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Is Social Media a Free-for-All?

Today’s post is one I’ve been thinking about for a while now and since my wife touched on it in a roundabout way in her stop whining post, I thought I’d just go for it.

Most recognize that social media is not going away anytime soon. From church leaders to political figures, people are expressing their opinions and ideas openly (as well as sharing their favorite kitty-cat videos).  The potential for connection is astounding. The potential for constant distraction is also astounding, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use these outlets to great effect.

Facebook and Twitter seem to be everywhere. There are personal pages, fan pages, group pages, followers, retweets, and it goes on and on. My question isn’t should we use it, but rather, what is our responsibility as Christians in using social media?

We want to say, “Oh it’s just fun. It’s frivolous entertainment, a sometimes useful distraction. Why bring responsibility into it?”

As Christians, every arena is an opportunity to show Jesus’ love and kindness. We can share our faith or encourage someone who’s struggling. The opposite is also true: we can find ourselves turning off the light. Andrea talked about the negativity and yes, whining, occurring across a given medium, but there are also cutting comments, careless words, callous dismissals… They all have an effect.

So why should we pause before we hit that update button?

1. We hurt ourselves

1 Peter 3:9 reminds us, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” While James compares the tongue, such a small part of the body, to a ship’s rudder. It directs us on our course.

We don’t have control of a lot of things in our lives. Other people with their attitudes, actions, and prejudices are in God’s hands. What we need to focus on is allowing God’s grace to work within and change us. That’s going to happen with how we talk as well.

We can argue that we’re not verbalizing it with our own mouths (though we probably are elsewhere), but it’s inescapable that we are expressing something that is in our thoughts and in our hearts (we do have online conversations after all). Before we allow the negativity and pessimism to escape, maybe we should reflect on where that would lead us and if we really want to go there.

2. We represent Jesus

Some would argue, “I’m just being myself. You just want me to fake it.” I’ve put stuff out there before that afterwards I was ashamed I let out because it didn’t honor God. I think we have to ask ourselves what’s more important: being yourself or following Jesus?

I’ve noticed that a lot of times those two don’t line up for some reason. Sometimes I feel sour and God prompts me (and equips me) to show kindness to someone. Sometimes I want to be alone and God brings someone into my path who needs a listening ear. Sometimes I feel like spewing negative garbage and the person on the other end of the computer needs a little encouragement.

2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Does that ambassadorship extend to the online, social media world? I definitely believe it does. We have the ability to cause others to stumble and that should make us stop and think.


Here are a couple quick suggestions to help when you’re facing this situation.

  • If you’re feeling the need to put a complaint or something negative out there, pause and ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” Is it for attention or sympathy? Is it just a really strong emotion for this second? Sometimes just pausing will keep us from making a mistake in the heat of the moment.
  • Before you let the tantrum/pity-party fly, remember Jimmy Stewart’s message, It’s a wonderful life. Go and read a scripture. Think about and say out loud the things you are thankful for. Your constant griping about home, family, job, church, city, whatever is not going to change anything. Focus on the good.
  • I don’t want anyone to fake being happy, but is throwing our junk out to the virtual world and all your online friends the best solution? If you’re depressed and can’t shake it, don’t tweet “I hope the world burns and all the worthless wretches die in the flames.” Try calling or emailing a pastor or trusted friend if you’re feeling depressed. If anything send a private message to a trusted online friend instead of putting it out there to everyone. You’re not in this thing alone.

What do you think? Do we have a responsibility in using social media? Whether you agree or disagree, have you ever felt differently in the past? What are some other ways we can curb the negativity before we spew it to the world?

35 Comments

  1. Do we have a responsibility in using social media? Oh yeah, sure we do…this Scripture breathes that truth for sure.

    “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

    Thanks Jason for getting to think about our words, thoughts and just how “social” we should be.

    • Perfect scripture, Jay. I’m just amazed sometimes how we disconnect the online world from our walk with Jesus so as I thought about it, I wanted to share. Thanks!

  2. I can honestly say we do have a responsibility IN ALL THINGS. Since I am not on FB or Twitter I am sort of an odd duck (long story there). Care needs to be taken no question and you raise some good thoughts that everyone ought to be asking.

    • Thank you, Bill.

