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What Would Godly Social Media Look Like?

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

Love: I love connecting with friends around the world, and knowing what’s going on in their lives—rejoicing when that friend flies through the finish line on a goal, exclaiming over their cute pets or babies, knowing how to pray as they wait for a diagnosis.

Hate: Sometimes it feels about as fun as trying on bathing suits one size too small, in one of those dressing rooms with mirrors on three sides. I feel not enough.

I’m wary of social media’s culture of:

  • contrived plasticity (we take perfect vacations and perfect selfies with our perfect children!),
  • subconscious trolling for online affirmation, and
  • the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves, Pinterest perfection and carefully angled, filtered, and selected profile pictures.

Part of me enjoyed that in Uganda, it was perfectly acceptable I had light fixtures that belonged in a retirement home, or that I poured lemonade from an ugly, cracked plastic pitcher.

I used to teach the story of the Tower of Babel from the Old Testament, and every time a phrase got me: Let’s make a name for ourselves. Sometimes, the question for me in social media boils down to just that. Am I making a name for myself? Or is God’s name being made great through my social media?

I’m not suggesting all of our social media be hyper-spiritual. I just think it’s pointing to one direction or the other. As I heard recently, “Are we dumping medicine or poison into the system?”

Social media is a tool. We can use it to feed our idols of popularity and perfection, or fashion an identity with what we have (including a platform), what we do, or what others think. Or, we can use it to breathe life and truth; to further God’s Kingdom in the world.

Here are some thoughts on what godly social media might look like:


1. “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).

This changes everything. It means I’m not using social media to plug the sucking holes in my heart.

Because “love rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6), I need to ask myself questions like, “Is that status update—the one artfully alighting on my strengths—really telling the truth? Or am I airbrushing my life, and creating a climate of unnatural expectations?”

Love as my motivator means I step away from competition in my heart, and see social media as a platform to relate authentically and care for others. I’m not slipping in some humble brags or personal agendas to make myself look good.

Even in our efforts to bring God into our posts and conversations, Colossians 4:5-6 cautions us: “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.”

Everyone’s got different questions about faith, different biases from past experiences, different phrases that jar them or encourage them. Loving well in social media means deep sensitivity to this.

In a post on not adding to the offense of the gospel, R.C. Sproul writes:

Many of us who are so excited about our faith in Christ want to share it with everyone we love, and our intentions are good. . . But. . . so often we come across to these people as saying, in attitude if not in words, “I’m good and you’re not.” People are turned off by that, and rightly so. . .

Many more times people get angry not because they’re offended by Christ but because they’re offended by our insensitivity toward them as people.[1]


2. If social media is to love, it’s gotta stay in its proper place.

Worship is all about putting things in their proper place. Romans 1 says they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. We too can be serving these created things by letting them take over so much of our lives—our time, our attention.

In a Desiring God article on how our smartphones are changing us, the author asserts that our smartphones can take the place of embodiment—of simply being fully present with the real, live folks around us. (Jesus did this when He “moved into the neighborhood” [John 1:14, MSG].) Mealtimes, especially, can be vulnerable.

Yes, there are times where social media jumpstarts more connection, with real presence: “Hey, I saw your post about your dad’s diagnosis. . . I’m so sorry. How are you handling all that?” Or maybe it prompts me to call a friend when I’m getting clues they’re far from all right.

But in general, social media casts the illusion of maintaining connection and relationships, in the forms of 140 characters or so, of likes and loves and emoji reacts. While relationship banks on genuine presence with people in front of you, which is more important, more valuable than virtual presence.


3. Don’t let it sap your depth.

Social media can saturate us with the inane, from “Here’s me eating goulash” to “My cat has been sick for three weeks” to “Check out this video of a guy dancing with his gerbil!”

Of course life’s full of the mundane and commonplace. I’m not saying our lives need to be so uber-intentional that we can’t laugh at silly things, or that we can’t follow a page that only posts cat jokes. But the superficial and the meaningless can chomp up our lives and time. Our minds are being trained into the equivalent of Brain Cheetos—mostly air, with a little sticky cheese powder thrown in for (fake) flavour.

Are there exceptions? Absolutely. My son used YouTube to change out the fuel injectors on his car, and I’ve certainly used it to fix my rebellious dishwasher more than once. Maybe you came across a documentary that changed how you looked at a political issue, or have learned to stock your IG feed with people who you follow as they follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

We’re cautioned in Ephesians to make the best use of the time, for the days are evil (5:16). Consider whether your social media’s driving you further into enjoyment of God—or further away—and what amount of time helps you be faithful.

4. Keep an eye on your heart.

Social media doesn’t just distract us or grant us escape; it also amplifies who we are inside. Think of YouTube’s autoplay feature—how a company, who aims to keep you watching so they can make more money, teases your interests forward a little more here, a little more there.

Social media easily snowballs—heightens—the hatreds or preferences that previously just niggled at us. You’ve likely heard that these companies that want to keep you scrolling will, for the same reason, start to remove what they think might offend you.

As a result, we’re often living in echo chambers of those who believe similarly to us—and we lose our ability to hear, empathise with, and understand other perspectives.

Over and over, I need to be reminded of how much I’ve been forgiven and accepted, before I did anything to be tolerable; that Jesus loved me to the nth degree when I was His enemy (Romans 5:8).

First Corinthians 12 tells me there’s no part of Christ’s Body to which I can say, “I don’t need you!” (v. 21). I need people who are different than me—who show me different parts of God’s face.

5. Be careful about the numbers game.

For all you professionals out there, as a writer, I understand on a very real level how social media is work. I’ve sought to reconcile the “platform” portion of my craft (since writers too are expected to build a following) with the fact that I want my life to be about worship (towards God).

For a Christian, social media is not about self-promotion. Platform—no matter what size—is an opportunity to use more of what God’s given, to make His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I remember author and business coach Michael Hyatt once wrote that if Ezra built a platform to speak to God’s people and, out of false modesty, built it too short so people couldn’t hear him, it would be a shame.

Even as I set targets, I need to be careful to not let the numbers measure my worth. One time, as I mulled over my WordPress report, I loved my husband’s take on pageviews:

It’s not about numbers. These are people, and I know you know that. Think of it as hours of worship generated. If each of these people worshiped God for just a half an hour, thinking on Him and loving Him—the pageviews take on a whole new significance.

I remember my social-media-maven friend wrote me then to say, “Don’t you dare let that number define you!”

And if I don’t have anything to write well about, I don’t want to throw some fluff out there just to keep the numbers hopping. Social media is my instrument—not the other way around.


This article was originally published on the author’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.


[1] R.C. Sproul. “Do Not Add to the Offense of the Gospel.”

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