Thinking Critically About Social Media
One of our elders, Jonny Rector, taught a class session recently on social media and has condensed his teaching from that class into a blog post. As promised at the recent Members Meeting, we are posting it here! One of my mentors likes to say, “everything is a discipleship opportunity.” Even the way we engage technology and social media. So, I hope Jonny’s article helps you grow deeper in the gospel.
The last twelve months have provided enough national controversy to last several years. COVID-19, the contentious presidential election, and race relations are just a few of the issues that have led many of us to the Internet in hopes of finding kindred spirits who may help us make sense of the world around us. In light of this, we should all make an extra effort to think more critically about how we use social media and how it might help or hinder our Christian witness, both personally and corporately.
One of the most harming aspects of social media (though there are many beneficial ones) is its potential to enable us to make idols of ourselves while alienating us from one another.
The social media platforms we all use today were created by teams of developers and businessmen skilled with the ability not only to create dazzling user experiences or to leverage cutting-edge technology, but also with the ability to tap into what drives us as individuals (whether these impulses be noble or debased) and translate those motivations into mouse clicks and ad revenue.
This means that for those of us who want to present themselves as “America’s Next Top Model,” the wittiest political satirist, the trendiest social media influencer, the most “aesthetic” home maker, or even the most insightful public theologian may be rewarded with affirmation, accolades, and even a following.
Unfortunately, most social networks have no inherent reason for existence other than to perpetuate the continued and escalating use of their platforms even if that means we use them to indulge in our most selfish motivations. And in our striving to make a name for ourselves (or our causes) online, we may as a result create or perpetuate political factions, conspiracy theories, cults of personality, and worldviews that do not conform to God’s truth, but rather meet the requirements of the content filters we create for our news feeds. This creates a dilemma where the high ideals of “the good, the true, and the beautiful” are sacrificed for the modern values of “the trendy, the woke (or anti-woke), and the attention-grabbing.”
On the contrary, Christians believe the only ultimate source of truth and personal worth is the wise, all-knowing God, whose will and prescription for daily living are found in the pages of Scripture. And the best partners for discovering that truth are rarely those people who we know mainly by their online presence, but rather the people with whom we have intimate, face-to-face relationships.
So rather than curating our social media profiles to display the best possible version of ourselves, let us live in a community of believers that doesn’t seek to hide the warts of daily existence.
Rather than feeding ourselves on superficial, parochial, divisive, or inflammatory online content, let us submerge ourselves in the pages of Scripture that pierces to the division of joints and of marrow, that discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart. So that together, we can with confidence stand before God “naked and exposed” before his eyes when we are called to give account for our words and deeds (cf. Heb. 4:12-13).
Rather than following the pattern of this world characterized by the multitudes of scoffers, gaslighters, click-bait bloggers and Internet trolls, let us provide a faithful gospel witness to those around us (both online and offline) by speaking the truth in love and cultivating flesh-and-blood relationships that characterize the sacrificial love of Christ.