The icon has become representative of our generation, familiar to our culture. It is embedded in our search history, front and center on our phone menus. It is our little blue friend, connecting us to a world beyond our homes and work-places, inviting us to engage.
As though it were not difficult enough to practice Christian conduct in our homes behind closed doors, we are now offered through social media, an entirely new array of public moments in which we are asked to “walk worthy”.
Did you know that at 2013’s year end, Facebook boasted a staggering 1.9 billion world-wide account holders? Among those, there are 728 million daily users. And of those 728 million, the average count of friends, is 300. These numbers belie the fact that Facebook wields tremendous influence over our days, and in our lives. As Christian women, we are given complete liberty to engage with social media, but how do we walk in Gospel consistency while logged in?
Several months ago, I was convicted of my tendency to engage with Facebook exactly as it wants us to: with a non-committal flippancy. I had spontaneously “liked” something that was poking fun at a particular style of Facebook behavior. And the moment I clicked my approval, I felt a heaviness inside- a conviction that my quick thumbs-up was simply unkind. I withdrew my “like” immediately, but came away desirous of a sense of accountability for my online behavior.
Facebook’s newsfeed presents several main categories of response, and these are the areas I felt convicted to consider. I share these thoughts only in the hope that you might identify, not with any sense of authority. The specifics of an online presence are individual and yours alone to tailor, as God’s Spirit convicts. But given that so many of us struggle in knowing how to be online, while still acting Christ-like, I am sharing some of the categories I found helpful to consider.
Time Management – The less I am on Facebook, the less likely I am to engage in negative behavior there. Simply put, the options for flippancy are diminished by being “in” my offline life and “off” my online life. I think of others more positively, I engage with others more readily, I love others more purely when Facebook time is in check.
First-person communication – The more I directly pursue communication with real people in real time, the more I grow to appreciate the person behind the screen. Tuning in to a friend in real-time allows me to understand her true circumstances, her true struggles. Everyone has a life story continually unfolding, but because Facebook does not tell more than 1% of it, we can become too trusting of the tiny cross-section we hear, not realizing that there is plenty we do not see. Picking up the phone and speaking directly, allows me access to the other 99%.
Exercising Sensitivity – Through Facebook, I am now able to display where I go and with whom, which also means that I am able to display who I am NOT with at any given time. And while it is fun to record daily goings-on, there can be victims of your fun, or mine – those who were not present, not invited, not asked or able to join in. By taking a moment to ask myself: Would this photo hurt anyone’s feelings? I am able to better scan my mind for faces of those who might feel diminished if I post.
Monitoring Likes – Philippians 4:8 provides excellent guidance for what our hearts and minds are to like. Whatever is pure and noble and excellent. Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable and giving of a good report. Through Facebook, I am able to share and like and give a thumbs-up to all sorts of things. My approval needs to match God’s standards, and His blueprint is intended to help us in all circumstances, Facebook included.
If in Doubt, Don’t – Once “post” is blithely clicked, your inner thoughts are now public. It is rare to regret holding in a thought, but more commonplace to regret not holding one in. If you are on the fence with sharing information, stay there. Climb back over to the side of no-regrets.
One of the benefits of being in Christ, is that His Word is pre-eminent for all of life. Though the need to surrender Facebook and social media to His influence is a relatively new concept, His words are eternal and relevant for every era and every circumstance. He is with us in this new age of life logged- in, complex thought it is at times.