By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
How many blog posts were you reading in 1990? How many tweets did you post on Twitter? How many friends did you have on Facebook? How often did you upload a picture to Instagram or Snapchat in 1990? The answer to all of these questions is zero. The term “blog” was coined on December 17, 1997. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterist, and Snapchat had not yet been invented. Social media was a group of people gathering together to watch a movie or play a game.
Today, social media has taken the world by storm—and most young people subscribe to multiple social media accounts. They talk in terms of how many “likes” someone received or how many “retweets” a post got. Sadly, many parents have been slow to address this influential part of our young people’s lives.
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about social media.
Again, let me remind you that everything you do, including social media, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17).
Lesson Eight: Avoid bragging
In “real life” we don’t routinely unpack our awards and trophies for friends, neighbors, and coworkers to see. But with social media everything becomes a photo op, an opportunity to brag, and everything is used to promote your image. This bragging about what you’ve done, what you’ve eaten, trips you’ve taken gets old to those around you. Solomon wrote, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2). Jesus warned, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1). If every one of your posts centers around you then you probably have a problem with bragging. Make sure your posts are humble in spirit (James 4:10).
Lesson Nine: Watch out for envy and discontent
Have you noticed that everybody else’s life looks better than yours on social media? This is because individuals normally don’t share the mundane or bad parts of their lives. As a result it is easy for someone to think that they have a much better life. Remember, you are only seeing part of the story. This “virtual” reality is unhealthy. It often causes you to start putting unrealistic expectations on your own spouse, children, and friends. Learn to be content like Paul in whatever state you find yourself (Philippians 4:11-13). Remember, covetousness is defined in Colossians 3:5 as idolatry.
Lesson Ten: Don’t allow Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to stifle prayer
You need to set aside down time to simply: “Be still, and know that I am God:…” (Psalm 46:10). Social media eats up time—time that you could be spent strengthening your relationship with God. In James 4:8 we read,
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.…”
Lesson Eleven: Conduct yourself on social media like you would in person
Lots of people say things on social media they would never say in person, simply because they are on a screen they feel secure and hidden. It matters what your fingers type and one day you will be held accountable for every post and every text. There are Christians who post things they would never say out loud in public–but it is being read by hundreds if not thousands. You are a representation of the bride of Christ! You are supposed to be His servant. Please go back and read James 3, Matthew 5:13-16.
Lesson Twelve: Don’t allow Facebook to blind you to false beauty
Everyone looks good on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Of course what you don’t see are the 20-30 images it took them just to get that perfect one. This false beauty may make you think you are beautiful and may encourage you to believe beauty is found in the outward appearance. “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Lesson Thirteen: Be careful about what you allow into your mind
According to Jesus, the greatest command is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38). Remember every time you click you are opening up a window that will influence your mind.
Lesson Fourteen: Be careful little eyes what you see
I’ve talked to you before about the seriousness of pornography and sexting. Do not send/receive images that are not glorifying to God. Ever. Period. Do not give out personal information to those you do not know.
Lesson Fifteen: Use social media to reach the lost
We all know the “Great Commission” tells us to “go” (Matthew 28:19-20). With social media you have the ability to take the saving message of Jesus Christ to places on this planet you could never physically go to. Do not take that responsibility lightly. View your social media accounts as tools to reach the lost.
Lesson Sixteen: Be careful what you idolize
For many, there is a temptation to idolize social media. Remember God is a jealous God. He will not put up with idolatry. As God was handing down the Ten Commandments He warned the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Paul further admonished, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
I hope these sixteen lessons will come in handy as you navigate the waters of social media, and I pray you will use it in such a way that it strengthens your relationship with Him.