Unselfing Social Media

10 Principles to Guide Our Use of Social Networking       
by Paul Chappell

Selfie—it was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2013. And it says a lot about the influence of social media on American society. But perhaps it says more about the narcissism of American society in general. Because in the end, our social media doesn’t make us who we are; it reveals who we are.

In an earlier post, I highlighted potential blessings and pitfalls of social networking. I’d like to follow that up with ten general biblical principles regarding a spiritual leader’s use of social networking.

1. Express Humility

Fighting pride is a constant battle in the life of every Christian. And there’s no place it can magnify itself like it can on social networking (i.e. #humblebrag).

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.—James 4:10

2. Deflect Praise to God

Many approach social media as if their personal worth is determined by how many friends and followers they accumulate. Using social networking for the glory of God means that you point people to Christ, not to yourself.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31

3. Engage in People Ministry

Social networking will never replace face-to-face relationships. You can’t parent your children through Facebook, and you can’t develop your marriage on Twitter. Never allow social networking to so overrun your time, energy, and emotions that you lose sight of the people God has placed right next to you.

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.—Ephesians 4:16

4. Give Priority to Local Church Ministry

The value of the local church is seen in the fact that Christ purchased it “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). No social networking or social media ministry can replace direct involvement in the lives of your church family and reaching the lost.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:25

God still uses the local church as His choice weapon to attack the onslaught of evil and win spiritual warfare.

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—Matthew 16:1b

5. Be Real

One of the greatest deceptions of social networking is its perceived detachment from other aspects of life. Too many people are building virtual lives and perceived spheres of influence that have nothing to do with who they really are. Who you are on your social network should reflect who you are in person.

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

6. Avoid Every Appearance of Evil

Be as discreet in your online relationships and activities as you are in your personal relationships and speech—perhaps even more so.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.—1 Thessalonians 5:22

7. Defer to God-given Authorities

God has placed authority figures in each of our lives for protection and direction. In relation to social media, defer to these authorities in your life. If you are a young person still at home, honor your parents’ direction regarding whether or not you should have social media and the limits they set regarding its use. Any Christian should consider the principle of accountability when it comes to what he posts. Ask yourself, “Would I be embarrassed if my pastor or another spiritual leader in my life read my posts?”

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)—Ephesians 6:1–2

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.—Hebrews 13:17

8. Be Actively Involved in Your Children’s Activities

As a parent, God has entrusted you with the weighty responsibility of nurturing and protecting your children. If you allow them to participate in social media of any form, you absolutely must remain involved and engaged. Know what they are doing. Set boundaries. Use filters. And teach them the biblical principles behind your decisions and input.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—Ephesians 6:4

9. Stay Accountable to Family

No husband or wife should have an online account or social connection that is not shared with the spouse. Guard your heart by staying open, transparent, and accountable to one another.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.—Ephesians 6:12

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.—James 5:16

10. Practice Moderation

Social networking brings with it real addictive tendencies—for everyone, not just young people. As with any potentially good thing, social media must be kept in its place. This is the biblical principle of moderation—a guard against excess or extremes. Set limits. Keep God first. And maintain a healthy balance in your life.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.—Philippians 4:5

May we endeavor to walk in the Spirit and apply biblical principles as we use technology to glorify the Lord!

Note: These principles, as well as the list of blessings and pitfalls of social networking in an earlier post, are expanded in the booklet I wrote titled The Blessings and Pitfalls of Social Networking.