Last week, Dr. Holloway asked me to join in a discussion about Christianity and social media. There are so many questions to consider on this topic!
- How can we, as Christians, most effectively make use of this new technology?
- Why should we devote time to this stuff?
- What are Christians supposed to say on Twitter… or Facebook… or Vine… or LinkedIn… or Google+… or YouTube… ?
- How can I authentically share Christ online without seeming phony?
- What if I’m not talking to the person I think I’m talking to?
This is just a very brief list of some of the things I considered talking about. And when we met, I realized I hadn’t even scratched the surface!
Drs. Holloway, Bashaw, Brown, and I met with a group of 7-10 students to discuss last Thursday.
As a communication studies scholar, I was planning to talk about the Internet’s power to reach an infinite number of people whom we would otherwise not have access to, and dispel some of the nasty rumors about talk online.
So that’s what I did.
I pointed out that online, you can find someone who shares your interest no matter how weird or random. You can even sometimes meet up with them to do your hobby together!
I also mentioned that even though we have a stereotype of people sitting in their parents’ basement, in the dark, with no hope of a future, chatting online, it’s hardly ever like that.
Yes, there are scary people online, and sometimes they will stalk and/or hurt you, but not usually.
A darker side-effect of our online communication was something that Dr. Bashaw brought up: Our tenancy to be the meanest, least compromising parts of ourselves online.
This is truly scary, and certainly not a Christian way of going about things, but we all fall into the trap now and again.
Mainly, it’s because you are anonymous online. In Communication Studies, we call this depersonalization – a fancy way to say that you don’t feel like the people you are talking to online are actually people with feelings, and you don’t think you will ever be confronted about saying something mean.
Obviously, in the time that Jesus was walking the Earth, they did not have to worry about tweets, or Facebook posts, or online comments. But I can’t help but think of the Pharisees here…
People who rarely got called out for their hypocrisy, and didn’t really care if they did? People who thought they were ALWAYS right, and didn’t worry about offending others?
…I’m sensing a parallel…
In Matthew 12, we learn of God’s teachings in regards to being careful about what you say.
How can you say good things when you are sinful? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man will speak good things because of the good in him. A bad man will speak bad things because of the sin in him. 36 I say to you, on the day men stand before God, they will have to give an answer for every word they have spoken that was not important. 37 For it is by your words that you will not be guilty and it is by your words that you will be guilty.”
Can’t we think of online words like this too? Just because you can’t see a person on the other side of your screen does not mean that they aren’t there, or that they aren’t comparing all of your comments to that one time you mentioned that you are a Christian!
Sometimes it is hard to remember if you come from a Christian family and attend a Christian school, but there are people out there just waiting to catch a “self-proclaimed Christian” in a moment of weakness, frustration, hypocrisy, sin, etc.
It only takes one time, and the Internet is forever – put something online today, and it can come back to haunt you in 10 days or 10 years!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Internet is an awesome power that can be used for good or evil.
Monitor your posts of all kinds, and just maybe one or one million people will learn about Jesus through what you put online.
You don’t want to be thought of like this guy!