  3. We have a huge responsibility. We have that same responsibility in all that we do.

    My best friend says this all the time and I thin it fits: “Sometimes we are the only Bible people read.”

    We have to watch.
    Michael recently posted..Skanky Coffee MugMy Profile

    • I think that statement ranks up there as one of the all time scariest. If we’re the only Jesus that people see, the only Bible that they read, then what’s their impression? If more people took it seriously, we would see a lot different online world I think. Thanks Michael.

    • Michael, I had to research that phrase a few years ago and tracked it down to a poem by Annie Johnson Flint. You might enjoy reading the original:

      http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/digital/ww/WW1501/W1501001.HTM

      (Great post, Jason!)
      Marcus Goodyear recently posted..Animated Poetry Reading about Dead FishMy Profile

      • Thank you for adding to the conversation, Marcus! Blessings…

  4. We most definitely have a responsibility in all aspects of our life (including digital) to communicate God’s love and to be His witness.

    Thank you for reminding us!
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..The LORD be Exalted!My Profile

    • Just processing and putting it out there! Thanks Dusty.

  5. Interestingly, my social media life started sort of hesitantly. I had a roommate with teenagers and they dragged me, kicking and screaming into Myspace. And because I was trying to speak into their lives, I went. From there, my boss’ wife dragged me into Facebook to interact with our ministry groups. And then, I joined Twitter last summer because I wasn’t able to go to our denomination’s General Conference, but yet I needed to be aware of the legislation being passed there and I knew it was being tweeted.

    What a surprise it has been to find that not only have I been able to minister via all of these avenues, but I have been continuously blessed and ministered to.

    My goal is to be a blessing and not a curse and to be an asset, not a liability. I struggle daily to find the balance--even online-- between my sometimes-faked, “Little Mary Sunshine” personality and my occasional bouts of depression. Some days, I think I almost succeed and some days, I’m pretty sure I’ve failed. But I just remind myself that it’s okay to be where I am, just as long as I don’t stay there.

    Thanks, Jason!
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Tying Up Loose EndsMy Profile

    • It is amazing how powerful this medium can be, sin’t it? Whether blogging, Facebook, Twitter, whatever--I’ve had opportunity to bless and be blessed over and over.

      Don’t worry, we’ve all failed as we try to live our lives honestly. All we can do is examine what we’re doing through help of the Holy Spirit, make the changes we can, and trust in grace. We are where we are, but we definitely want to choose the most constructive way to express that.

      Thank you Sarah.

    • Sarah, when mom died, I felt a lot of guilt and depression. I suppose it could be said I whined a lot. You were really there for me and very supportive. I’m in a different place now because of your prayers, and those of my other friends in cyberspace. Thank you.
      Helen recently posted..Fun Filled Water StaycationsMy Profile

  6. Like any powerful tool, social media can be used for good and can be uplifting. It can also be incredibly destructive. I sat in on a session at Echo about how we often lose ourselves in the virtual world while shutting off the folks that know and love us. Everything in moderation.
    katdish recently posted..Stain remover by Billy CoffeyMy Profile

    • That’s true. If we substitute one for the other, there’s a problem. Thanks for your thoughts, Katdish.

  7. I suppose I have whined on the twitter at my friends, but I do believe that the prayers of these friends really helped me get through a difficult time.
    I also suppose I can TWSS a bit too much…
    But don’t take cookie Tuesday away from me, SD. Please….. don’t take cookie Tuesday away….
    😉
    Helen recently posted..Fun Filled Water StaycationsMy Profile

    • I struggled a little with this post because I figured some people reading would unnecessarily feel guilty about it. We are all going to fall short at times, but I’m talking more about those who constantly complain and drag everything down or play on people’s sympathies or beg them to join in. I’ve been concerned before about my frivolous tweets (TWSS and others), but while I think it should be monitored, I would say by and large it just shows our personality and the “realness” as people.

