Social Issues (Part 11): Social Media

Social Issues

Social media refers to the online networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that allow users to communicate with one another via text posts, photos, videos, and more. It is one of the more significant technological breakthroughs of our time.

Like other technological advances [previous lesson], social media is not good or bad in itself – it depends on how it is used and what our attitude is toward it. Some will avoid social media altogether, possibly even discouraging or condemning others for using it. Some will immerse themselves in social media to the point of excess and the detriment of their personal relationships, work responsibilities, and overall health.

Facts & Statistics

A 2016 survey found that 79% of Americans use Facebook (and 86% use the internet in general).

In 2015, about 100 million hours of video were watched on Facebook every day.

A 2017 report found that the average person will spend approximately 116 minutes a day on social media.

A 2014 study found that 18% of social media users cannot go even a few hours without checking Facebook. This is an indication of at least a degree of social media addiction.

I suspect that all of these numbers are higher now.

Basic Bible Principles Relating to This

Fundamentally, social media is about communication. Therefore, Biblical principles about communication apply.

What we are to communicate – We are to speak, write, and share that which is true (Proverbs 12:17), helpful (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6), encouraging (Proverbs 12:25), and instructive (Proverbs 15:7). All of this must be done in love (Ephesians 4:15).

What we are not to communicate – We are not to speak, write, and share that which is false (Proverbs 4:24; 12:22), gossip (Proverbs 16:28; 26:20), none of our business (Proverbs 26:17), hurtful (Proverbs 11:12), boastful (Proverbs 25:14), or spoken in anger (Proverbs 12:16).

We are to limit the words that we use – It is tempting to post to social media whatever comes to mind on any given topic without thinking first, yet speaking (or posting) without thinking is unwise and dangerous. The wise man said, “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). He said elsewhere, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13); yet social media seems to be built upon people’s “hot takes” on every current topic of controversy, even before all of the facts are known. There is a temptation to become angry over comments made by others and respond in kind. Yet “a fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11). We must also be aware that what we say may be shared beyond the ones with whom we intended to share it. The wise man warned: “Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known” (Ecclesiastes 10:20). Private messages do not always stay private. Even though we may delete an unwise post, screenshots last forever.

We are to recognize that some communication, even when we are teaching the truth, is not helpful because of the attitude of the one (or the many) to whom we are communicating – Several times in the book of Proverbs, the wise man warned about communicating with a fool (Proverbs 23:9; 26:4; 29:9). Some people are only interested in arguing and attacking. We are not obligated to spend our time debating such people. Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). It is a noble desire to defend the truth, but sometimes we need to shake the dust off of our feet and move on (Matthew 10:14; Acts 13:50-51).

We need to guard against evil influences – Social media is filled with negative voices vying for our attention, so we need to be careful. “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue” (Proverbs 17:4). We do not want to be classified in either of those ways, so we should not entertain wicked and destructive messages. Paul warned the brethren in Corinth: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

We are not to be enslaved to social media – This goes back to the statistic cited above about social media addiction. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). For all of the benefits of social media, we must not let it rule over us.

Bottom Line

Social media can be a valuable form of communication. But we must use it properly and avoid using it in a way that would harm our influence.

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