Last time I wrote about how we can take our lives back from politics. Today, I want to highlight one of the sources of our political addiction, social media. Most people would agree that our public conversations have become increasingly more divisive. Much of that divisiveness is happening on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These remote, sometimes anonymous channels offer us the ability to say hateful things we’d never dream of saying to someone’s face.
Proverbs 6:16-19 gives us a list of seven things the Lord hates…not frowns upon, but hates! I find it interesting that “a person who stirs up conflict in the community” is listed right alongside “hands that shed innocent blood.” Of course if we read the entirety of the Bible, we know just how important unity is to God’s plan for us. So while shedding innocent blood is a pretty obvious thing to hate, we need to remember that when we use our words to stir up conflict among people, we’re directly opposing God’s ordained plan for His creation. And He hates that!
In the New Testament, Paul tells the Ephesians not to engage in obscenity, coarse jokes, or any kind of “foolish talk.” Instead he says we should be speaking words of Thanksgiving. The preceding verse warns against sexual immorality and greed, and the following verse says that these kinds of people are “idolaters” and have “no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.”
Let the seriousness of those two passages sink in. Playing fast and loose with our words is pretty serious business in God’s eyes!
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, while designed to enhance our communication and connection with each other, have been turned into storehouses for the seeds of discord. Many spend inordinate amounts of time searching for just the right image or meme that will “stick it” to some person or group they oppose. Sometimes that’s just some good-natured ribbing, but too often it’s hateful and mean-spirited. Instead of increasing our connectedness, these channels are driving a wedge between people. Instead of being a means for building and connecting, they’re being used to tear down and divide.
Now let me be clear: that’s not the fault of Facebook and Twitter…the blame resides with us! We’re the ones misusing and abusing social media. With that in mind, it’s time for each of us to take stock in how we’re using social media. Is it causing you to miss out on God’s grand provision for you? Here’s a little quiz to help you decide:
1. Is social media owning too much of your time? No matter if it’s discussing politics on Facebook or posting recipes on Pinterest, if social media is actually replacing one-on-one human interaction with your family and friends, then you’re spending too much time there.
2. Has it cost you in a relationship? Have you had to “unfriend” or “unfollow” somebody because of something you or they said? Would that now make you less likely to have a healthy in-person interaction? That’s a problem according to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24. This unresolved disconnect that originated on social media could not only be killing a relationship, but inhibiting the effectiveness of prayer for you both.
3. Is it distracting from your ability to connect and share Christ with others? Does what you say about politics, your favorite sports team, an entertainer, or some other event help or harm your credibility with others. And I’m not talking about just those who would agree with you. Think about everybody who would read your words. Now scroll down your posts for the last week. Would somebody who shares a different viewpoint than you do see Christ in what you posted? Would they be more or less likely to listen to you on matters of faith? If they needed help or support, would your posts make you someone they would trust to reach out to for help?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to take your life back from social media. It’s negatively impacting your ability to be the person God has called you to be. And while you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube with regard to things you’ve already said, there are some positive steps you can take going forward to make things right.
1. Audit your social media and delete any posts you think might do damage. Notice I didn’t say “offend.” You’re allowed to have an opinion. That’s OK. But if you’re not speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) then it doesn’t matter how right your opinion might be. Delete these posts and cut your losses.
2. Set reasonable time limits on your social media consumption. Social media isn’t “evil” in itself. It’s how we use it. Set some time limits that won’t interfere or infringe on your time being productive with family, friends or at work. Strictly enforce them and reward yourself with something else you like to do when you meet your goals.
3. Stop following or mute sources that feed negativity. These are triggers. They’ll not only drag down your attitude, but likely you’ll get drawn into combat there, destroying any progress you make in goals 1 & 2. Instead, choose to follow sources that will build up your faith and equip you to live well (like New Life).
4. Watch what you say. One of the benefits of social media is, unlike face to face conversations, you do have a greater ability to filter your content. Typing your words requires more thought than just saying them out loud, and before you click “send” you have a chance to review what you want to say. Use this time wisely to double check and make sure you’re saying exactly what you want to say.
On this note, the Rotary Club has a time-honored list of guidelines that should govern our words. I think they’re consistent with what the Bible teaches and pretty wise:
• Is it the truth?
• Is it fair to all concerned?
• Will it build good will and better friendships?
• Is it beneficial to all concerned?
Social media can be a tremendous technological advancement that can truly shrink our world and build bridges that connect us. And yes, the First Amendment gives you the right to speak your mind, but as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:23, just because it’s your right doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to everyone.
We need to let that Christ-like value guide our decisions about how we interact on social media, not just the legalistic standard of the Constitution. If we can do that, we can take our lives back from social media, making ourselves and the platforms better for it.
If you’re ready to take your life back from social media, or any other source of pain that’s keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.