Christians and the Use of Social Networking Tools
This article specifically addresses the use by believers of internet-based social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and ‘blogs’. Millions of people are using social networking sites today, among them many Christians who are frequent users of these facilities. Some see such networks as our future mission field, and others regard them as positive arrangements for furthering fellowship between the Lord’s people. In contrast, others view them as an enormous waste of time, or as having a sinister edge, promoting unnecessary gossip and unhelpful discussion among believers.
Consider the following observations about social networking sites:
Some will argue, quite rightly, that many of the negative features identified above are not the fault of, or exclusive to, electronic social media networks. Indeed, a number of these criticisms could be levelled equally against other forms of social interaction and, doubtless, several of the problems suggested could also be associated with longer established media. However, the ease of access to social networking sites, the speed with which large groups of people can be contacted through them, and the amount of time that some believers spend on them, present a challenge that is wider and deeper than anything associated with earlier forms of electronic communication.
There is also a danger of hypocrisy, and a Pharisaical attitude. For example, those who condemn the possession of a television, while actively participating in internet use, are guilty of inconsistency. However, there has been a step change with the advent of the internet and social networking sites. The audience is potentially worldwide, any damage done is often irreversible, and the ability to control or contain a local problem has been lost. For many who are sceptical about the value of such networking, the concern is the scale and extent to which damage can be done. There are numerous examples where comments on social media have had a national or global impact. Personal information, added in innocence, can be manipulated and misused. It can be used selectively, edited unscrupulously, and taken out of context by ungodly people with a malicious purpose.
Another has said:
It is also important to understand that a present innocent comment or blog may have serious repercussions in the future. Social networking sites involve publishing to the entire internet. This may not only include family members and close friends. The ramifications of any statements, both now and in the future, should be considered. It should be assumed that everything written is permanent, and viewable by everyone.
Do we really want personal, family and assembly matters to be potentially viewable by everyone in years to come?
It is the strongly held view of the author that, notwithstanding the good intentions and right motives of many users, social networking sites should not be used by believers. We are called to “love not the world” (1 Jn 2.15) and to “be … separate” (2 Cor 6.17). Social networking sites are fundamentally worldly, and draw us into unnecessary contact with worldly things and people. Many readers may protest vehemently against this view. Two things are sure, however: the technology has arrived, and a very large number of believers use it. Therefore, any believer who chooses to use sites such as Facebook should consider their actions carefully. Too often it is a step taken in haste, without full consideration of the relevant issues and, on occasions, it has led to untold damage in the lives of God’s people.
Common sense recognises that use of the internet is unavoidable by today’s younger generation. However, use of social networking sites is avoidable. Whatever form of electronic communication we choose to use, there is a need for wisdom, discretion and dignity. Great caution is required. The Scriptures which govern our speech apply equally to what we write. Consider the following verses:
There is a danger of naivety among believers in relation to the potential problems that can arise from internet usage. The use of social networking sites, justified on the grounds of being used as an evangelistic tool, is something to be extremely wary of. It is questionable whether sites such as Facebook have any positive value for the believer. Are the potential problems fully appreciated? In light of the concerns above, a serious question that needs to be addressed is to what degree, if any, a Christian should participate in social networking through electronic media. There can be little doubt that the spiritual life of many would be enhanced by their abandoning of social networking sites.