Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pros and Cons of Social Media

By Jonah Simmons and Pastor David Holt

We (Jonah and David) have been talking lately about the positives and negatives of social media. Therefore, we decided to write a joint blog about this.  We would love your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment about this on Facebook.  If you are reading this on Pastor David’s blog, please go to Jonah or David’s Facebook post to make your comments.  Thanks.  Here we go:

Social media is an incredible new phenomenon.  So much can be sent out so quickly.  You can share anything you want about yourself or others for the world to see.  This can be good, and this can also be dangerous. Let’s begin with the potential positives, especially for a Christ-follower:

Potential positives of social media:
1.     It can be a vehicle to share Christ with others.  There are currently over 1.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook. There is no other outlet available for us to reach as many people at one time as what is available through social media. Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples (Mt. 28:18).
2.     Social media allows us to stay up to date with situations all over the world as they unfold, so that we can start praying immediately.
3.     When someone shares a concern or struggle, we can offer encouragement and support.  Gal. 6 says to “bear one another’s burdens” (v. 1).  We need to be careful not to give “pat answers”, but giving someone scripture or just informing them that we are praying for them, can be a source of encouragement.
4.     We can use social media to inform people about events, articles, etc. that will spiritually benefit them.  Ephesians 5 says to make the most of our time for the days are evil (v. 16). 
5.     The Bible says to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15).  When someone shares a joy (i.e. engagement, answer to prayer, etc.) we can rejoice with them.
6.     Through social media we can keep in contact with friends and relatives in other areas of the world in real time. It reminds us that we are not alone.

Now for the potential negatives.  Beware that social media can:
1.     Lead to an unfair comparison with others and possible depression. We forget that most people only post the most positive things in their life, and it can appear that their whole life is this positive.  We can easily compare our situation to theirs, and unfairly conclude that everyone has it better than we do.
2.     Cause one to covet what others have.  When our friends post positive things in their life (i.e. “in a relationship”, new car, new house, big buck they shot, happy family outing, etc.), we can easily become jealous or covet what they have.  If we are not walking in the Spirit and being grateful for what we have, our flesh can start comparing and forget that we are only seeing a very small portion of their life.
3.     Lure one into unfruitful arguments.  This is a biggie and we see it a lot with Christians who have strong opinions about certain things.  We have both been guilty of this.  2 Tim. 2:23 says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”  The NIV says “stupid arguments.”  Ouch.
4.     Tempt one to become involved in a relationship that could result in an emotional or physical affair.  We have all heard of this happening.  When one is not doing well in his/her marriage, and begins to reconnect with someone from the past, Satan is right there tempting us to go farther than we should.  Interacting on social media will always look more positive than “real life.”
5.     Cause one to be judgmental towards another. Often times in social media we see others posting about their circumstances or whatever situation they may be going through. It is very easy to look at this and pass judgment by thinking that we would have handled the situation differently, or even blaming the person for the situation they are in. Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
6.     Cause one to become numb to things that we should be compassionate about. It can be hard to keep a tender heart towards needs, when we are bombarded with so much information every day.  For example, in one day we can hear about a plane crashing and killing 162 people, a suicide bomber killing 50, and a fire destroying a home in our town.  At the same time we learn about these events on social media, we continue scrolling down and become more interested in a humorous viral video or advertisement for a sale. 
7.     Become a hindrance to existing relationships in simply the time it can occupy.  Recently I (David) walked into a restaurant and observed that at every table but one, at least one person was on their phone, probably looking at some form of social media.  Instead of talking to the person across the table, they were preoccupied with their phone. Americans spend more time on social media than any other online activity, including email, and 60% of that time is spent on our smartphones! Put the phone in your pocket. Look up and look at what is going on around you. It is fruitful to take the time and “unplug”.
8.     Cause an obsession with self.  It seems a bit narcissistic when people find it necessary to post what they eat at every meal, when they get their latest manicure, and all the details of their vacation.  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:13).
9.     Cause people to waste a tremendous amount of time. Reports estimate that 18–34 year-olds spend as much as 3.8 hours a day on social media, and 35-49 year olds are now spending as much as 3 hours a day. Imagine what it would look like if we took a fraction of that time and redirected our attention to our job, our kids, our spouse, or even our relationship with God.

So, like so many things in life, this tool of social media can go positive or negative, depending on whether or not we stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit and walk close with the Lord.  Always be mindful of how you interact with others on social media.  As Christ followers, we may be the only Jesus some people see.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

What are your thoughts?

(Statistics are from Business Insider, NY Times)