I remember when social media was a rare and odd thing. I first started with Xanga and Myspace! Social media is not a rarity anymore. Now, it is uncommon for a person not to be on social media to some extent. The big three seem to be Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but a single Google search reveals there are dozens of different sites vying for our time, attention and presence.
Social media has changed the way we communicate, share ideas and interact with each other. Rick Warren says, “Today’s communication is instant, constant, permanent and global.”1 Think about how true this statement is in light of our social media usage. This truth can be seen in both a positive or negative light.
When something is posted on social media, we don’t have to wait long for other people to see and respond. Sometimes, this is convenient and beneficial. It can help us make decisions, solve problems and correct error. Other times, this instantaneous communication causes deep regret, shame and more conflict than we ever imagined. Who knows how many posts or comments that we have gone back and deleted (or posts that we should have gone back and deleted)?
Not only do you have a massive amount of information coming at you every time you log onto social media, but the content you create is interactive. With notifications, you can get alerts even when you aren’t actively using social media. This endless supply of information can teach, inform and influence, but I believe it can be very dangerous. Many times the problem lies in the fact that we want to be constantly connected and informed, but that desire can quickly become something much more. How often do we find ourselves wasting time and energy scrolling on social media? How often do we see ourselves running to social media in the various breaks in our day? How often does social media actually become a numbing for our hearts and minds?
The moment you update a status, it has the potential to last forever. If someone sees it, they can’t unsee it. If someone takes a screenshot, they can keep it forever. It seems every week that there is another story of how someone was fired or caught because of what was posted on the internet. Communication is permanent. The old saying is to choose your words wisely, you can’t take them back. These days, that also extends to what we type.
We can communicate faster and more efficiently than ever before and from anywhere in the world. Never before in the history of the world has this been as true as it is right now. This reality is leading us to fight worldwide poverty and the orphan crisis on massive levels. This global reality is giving us opportunities that didn’t exist just a few decades ago. And with the advancement of technology, it will continue to grow and develop in an untold amount of ways. On the opposite side, our sin, stupidity and negligence can be globalized as well.
Our communication is instant, constant, permanent and global, which can be a blessing or a curse. The Bible has much to say about how we use our words, live as a light among darkness and interact with one another and with non Christians. From my perspective, social media may be the place where we have more access to non Christians than any other area of our lives, but it also may be the place where we are the most lax about our Christian beliefs, call and values.
The next two blog posts in this series will address the words we use and the motivations we have in using social media. How do we know if what we are going to post should be posted or not? How can we check our hearts and see if we are using social media in unhealthy, unbiblical ways? How can we examine ourselves and see if social media is doing more harm than good in our spiritual lives?
1. This quote is accredited to Rick Warren, but the actual reference is unknown.