The world gets smaller all the time. This was the case fifty years ago. This was made possible by the technological revolution and greater access than ever to transportation, and it seems like the world is continuing to get smaller and smaller with each passing year. One of the greatest factors of this technological revolution in recent years is certainly social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, ect… I have never really been a huge fan of these types of things, but that is just a matter of preference. I have appreciated these mediums over the years that have allowed me to keep in touch with friends from all over the world, and share encouragement and life with them. These tools can be very valuable in encouraging and engaging people in the world that we live in. Still, there are certain challenges that come as a result of these different types of social outlets. The greatest of these challenges is in how our use of social media can affect us. A University of Florida study recently postulated a strong link between increased social media consumption and a dramatic increase in narcissistic tendencies. There have also been several studies over the years proving that increased social media exposure also affected people negatively by contributing to anxiety, depression, and anger. I say none of this to prove that social media is negative. I have already given examples from my own life in which it has been beneficial. I only want to make the point that using social media can, and will, impact us and those we interact with both negatively and positively. The question is “how do we evaluate and use social media through the lens of a biblical worldview?” To answer this question, I would encourage you to evaluate your use of social media based on a few important questions. These are by no means exhaustive, but they are just a few questions I try to use in my own personal interactions with social networks. I hope they are helpful to you as well.
Is Myspace really all about me?
In a culture that is increasingly self-centered, social media has become more and more about sharing our lives with the world, but less and less about us sharing in other people’s lives. As believers, the greatest law which we are called to live by is love, first for God, and second for others (Mat 22:36-40). The “me” culture we live in seems very incompatible with the “others” culture that the Bible describes when speaking about love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 when Paul describes what it means to love he says…
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
If you notice these qualities are all externally focused. In other words, you can’t be rude or arrogant if you are alone; it is hard to argue about whose way you are going to do things if you are by yourself. Love is a social exercise. Now, as difficult as the genuine expression of love can be over the internet, is our intention in posting those selfies or family photos to express love toward others, or is our social network life all about us, how we are feeling, what we had for dinner, how beautiful our kids are, ect… and on and on we can go. The narcissist is incapable of loving others, because all the room in their heart is already taken up by their love of self. If we are self consumed, we have not only failed to use social media in a positive way, but we have failed to live according to the calling to which we have been called by Christ.
Do I use Social media as an alternative to genuine community?
A second question that we should ask ourselves has to do with community. As we become an increasingly busy culture, it is more and more difficult to find meaningful time with others. Thus, our social networks can be a stand in for what real community looks like. For instance, I have almost 600 friends on Facebook. Do I have 600 friends in reality? No… not at all. Social networks for many of us give us a false sense of community. Of those hundreds of friends there are only a few that I actually experience any meaningful relationship with. This is why increasing use of social networking can lead to increased depression and isolation. Biblically, we are called to be intentional about community. In Hebrews we read…
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Heb 10:24–25.
In other words, we are called to community and to share life so that we can create a place where we can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). Elsewhere in scriptures we are called to fellowship, and break bread with each other. These are things that you can’t do through social media. Don’t forsake the true gift of community for some cheap imitation. Be intentional about creating relationships, and actually doing life with people. The Christian life was meant to be lived by men and women in constant community. This often means being proactive in a culture in which people tend to value personal space and independence. We must build a network of real relationships with meaningful interactions. Are we building a social network, in which we share our current mood with a vast litany of online profiles, or are we building a spiritual network in which we share our struggles, passions, joys, and trials with others who will help us through?
Is my correspondence or intent in my online interactions God honoring?
All of us know the regret that can happen as a result of a thoughtless comment or e-mail, or maybe something written in anger. These kinds of regrettable interactions are common using a medium as socially disconnected as the internet. Things can often be much more easily typed than said face to face. This offers another challenge for users of social media. We have to constantly evaluate the things that we say to others. As believers, the purpose of saying or typing anything must always be for… “building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). This means that if our intent is anything other than encouraging and building up others with the truth, it is better left unsaid. Perhaps I am only speaking to myself hear, but that means more often than not keeping your comments to yourself. I always like to recall the advice of Proverbs…
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. -Proverbs 21:23
In other words, use your words sparingly. We are called to encourage, uplift, and speak truth with love into the lives of those we interact with, whether they have “friended” us or not. What people say is often a direct expression of their heart. What does your heart tell other people through your Facebook posts, or your Tweets, or whatever? If it says something that doesn't line up with that external focus of love that I mentioned earlier from 1 Corinthians, you need to drastically reevaluate your heart.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. -Luke 6:45.
Again, as I said before, social networking can be a tremendous opportunity to encourage, build up, and share in other people’s lives. It can also have negative impacts on our lives and on the lives of those around us. It, like anything else in our life, needs to be used and evaluated by the worldview and intentions we have. The world is getting smaller and smaller all the time. We live in an exciting time in which we can reach out in the name of Christ, to the lives of people the world over. How do we use these things? What is our greatest reason for using them? These questions are important to answer as social networks become a greater and greater part of our lives.
 University of North Florida. "New social media study investigates relationships among Facebook use, narcissism and empathy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703102510.htm>
 Kelly, Heather. Using Facebook can make you sad. CNN http://www.cnn.com/