In my last post, I shared with you how I resisted the Internet social community for years. I blogged, but that was it. I had no intention of ever being a “tweeter,” a “facebooker,” or doing that Pinterest thing.
But I finally caved. I joined.
Because of community. Because of the gospel. And because of the glory of God.
What I mean by that is this: The Internet community provides a base of operation to spread the gospel, to send out encouragement to the needy, and to disciple others, on a larger scale than we could possibly do without the Internet.
I can sit with a friend who needs discipleship at our local coffee shop and spend an hour sharing truth. That is beneficial to the kingdom—that is making disciples. But I can also spend an hour working on a blog post that has essentially the same message and spread it to hundreds, maybe thousands of women, who need to hear that instruction. Both forms of discipleship are important.
I see social media as an opportunity to exchange information, ideas, pictures, encouragement, and catch up on what is happening with loved ones. I see it as a ministry opportunity (both ways—I give and receive) as well as a recreational activity.
But what about the dangers I mentioned in my last post?
I’ve put in place some protective measures—they aren’t foolproof, but so far they’ve been helpful to me.
The first thing I noticed when I joined facebook is how much faster time flies while you’re on that site! You can be browsing through picture albums of family and friends and before you know it, two hours have flown by! I don’t seem to have enough time as it is, so I’m intentional in how I use my time there and have established a few personal guidelines:
- I don’t have social media sites installed on my phone. I know, this seems old-fashioned to those who have their media feeds constantly blowing up their phone, but I’ve found this to be a time-protector for me. It also prevents the bombardment of a continual flow of distraction.
- I never go on social media sites without first having my devotional time.
- I briefly go online to post a tweet or facebook status that directs others to a post I think might be helpful (discipleship). I usually try to find at least one truth or statement from my morning study that I can distill into 140 twitter characters (this is a good literary discipline as well).
- On Twitter, I “follow” (receive tweets from) less than 60 people, so I can scan my twitter feed quickly. I don’t follow all my friends and family (I use facebook for that) but I follow people who consistently post good quotes, helpful links, or newsworthy items. When I scan these, if there is a link I want to check out, I pull those up and save for later—during time allotted for reading—not during ministry/writing/family stuff time.
- I RARELY scan the twitter feed without finding something that is helpful, inspirational, motivates further study/investigation in the Word, or is in some way beneficial.
- On Facebook, I use the settings to be selective about how much information I receive from friends. I post things that I hope will serve to disciple or encourage others and I save my facebook cruising and picture viewing for recreational time. My husband and I like to do this together on Friday or Saturday evenings.
- Sundays are a rest day from the Internet world. I rarely go online on a Sunday. I need that day to reset my mind and heart for the week.
Social media sites function in a way that can be addictive and also fuel narcissism, so I have a few protective measures to suggest:
- Don’t check to see if people are “retweeting” your tweets. What does that matter? How will that serve you well if you discover your tweets are being passed on? It is a little more difficult with facebook, you can easily see how many people “like” your pictures or status.
- Don’t keep a tally in your head of how many “friends/followers” you have. Is your goal self-promotion or popularity? If you post things with the perspective that this is “an offering for the Lord’s use,” it will protect you from seeking personal applause.
- Monitor your frequency on media sites. Give friends or family permission to let you know if they’re concerned about how much you are online. Try taking a 24, 48, or 72 hour media fast and see how you’re affected by temporarily going offline.
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19) With a larger community, more conversation and information being spread, there is greater opportunity for harm.
- Treat your words online as though your conversation includes Jesus—because it does. Don’t state anything in this public medium that you would be ashamed to say to Jesus’ face.
- Use Philippians 4:8 as a guideline for the type of content you allow in your media feeds.
I can’t say that social media is the right choice for you. As with anything there is potential for harm, but for me, it serves as a venue for spreading the gospel and doing a limited form of discipleship. But just like with every good thing—we need to be careful how we steward this valuable tool.
If you’re on Twitter, facebook, or blogging somewhere—do it for God’s glory and give me a shout every now and then to tell me how God is using social media to impact your world!