How Should We Use Social Media?

In the light of Donald Trump recently being banned from Twitter I thought it would be good to consider how we should use social media. It goes without saying that social media can be used for both good and bad purposes. In that light how should we use it? In no particular order here are some ideas of how we can use it well.

SPEAK THE TRUTH

When we post anything on social media we should try at all times to tell the truth. This may well mean that we have to research something, checking out the facts before posting, rather than share any old information. If it is impossible for something to be true and there is no evidence to support it, then best practice is not to post it. We should not deliberately share things that we know are lies. Instead we should aim to build our online timeline with truthful statements.

I know that some are very interested in conspiracy theories, but we need to check the credibility of the theory before posting. In recent times some have claimed that 5G is linked to coronavirus. However, there is absolutely no proof of this. Therefore posting statements linking the two is irresponsible and should be avoided.

Speaking the truth can be very powerful and the footballer Marcus Radford has done a wonderful job in the last few months raising awareness of child hunger in the United Kingdom. He has shown that injustices can be raised and tackled via social media.

THINK BEFORE YOU POST

It really should be obvious that it is important to think you post. Ask yourself: do I really need to post that? Once you post something then someone will see your post. Even if you delete it and hope no-one notices, someone will see it, and it might still come back to haunt you.

If you are angry then the best advise is do not post! Unfortunately, if you post when you are angry you will invariable post something that you will regret and could cause a whole lot of trouble, even if you delete it. Go for a walk, count to hundred, wait until you calm down before posting.

We also should be careful which posts we like and share too. When doing this we are endorsing their views and saying that we agree with it. Ask yourself if you really agree with their opinion before doing this. I know I have liked things and then realised that was not appropriate and had to go back and unlike them!

AIM FOR EDIFYING POSTS

I wonder how much different social media would be if we always aimed for our posts to be edifying to others? Why not make it your goal to post things that encourage and help others. How about having a policy of not criticising others on social media? It can be done!

We need to remember that there are real people on social media. You will never know the effect for good or bad your posting might have on others.

YOU CAN DISAGREE WITHOUT ARGUING

I am not sure why but social media does seem to encourage some to argue. Somebody may be nice and polite in real life but once behind a keyboard they become a completely different person.

Social media is not really the best place to have a proper sensible discussion, especially with the character limits in Twitter. If we do have discussions online then we need to learn to accept different views. If someone has a different view to you on a subject there is the possibility that they might be right and you might be wrong! Please remember that there are subjects on which you can disagree and still remain friends. And be ready to apologise if you are wrong about something.

Sadly it is very easy to get involved in pointless arguments. You only have to read comments to Facebook posts or YouTube videos to see this.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE

Whilst social media can be enjoyable we must remember that it is not real life. There is a life outside of social media and you certainly do not need to spend your whole life on social media. Neither do you need to share everything single thing you do or think either. Take breaks from social media and enjoy the real world.

MOTTO FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

In conclusion, although social media did not exist when the New Testament was written, there is a verse in the book of James which we could aim to use as our motto for social media:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19)

Pray before Posting on Social Media

I’m currently reading an interesting book by David Robertson called: What Would Jesus Post? The second chapter is entitled pray before posting and it contains some wise advice which I thought I would share this week in relation to our social media use.

The author believes that there are no occasions where prayer is not appropriate. He reminds us that Paul told the church in Ephesus to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18). He also mentions Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4v6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

With these verses in mind it’s only right for David Robertson to ask us the following questions:

  • When do you pray about your online life?
  • How much do you pray compared to how often you connect online?
  • What view does God have on what we are about to post?

It might seem a strange idea to pray about our online life. However, those two verses mentioned above remind us that we should pray “on all occasions” and “in every situation.” Therefore, it’s not just our offline life that requires prayer but also our online life too. These days we spend so much time online that if we don’t pray about this then that is a big part of our life that we are prayerfully neglecting.

In our church services do we pray for our churches website and social media pages? We believe that it’s important for churches to have a web presence but how often does this become the subject of corporate prayer?

The second question above is obviously very challenging to many of us! I think if we are being honest with ourselves we know that this is an area where there is room for improvement. When we awake in the morning do we connect online before we pray? Likewise, as we go to bed is the last thing we do pray or check our social media feeds? Jesus started each day off in prayer and that’s an example we can all aim to follow.

We have all seen posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that we feel should not have been posted. However, does it occur to us that God will have a view on what we are about to post? It is very important that we always pray before posting on social media. Is the thing we are about to post edifying? Will someone be blessed or encouraged by our post? Alternatively, will our post be making fun at someone or belittling them?

Of course, we can delete our postings on social media but unless we do this immediately someone will probably see it. It’s better to pray before posting to avoid regret and embarrassment.

When we look at our social media feeds we are encouraged to like and share the postings of our friends and followers. Do we just click on the like or share button without either thinking or praying about it first? No doubt if we are honest with ourselves we have probably all liked posts on those platforms that we should not have done. There have been occasions when I have liked a post and then a few minutes later cancelled the like as I realise that I have made a mistake!

In closing lets us remember the importance of praying before we post on social media and asking God for wisdom in what we share online.

Who are you following?

Last Sunday in the church service I attended the preacher asked us the question “Who do you follow?”

I guess many of us might think that we do not follow anyone. However most of us probably follow either: a sports team, musician, film star or TV series.

If we check our various social media accounts we would realise that there are many different people we follow on these platforms too.  When I look at those I follow on social media and put these people into categories broadly speaking they would be, in no particular order:

  • Sportsmen
  • Politicians
  • Comedians
  • TV presenters
  • Christians
  • Friends and family
  • Technology

If though you were to ask me why I follow these people then for many of them I’m not quite sure what reason I would give you. Although I might like a particular sportsman I’m not quite sure why I need to follow them on social media. There might be occasions when I congratulate them, via social media, for winning an event or achieving something outstanding in their sport. But it’s not necessary though to follow them to do this.

Some of the people I follow on social media do post interesting updates. I especially enjoy updates from certain comedians I follow who use their accounts to share jokes with their followers.

Social media has helped me to keep abreast of what my old friends are doing as I’m not very good at keeping in contact. Updates from Christians can encourage and challenge me in my faith in addition to providing me details of their latest blog postings.

I wonder though if those we follow on social media influence us for better or worse, or is it just harmless fun following these people.

Last weekend there was a boxing match shown on You Tube between Logan Paul and KSI. These two individuals are hugely popular on You Tube and between them have over 34 million subscribers to their channels. That is a phenomenal number of subscribers / followers. According to the BBC the majority of their subscribers are young men. Just think of the influence Logan Paul and KSI can have for better or worse in the lives of these young men.

Maybe one of the reasons we follow certain people on social media is because we want to feel part of the crowd. If all our friends follow someone we may feel isolated if we also do not follow them. Perhaps we get a sense of self-worth by following these people and hoping that they might follow us back in return.

I remember feeling pleased that a couple of people I follow, who were popular on Twitter, started following me on that platform.  I think secretly I was hoping that they might retweet my tweets and I would get many more followers out of this! It can be quite interesting, eye opening and embarrassing when we honestly examine our motives.

In closing I think it’s wise to be mindful of who we follow and to ensure that we are careful not to allow ourselves to be influenced in a negative way.