Because we understand our worth as image-bearers and our identity as children of God, we will not look to the Internet to prove that we are important, valuable, and loved. And because we accept the presence of indwelling sin, we will not be blind to the potential idolatries and temptations we can succumb to online. And because we know ourselves to be fallen creatures, we will accept the limits of our human condition. We cannot have meaningful relationships with thousands of people. We cannot really know what is going on in the world. We cannot be truly here and there at the same time. The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present. We cannot be any of these things. We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance – and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.
[With all its benefits] social networking can also be abused. When it consists of nothing more than random babblings and personal monologues, it can become self-centered, unrestrained and narcissistic. When it consumes our lives, it can be addictive and controlling. Used unwisely, it is filled with potential pitfalls and temptations. For those who follow Christ, we are called to submit every area of our lives to His lordship – including how we use social media.
Social networking…has the potential to foster shallow relationships and detract from real ones. Instead of enhancing deep friendships, it tends to flatten out and impersonalize the dynamics of human interaction… [It] gives the illusion of knowing everyone, and yet the reality is that oftentimes no one is truly known. It creates an environment where selfish, one-sided relationships seem to flourish, and where communication is largely unidirectional, made up of sound bites instead of deep interaction. Moreover, it often distracts people from existing relationships. Instead of pouring themselves into the real-life friendships they currently have, people now spend hours with pseudo-friends online.
As believers, the command of Ephesians 5:15-16 is just as binding upon our modern lives as it was in the non-technological world of the first century. "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Paul’s exhortation has massive implications for how we interact with social media. One day we will stand before Christ to give an account for how we used His resources (including our time and energy). With that in mind, how much of this life can be justifiably devoted to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like? Just a few hours each day, over the course of a lifetime, adds up to years of wasted opportunity.
If there is one word that perhaps best describes social media it is this: self-promotion… When so much about social media panders to pride and shameless self-exaltation, believers need to think about their motives before they jump on the bandwagon. If the goal is simply popularity or personal promotion, it’s time to do a heart check. Our celebrity-driven culture craves for notoriety. But Christians are called to be different. We have died to ourselves. Thus, our concern should not be, "How many people can I get to follow me?" but rather, "How can I bear witness to the wonder of following Christ?"
Studies have shown that overuse or wrong motives in social media participation can breed narcissism. When we rely on social media sites primarily to promote ourselves or draw attention to ourselves, it is time to take a step back.
On the other hand, there are definitely positive aspects of social networking. For the Christian, social media sites can be an enormously productive mission field. Reconnecting with old friends and increasing our sphere of influence can lead to evangelistic opportunities unavailable elsewhere. Social media allows us to reenter the daily lives of people we may have lost contact with and open up new avenues for sharing Christ. As such, we can influence the views of others by what we post, bringing encouragement and spiritual guidance to others and using friends lists or Facebook status updates to pray regularly for friends and their needs.