Social Media Etiquette

Topic: Social Media

Context: As I approach the age of 21, I thought to write some more topical and detailed articles. Without dealing with specific situations, tend to reflect wisdom gained from personal experience but more importantly from a more through understanding of applying the Gospel.

One of the biggest areas that Christians brothers and sisters need to examine, as part of conducting helpful and godly relationships with the church is interaction online.

While this isn’t comprehensive, the Scriptures do provide some pointers to productive reflect and grow in Christ’s likeness not just when conducting ourselves.

These list of questions and , should provoke us to think deeply and appropriate, or what we “breathe in” and “breathe out”. Rather than a list of rules, the Gospel should shape our attitude, actions and “affections” on this.

[1] General context of social media

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong; that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. Romans 1:11-13

In this passage Paul longer to see the Romans so to strengthen them with a spiritual gift so that there can be edification in the church. He longed to come to the church but was unable to do (until some point). But the reason he gives, shows that his perspective is set on God’s work.

One of the main purposes and reasoning behind social media is not too disconnected from the ancient communication form of letters. Often the people we communicate to over social media, can be people that we wouldn’t be able to keep in contact with simply as it is not possible.

3 questions:

But more generally, Paul’s letter to the Romans should make us three questions:

  1. Is this message, post, tweet or comment consistent with the grand picture of God’s glory?
  2. Is this message, post, tweet or comment actually for the mutual edification of the other people who will see it?
  3. Is my reaction (likes, wow’s etc.) for the mutual edification of the person who posted it, and the other people who will see it?

Often these questions may be difficult to apply. But there are some key principles, that derive from the Scriptures where we are called to be honest, truthful, loving and kind.

Consider these verses from 2 John and 3 John. It is evident the writer could have written more, but felt that discussing and visiting face to face would “complete their joy”. In a sense, there is a benefit to aiming for face-to-face relationships over simply a digital one.

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2 John v12

I have many things to write you, but I would prefer not to do so with pen and ink. Instead, I hope to see you soon and speak face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send you greetings. Greet each of our friends there by name. 3 John v14-15

Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I may go. For I do not want to see you now only in passing; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits 1 Corinthians 16:6-7

Social media can be blessed, especially as it can be a way to encourage, share in each other’s blessing. But it is only “in passing”. In some sense, it only provides a small window into people’s lives, which could be true or completely inaccurate. We can easily project ourselves online to be something that is not consistent with how we are living outside.

Deeper Reflection

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10-11

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

Read through the above questions and ask yourself the following:
  1. In my usage of social media, am I seeking approval from my friends, or seeking to make a name or reputation for myself? Is the craving for approval or affection an idol?
  2. Do I need to assess my involvement that is my digital footprint online? For instance, am I spending more time online involved in people than I would ordinarily do in person?
  3. Does my actions online reflect the relationship with this person outside of Facebook or other social media?
  4. How can avoid showing favoritism while still having the freedom to like, comment and follow who I so wish to online; or am I deliberately avoiding the “difficult”?
  5. How can I be using the things I share about my life, to faithfully witness to non-Christians and to edify Christians?
  6. In my interactions, especially with members of the opposite sex, am I ensuring that there are appropriate and loving boundaries set; that encourage edification and encourage the building of healthy relationships within the church?
  7. Can non-Christians see that I follow Jesus (if I am a Christian)

Life Lessons:

These are some of the practices I try to apply, although I definitely fail at a lot of these:

  • Generally, I find especially when messaging those of the opposite sex, that I need to think before I send, not just in what to say, but also whether I need to say it online in that manner. I generally try to not to message those of the opposite sex, frequently or excessively. I find it really helpful to turn chat for all such people, so that I am less concerned about when they are online.
  • Generally and apparently it is more effective, to spend less time online, and to post less and less. If people are genuinely interested in your life, then they will set aside the time, whether it be at church, or outside (where appropriate of course), to get to know and relate to you.
  • I avoid disclosing too much personal information online & emotional experiences, in either posts or messages, especially to those of the opposite sex.
  • Also when interacting with members of the opposite sex, I find still the most helpful environments are things like Facebook Groups.
  • I generally don’t tend to respond to anything that isn’t related to me. So for instance, if a friend of friend of mine, whom I do not know, posts something to my friend or something similar then I am definitely not required to respond, since I have no relationship with the person of the post; and in some cases it might be unhelpful.
  • Avoid “stalking”. While for most people, it is a public space, many people for good reasons, decide that there content is private. Respect their privacy. But also it may not be beneficial to continually scroll through the profile pictures of a new friend for instance

And of course these aren’t perfect but they give an indication…

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