Why be involved with social networking?
Only you can answer that question. But you do need to answer it. God holds us accountable for all of our decisions and actions. If you’re going to invest precious time and energy into networking with others (live or on-line), then you need a clear answer to the Why? question.
For some, it is a legitimate social outlet – the modern-day equivalent of the backyard fence. Keeping up socially has never been easier, and the ability to upload pictures and videos and make real-time comments is truly gratifying. Social networks are great for stitching together extended families that may be scattered across many states and countries (I was just talking this morning with a couple who got on Skype with parents half-way around the world – literally – on the day of their little daughter’s first steps). And as long it is not interfering with other responsibilities, and isn’t being used in an excessive or addictive fashion, or regularly leading into patterns of sin – there’s a lot to like about social networking.
For others, it can be a form of ministry outreach. Establishing relationships, communicating the gospel, building bridges with a variety of people – social networks are very useful to both individuals and church communities for touching others.
For others (myself included), digital networks are also a legitimate and highly useful business platform. Creating person-to-person networks can lead to tremendous influence and open up whole new realms of opportunity, collaboration, and business growth. People in these categories may be power users of on-line platforms, whose time and effort spent in social networks would be wholly inappropriate for others.
For Christians, it may be one or more of the above, simultaneously. It’s important to remember that the purposes we may have for social network involvement are really little different from purposes we’ve always had for whatever we do.
One danger for Christian believers is to take a good purpose (say, sharing Christ’s love and truth in the gospel) and abusing the social platform such that the exact opposite of the desired effect is achieved. For instance, it is easy to hide behind an anonymous identity on-line and shout out the truth with a condemning voice. But would that behavior be welcome if you were in a costume at a shopping center parking lot, screaming into peoples’ ears through a megaphone? Yes, social networks are an incredible means of mass communication – but you can easily communicate that you are an incredible mass of stupid, to a whole lot of people!
Another purpose that has to be carefully watched is the accumulation of on-line influence. Such influence can be a very good thing – if you provide valuable information, helpful encouragement, wise perspectives, and enjoyable banter, you will gain followers (and thus, some level of influence) on-line. There are some very influential and servant-hearted folks active on social networks. But some people are ego-handcuffed to their social media numbers, and, like a couple of notorious apostles, want for themselves positions of honor. None of us will ever be pure from mixed motives, but if you’re far more concerned with what your social audience thinks than what your Savior and Lord thinks…you need to repent more than you need to retweet.
Why be involved? Only you can answer that. Just like with everything else, make sure you have reasons that you can bring before God without shame.
(You may have noticed that there is a picture of a marmot in this post. It has no purpose whatsoever.)