      If I tweet or correspond back and forth for a while and the other person says one day, “oh I had no idea you were a Christian” then I would be concerned (okay, very concerned). But mostly as with life in general, it’s about balance. There are still things that don’t need to be put out there at all or can be expressed in more constructive ways, but we are all learning and growing. We just follow Jesus…

      Now that I’ve written a new post… Thanks Helen. 🙂

      • I’m not sure I feel guilt… I feel reflective. And that is a good thing, really. It is important to balance between being “real” and being salt and light. And I can still be real by saying “I’m in a bad mood today— the basement flooded…” rather than “Life sucks. I think Jesus wants to “just be friends” rather than love me… my basement is flood…”
        They are both “real”, but one takes into account that people reading it might become discouraged while the other one more likely just asks for encouragement. Balancing may not be easy, but it is important.
        Helen recently posted..Fun Filled Water StaycationsMy Profile

        • And there’s a difference between making a statement like “oh my goodness, the basement is flooded” and having a pity party about all of it. Knowing Jesus has translate into all we do. Thanks again Helen.

    • I don’t think you’re a whiner at all, Helen.
      katdish recently posted..Stain remover by Billy CoffeyMy Profile

    • Yes, ditto what Katdish said!

  8. “Whether you eat or drink, [or tweet, or blog] or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
    Ryan Tate recently posted..Living a Story-Formed LifeMy Profile

    • That’s it! Thanks Ryan.

  9. Great points by all. I think we’ve all hesitated before sending a tweet… or posting a comment. Or worse, sent it out before giving it the consideration we should have.

    I try to be real… sadly that isn’t always a good thing. Great post and discussion, Jason.
    Bridget recently posted..FriendsMy Profile

    • It’s such a hard one, because “being yourself” and “being real” can be the right thing sometimes and the wrong others. It’s following God’s leading closely that keeps us from making the mistakes that may cause someone to stumble. I think the hesitation though can often turn out to be a great sign that maybe we should back away even if it’s for a moment.

      Thanks Bridget.

  10. Great reminder Jason. It is way too easy to try to find our validation in other’s (twiiter, facebook, etc.) instead of finding our validation in Christ.
    Kevin M. recently posted..We cant do life on our ownMy Profile

    • Excellent point. Many may be looking for that validation of what they feel when really that is the last thing we need and will keep us from ultimately seeking God. That’s powerful! Thanks, Kevin.

  11. I would say that I think more before I tweet than I think before I speak. Probably because I can pause before I press send. 🙂 Still I think this post is right on. We are a witness, the salt & the light, and we have a responsibility as such. Thanks, Jason!
    Melissa Brotherton recently posted..A Change is on the HorizonMy Profile

    • Ha! I know what you mean. Thanks Melissa. 🙂

  12. I’m not on Twitter, not on Facebook and have no blog but I do reply on blogs. I believe we have to be careful. I did once make a mistake and apologized right away. My luck was that he already knew me and knew I would never do that on purpose. Still it’s scary. I hope we correct each other if we do something wrong. I mean I need to hear that for me so I can apologize.

    • That’s a good point, Ani. We can help each other in the process too. Sometimes we may not see our negativity coming through in all our conversations until someone points it out. That’s what living in true community is all about. Excellent thoughts- thank you!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jay Cookingham - Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5 /cc @feedly
  2. Michael Perkins - RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5
  3. Sarah Salter - RT @MichaelDPerkins RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5
  4. Brian Russell - RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5
  5. Jason Stasyszen - New Post: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://ow.ly/2kjyt Discussing social media responsibility- share your thoughts.
  6. Jason Stasyszen - RT @sarahmsalter: RT @MichaelDPerkins RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5 <<thank you both!
  7. Jason Stasyszen - RT @Brian_Russell: RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5 <<thanks Brian!
  8. Helenatrandom - RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5
  9. Jason Stasyszen - RT @Helenatrandom: RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5 << thanks Helen!
  10. Jason Stasyszen - RT @KevinMartineau: RT @br8kthru: Is Social Media a Free-for-All? http://bit.ly/cBp1j5 <<thanks so much Kevin!
  11. Jason Stasyszen - Are responsibility & social media opposites? Is Social Media a big Free-for-All? http://ow.ly/2kyZF Share your thoughts!
  12. Jay Cookingham - RT @br8kthru: Are responsibility & social media opposites? Is Social Media a big Free-for-All? http://ow.ly/2kyZF Share your thoughts!
  13. Jason Stasyszen - Thankful for the readers of my blog- so insightful! Read "Is Social Media a Free-for-All?" & discuss w/ us: http://ow.ly/2kA9p

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