Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends from anywhere, for allowing people into our lives who want to see it, for information, and sometimes even for inspiration. There is a lot to like about social media. I use it constantly for making spiritual challenges and to communicate to church members. I like to highlight good things my kids are doing and to brag on my wife. But social media can also be the devil. I do not exaggerate. I have seen it destroy friendships, marriages, and young adult’s reputations. I have seen it be used to hurt others and as a tool for bigotry and hate.
Here are three specific ways I see social media being used in a harmful way:
1) A place to publicly shame others.
We see something posted we don’t like or something in the media that angers us and we attack with shame grenades. It feels so right in the moment. We are dispensing justice to the atrocities of what we feel. How dare they? It is only right that I call them out publicly. We feel so self righteous. And then all the people pleasers out there feel the tension of our post and so they like it and make a comment supporting us, most of the times out of a desperate desire to be liked by us than because they agree with our tirade.
You see it all the time. Someone starts their post with “You may not want to read what I am about to say. I am about to rant.’ Two things you should know when you see this. This person desperately wants you to read what they are saying or else they would not feel that way and then put it on public display. Secondly, you will see several comment who don’t necessarily further the discussion or disagree with it but quickly try to associate with the ranter out of a need to be liked. I am not trying to be harsh here but to make us aware of what is happening. It is toxic, my friends.
We also love to bash those who are unreachable to us. Celebrities and politicians are typically our target here. We shame them with hateful posts and feel justified in it because we don’t know them personally and we feel confident they want read it anyway. We just rally the other haters to shame with us. What does it accomplish? Better question is how does God receive glory from it?
Another way we shame is by setting up a straw man, an anonymous person, that we attack. We say something like “For all those posting about such and such, you are this and that.” Then everyone on our feed is left to wonder are they talking about me and if not me, then who?? Again what benefit comes from this. If I see someone saying something that I think is wrong I should approach them personally. That is what the Bible says to do in Matthew 18. This passive aggressive way of calling out the Straw Man is cowardly.
Am I ever guilty of shaming others on social media? I have committed this sin before. I am guilty as anyone. We need to call it was it is, sin. There is nothing Christian about it. The reason it feels so good is because it appeals to our sinful nature. This post will be very hard to swallow because most of us are guilty to one degree or another. The right response is not to justify our actions but to repent. To confess our wrong to God and to stop doing it.
2) A place for married people to connect or reconnect with a person of the opposite sex in a dangerous way.
I do a lot of counseling and I used to be amazed how much social media played a role in affairs. It has become an epidemic. What starts out as connecting with a new friend or reconnecting with a friend from the past turns into flirting through private messages, which can turn into a whole lot more. Social media makes us much bolder, more confident, to the point we might find ourselves doing things we would not normally do. Before we know it we have crossed a line.
Be careful of open ended questions you ask someone of the opposite sex. i call these “feeler” statements. You are trying to gauge interest or someone is trying to gauge interest from you. It can be very subtle but it has potential to lead to infidelity. Also avoid pitfalls like buying into the notion that a little flirting is ok. It is never ok to hurt your spouse by flirting with someone else. Also never, ever, ever confide in someone of the opposite sex about problems in your marriage through social media. If you re struggling in your marriage meet with someone of the same sex who can offer goodly counsel. If you engage in spouse bashing with someone of the opposite sex, it is a sure fire way to lead to an unhealthy emotional connection with that person.
Jesus tells us to flee sexual sin. He is so serious about sin, like this, that he tells us if your eye cause you to sin, gouge it out! Don’t put your guard down on social media with people of the opposite sex. Don’t assume their intentions are innocent. Hold your spouse accountable on social media. Don’t be paranoid but be aware of who they are talking with. If your spouse gets defensive of your desire to hold them accountable, then that can be a warning sign.
3) A place to hate
Some of us need blood pressure medicine because we get so frustrated, so angry, at what some post. It drives us bonkers. Another picture of their child, another solicitation to buy their product, another comment about a topic they know little about. What I have learned is we get the most frustrated about things that we are prone to do ourselves. I was talking to someone recently who made a comment about someone on social media posting selfies all the time. I mentioned to them that I noticed that they posted pictures of themselves constantly too but with someone in the picture with them. They didn’t like that observation from me! Reality is someone could make the same assumption about them as they were about this other person. We need to be careful about judging the intentions of others. We sure don’t like it when it is done to us.
Here is a simple rule. If someone bothers you by their posts unfollow them. Don’t mention it to others to get a jab in on them. If you say something to someone else then you are wrong because you are gossiping and backbiting. It does not matter if they are wrong or not. No one deserves to be shamed by you! Just simply don’t follow them.
Now here is a way to grow. Ask yourself if what frustrates you about them is something you struggle with as well. Be careful of blindspots in your life. Be careful you are not judging something in others that you are guilty of.
Social media can be a beautiful place. It can be a place of torment and destruction as well. If you are Christian then you don’t get a Christian timeout on social media. God expects you to represent Him well on social media. Keep your guard up. If you can’t fight the temptation to be shameful, angry, gossipy, or lustful on social media then close your account for the sake of your own soul.