(This is post #3 in our new Manhood and Technology Series. You can read the introduction post here: Manhood and Technology || Introducing a New Series and the Two Views of Smartphones article.)
By Adam Groza
I’m not a technophobe. This post is not about the evils of technology, nor am I using a typewriter by candlelight. Emails, text messaging, and the internet saturate my life as I’m sure they do yours. I’m not on a crusade against social media. In fact, not everyone should quit social media. There are probably many good reasons you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and/or Flickr. Churches, schools, and other organizations put these mediums to productive use. Furthermore, there are countless true stories about how social media can be a force for positive influence and social change.
This short essay explains why I kissed social media goodbye and serves to remind why it’s OK to choose not to participate in social media.
My reason for quitting Facebook primarily had to do with the danger of (a) talking too much and of (b) pride. The Bible exhorts Christians to refrain their lips (Prov. 10:19) God warns of the dangers of hasty speech (Prov. 29:20). I found that social media encouraged me to violate both of these principles. The basic strategy of successful social media is to post early and often. An online profile benefits from being the first to comment or being the person who persistently comments. It is possible to comment quickly and frequently and wisely. Yet for many, initial thoughts are unrefined, prone to inaccuracies and exaggerations, and tend to lack clarity.
James famously teaches us to be sanctified in speech. The tongue is a fire; a world of iniquity (James 3:6). His comments echo Solomon’s warning that death and life are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). A person is no fool who understands the potential for great harm in speech. James elsewhere says a person should be slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19). There is likely a positive correlation between quickness of speech and regret over things said, especially when it comes to comments in reaction to other people or events. Like the boy who cried wolf, wise people tune out reactionary, incendiary, bombastic, and sarcastic comments. What’s left is a crowd of fools, hungry for more and quick to praise those who deliver.
So there is a danger is speaking ahead of one’s ability to process and filter one’s thoughts. There is also a prevalent danger of pride in social media. Put bluntly, social media allows a person to electronically make themselves the center of attention and excuse this with what is known as the Golden Rationalization (i.e. “everybody does it”).
Of course, is doesn’t imply ought. My own sense is that the greatest danger of social media is that of self exaltation. It is the subtle temptation to use social media to brag. Scripture speaks against seeking out one’s own glory (Proverbs 25:27). Intention is a matter of the heart, but the heart is deceitful ( It could be virtue that motivates a person to comment about how many people were in church or to post a selfie. But then again, it could be vice. I hope Christians are introspective about their own motivations and mindful of the subtle dangers of self-exaltation given the convenience and the audience provided by certain social media sites.
Whether or not a person uses social media is certainly no indication of wisdom or spirituality. However, ministry leaders should not feel obligated to involve themselves in social media. It is enough to shepherd the flock in your care without feeling the need to maintain an online presence. It is enough to bring the Word to your people without bearing the added responsibility of providing social commentary on Duck Dynasty, for instance. Remember that deacons were given to the church so that others could devote themselves to scripture and to prayer (Acts 6:4). My hope is that we would never confuse social visibility with biblical spirituality.
For many, social media is a way to stay “relevant”. To quit social media would be tantamount to living off the grid –socially speaking. But for all the talk of postmodernism, online communities offer a global one-size-fits-all platform that strikes me as thoroughly modern. What intends to foster community can actually isolate community. Think of this next time you’re in a coffee shop and everyone is staring at their smart phone. A choice to forgo social media may simply be a choice to invest the time otherwise spent online in more direct, personal, and intimate social engagement. Really, our definition of relevant needs some attention.
As spiritual leaders in the home, fathers especially bear responsibility to think deeply about the costs and benefits of social media. My suggestion: Abandon any use of social media that distracts you from you’re responsibilities in the home. Jim Elliott once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Visual media (think screens) make it easy to be physically present and mentally and emotionally absent. In contrast to the distracted father staring at a screen, Lord willing more homes are blessed with men who follow Christ (who actively pursues his Bride) and the Heavenly Father, who delights in those who pursue Him.
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