Facebook recently reached 900 million users. In case you were wondering, that is one-seventh of the entire population of earth. That’s a lot of people! Not only is social networking becoming more and more popular, but some recent research also suggests it is highly addictive. According to researchers at the University of Chicago, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol.
I don’t think Christians should abandon social networking. I think it has more benefits than drawbacks, but as Christians we should carefully consider how and why we use social networking. Here are a few tips for you to consider.
Look at your last 10 posts and ask yourself, “How am I presenting myself to the world?”
Some people only know you by what you post online. What kind of online image are you presenting of yourself? Is it an accurate portrait of who you really are? Do your last 10 posts say more about your lifestyle, politics, sports team, etc. rather than your faith?
Be an encourager!
Every time I get on a social network there is someone complaining about something. Social networks don’t need another complainer. Be different! Encourage someone to make a difference. Act in a way that people would want to be your friend and attend your church. No one likes a person who complains all the time, but a person who encourages others is a great friend to have.
Before you post something ask yourself, “Why am I posting this?”
Are you posting something just to get back at someone else? Are you boasting or showing off? Post things that are meaningful. Post things that will make a difference. Do not post something just to get back at another person. Do not post something whenever you are angry or frustrated. There are much better ways to deal with your emotions than posting it on a social networking site for everyone to see.
Have a conversation, not an argument.
It’s ok to disagree, but make sure your conversation does not turn into an argument. It’s easy for arguments to break out online, mainly because it’s hard to detect tone in a written comment. Arguments are also common because people are more bold. They will type something on a computer that they would never say to a person’s face. Avoid argumentation at all costs. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.”
Consider who your friends are.
Are the friends you have online harming you in any way? If they are, then get rid of them. Chances are these are not your close friends. I have been on Facebook since 2006 and in that time I have gotten rid of three friends. I got rid of one friend because they had an argumentative spirit. No matter what the conversation was they would turn it into an argument they had to win. This person was a distraction. I got rid of another person, because they continually posted risque pictures of themselves. Neither of these friends were close to me, and I’m not sure either one of them noticed what I did. This will be different for every person. I have kept friends who use foul language, post objectionable material, and are argumentative. I keep these friends in the hopes that I can have a positive influence on them. If their posts ever become a problem for me, then I will take action.
Ask yourself, “Is social networking a good use of my time?”
Are you spending less time with your spouse or children because you are online? If the answer is yes, then you need to reconsider your priorities. You may not want to quit social networking all together, but it may be beneficial to set up limits and boundaries for yourself. Social networking is not a necessity. If it is interfering with your personal life, then you need to give it up.
Use it for good!
Invite people to church. Share something positive. Be helpful. Pray for others. Be supportive. Let people know they are not alone. Be a mentor. Before you log on make up your mind to do something good.
Follow people who make you a better person.
Find people you can learn from and follow them. You can do this on Facebook, but Twitter is great for this. Through social networks I’ve found people who have helped me in my ministry, and I’ve made new friends. I follow people who produce good material and share helpful resources, and I try to do the same.
Have a purpose.
Write down your main purposes for using social networking and put it next to your computer. Here are mine: Be a light to others; Discover things that are helpful to me; Share what I find to be beneficial; Keep in touch with friends and family. Don’t get on a social network just to waste time or play games. Have a purpose every time you log on.
Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Be kind. Be respectful. Always follow the golden rule.
Scott Elliot is a minister in La Grange, TX. He occasionally writes movie reviews for Relevant Magazine and enjoys exploring faith and culture on his blog, Resurrected Living.
CC Image • Matt Hamm on Flickr