Social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube can be venues for healthy interactions, but it's no secret that they can also lead us down a rabbit-hole of un-Christian-like habits. As with any earthly resource available to us, social media use must be anchored on our spiritual faith and guided by God's word.
So as you open your Facebook app today, consider these gentle reminders to maintain a Christ-oriented life even on social media.
"Humble-bragging" is a colloquial term for using false humility as a way to show off on social media. Ironically, one of the most common words in humble-brag posts is blessed, as in: "So blessed to be on this holiday cruise" or "Just got this watch today. Thank God for blessings."
The difference between humble-bragging and genuinely thanking God is the intention. Before we post about our material acquisitions, it's worth asking: am I really posting this for the praise of God, or do I just want my friends to see what I have? Also note that we can humble ourselves and magnify God without telling people about our material blessings.
On the other hand, when we see other people's nice clothes, houses, and vacations, we may be vulnerable to feeling envious or covetous. Social media envy is a well-documented modern phenomenon. Some people even compare themselves so much against their friends that they end up feeling depressed or anxious about their own lives.
Galatians 6:4 has a timeless and practical advice to combat this: "Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else."
Social networks are so free and accessible that it's easy to succumb to our unkind tendencies here. You'll notice that some people have no reservations in posting rude words, and that there are often nasty arguments in comment sections (even among strangers).
Take care not to be influenced by the spiteful things you see on social media. Cultivate kindness instead. When you feel the need to post a complaint or bad review, state it in a level-headed way. When someone else's post invites criticism or correction, try to approach it so that it doesn't make them feel belittled. And, as the adage goes, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.
Even when we ourselves practice kindness on Facebook or Twitter, we cannot control what others say (or write) to us. Sometimes, we get some constructive criticism; other times, people just feel uninhibited in posting callous comments.
It's an important skill to learn the difference between the two. Some remarks are helpful in that they point out what we can improve on. As Proverbs 15:31-32 teaches us, "If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding."
But as for social media comments that are little more than name-calling, learn to respond with grace, or even to not respond at all.
One of the most notorious pitfalls of social media is that it enables our inner vanities and narcissism. What's more, this happens so insidiously that many fail to notice that they have fallen into the selfie trap.
How do we avoid this? Pastor Justin Deeter has some excellent tips here, such as to stop begging for compliments and to post about others instead of just yourself.
Social media is accessible worldwide, which means all sorts of individuals are using it. There are the faithful, the non-believers, the members of other faiths, the critics, and more. While this doesn't prohibit us from cultivating our own faith, we must also remember not to condemn those who do not share this faith with us. As Christian communicator Patrick Mabilog points out, "Keep in mind that there is always someone spiritually younger than you."
Watch the amount of time you spend browsing Facebook or watching Youtube videos. A few minutes or an hour a day is fine, but if you spend hours on end with your eyes glued to the screen, it may be social media addiction. This can take away much time from your real-life interactions and productivity. Further, it can immerse you more and more in a virtual world that is not rooted on your faith.
To combat this, award-winning author Michelle S. Lazurek recommends taking a "social media fast". Avoid your social media accounts for a while and use the time to clear away your inner clutter.
Excessive social media use not only takes up our time, it can also diminish the quality of our real relationships. It's not uncommon these days to see families in a restaurant, each member looking at their cellphones instead of talking to one another. There are also those who are so intent on making their relationships look picture-perfect on Facebook, that their time together is spent posing for the camera rather than engaging with each other.
Limit your attention to social media and focus instead on doing tangible things with your loved ones in the real world. On your next family dinner or a lunch with friends, try putting away your gadgets and stimulate an actual conversation with everyone in the table.
Pray before you click. This is the best Christian antidote to every temptation on social media. Tempted to post about the things you just bought? Pray for real humility. Starting to feel jealous of your friend's holiday pics? Pray for inner peace and contentment. Compelled to make a strong reply to someone's post? Pray for compassion.
As social media users ourselves, these Christian reminders truly resonated with us. Do you have something to add? We'd love to hear your comments or stories about being a Christian online.
Here's to better, more positive social media usage!
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