revenue. For the basic consumer though, it creates a false reality, a false productivity, and a false perception. Those ramifications then, must compel a genuine evaluation of our use of social media, and God’s word points us to two important principles that should determine how we use social media.
James writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . . “ (James 1:17). Few would ascribe this verse to social media. However, as creator, social media would not be available to us if it were not for the Lord’s permission. Therefore, because it comes from Him, we must consider that it comes with goodness. Unfortunately, as humans, we have the tendency to inhibit all good gifts by distorting them for purposes that are not so good. However, recognizing that there are beneficial aspects we must consider what those are, supporting them while suppressing the negative effects.
This point alone though cannot guide our use of social media. What aspects are considered beneficial are subjective, regulated by personal motivations and desires. However, Paul offers more counsel, urging believers, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This principle comes written in the midst of a debate contemplating what is permissible and what is not, but Paul’s declination is straightforward: do whatever is glorifying and honoring to God. This same principle then, can be applied to our use of social media. Not only can it determine whether we should or should not use it, but it determines how we should use it when we engage social media in our life. Whether it be posting pictures of our family, sharing opinions, or correcting others’ misunderstandings of theology, the question we must ask is, “Are we glorifying God with our usage of it?” In fact, before hitting the share, post, or enter button on whatever we choose to present to others, this should be the question we must ask ourselves.
Unfortunately, people have the tendency to employ the any-benefit rule. This rule states that if something has any benefit, then it must be accepted and incorporated into one’s life. However, the better question is not whether something has any benefit, but does it have the right benefit? We must consider whether positives outweigh the negatives or whether it is more of a help or more of a hindrance in one’s life. When it comes to social media, I cannot answer this question for you? Only you know how you utilize social media and if you are doing so according to godly principles. The only thing I can offer is a note of caution, noting how quickly social media can take control over our lives if our motives in utilizing it are man-oriented, not God-oriented.