There are both pros and cons to social media. The most popular is likely Facebook, so, for simplicity, we’ll talk about it here. We have already mentioned some of the advantages of Facebook, so now let’s look at some of the things to watch out for. Many of these things also apply to texting and E-mail.
• Try toggl.com for an easy way to monitor just how much time you’re spending or wasting.
• Adjust the settings to send less E-mail notifications.
• Set your preferences to hide posts from people you don’t know very well. (Currently you can do this on your friend’s page by clicking the Friends button.)
• If you can’t keep from constantly checking Facebook, try limiting yourself to a specific time of the day and stick to it.
Defilement: Depending some on your friends, material posted on Facebook can be defiling, just like walking down the street can be defiling. If you’re seeing bad information from someone, you can unsubscribe from their news or unfriend them (you will simply disappear from their friends list). Ads are not always good either. Click on the X in the upper right of an inappropriate ad, choose to hide it, and select why. Before long, your ads should improve.
Misunderstandings: Communication in writing is so much more likely to be misunderstood than communication in person. Try to think about how your message could be taken before submitting it. On the receiving end, ask for clarification if you question whether the person meant what you think they said. When it comes to E-mail, you may even get a spam E-mail that isn’t actually from that person at all, so don’t jump to conclusions before clarification.
Relationships: Facebook can take some of the meaning out of conversations and relationships. God gave us our senses for a reason. It’s harder to connect with someone if you can’t make eye contact, hear their voice, or sense their feelings. You can’t give them a real hug over Wi-Fi. If you already know what is going on in someone’s life through Facebook, you may be less likely to call them and talk to them in person. Let Facebook be a springboard to more meaningful communication. Nothing says you can’t ask about a trip after seeing some photos on Facebook. Writing an E-mail, when done thoughtfully, is an advantage in some cases, allowing you to orderly and carefully express your thoughts to someone else. On the other hand, important apologies and serious topics are probably best done in person to ensure the message is communicated properly and to demonstrate your sincerity. The next best thing is a phone call rather than a text message. Yes, your iPhone still makes phone calls!
Male/Female Relationships: I will leave this subject to the more qualified, except to say that such relationships are not to be treated lightly. I have attended the funeral of a young man who took his own life after a terminated relationship. Be careful not to get into something you didn’t want to start in the first place. Don’t do online dating: it’s a recipe for disaster.
Popularity: There’s a danger of thinking that because my friend has 1000 friends and I only have 100 that I’m not liked – I am unpopular and rejected. The number of “friends” you have says nothing about your most important relationship (with God), nor of the reality of your relationships with others. Don’t add friends like you earn “points.” People are more than points, and everyone and their brother doesn’t need to know what’s going on in your life. Don’t be afraid to ignore a friend request if you don’t know the person very well. They may not even realize that they asked to be your friend, because friends may be requested automatically based on E-mail contacts.
Testimony: What you post on Facebook is potentially seen by all your friends and even their friends. One slip and you could seriously mar your testimony for God. It is also possible for other people to attempt to ruin your testimony through Facebook if you forget to log out. Just because it is on their news feed doesn’t mean they meant to post it, or even that they can see it themselves. Clicking on a bad link can create an inappropriate “like” (invisible to you) without you realizing it. If you see someone has posted something that doesn’t sound like them and could mar their testimony, ask them about it.
Security and Privacy: Verify that the button next to the Facebook “Post” button does not read “Public” for status posts that you want to be private. Public status posts may be found using public search engines and seen by anyone, even if they don’t have Facebook. Also, don’t think that just because you have tight Facebook privacy settings that strangers won’t be able to view your comments and likes. The privacy of your comments is based on the original poster’s privacy setting on that status, not your own privacy settings. Verify the privacy setting on the post before commenting if you want a comment to only be seen by that person’s friends, and send a private message instead if necessary. Please see http://www.gospelriver.com/tech/facebook-privacy/ for more information.
Information sharing: What you post online generally stays online somewhere, whether on friends’ walls or in database archives. Your future employer may even have access to it someday.
Focus: Does social media encourage a “me-focus”in you? Steer away from self-promotion and self-occupation. Safety first: We’ve all heard it – don’t text and drive! We don’t want to have to post about your death on Facebook.
Profitabilty: We are accountable for “every careless word” – and careless text (Matt 12:36, ESV).
Showing Courtesy & Respect
Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who was chatting with someone else on their phone? That’s what it’s like to try to converse with someone who has their head buried in their computer or mobile device. If it’s conversation or fellowship time, show consideration and value for the person in front of you and turn off the electronic gadgets. (As a balance, if you both have a laptop in front of you, it may be different.)
Also, texting during assembly meetings is disrespectful to the Lord.
This is a topic that the writer can improve on. If you’re away from technology for a while, do you crave it? Do you rejoice over your computer as one that findeth great spoil? Look up Psalm 119:162 to find out what our true delight should be. Perhaps a fast (refraining) from technology (where possible) so as to concentrate on prayer and our relationship with God and His people isn’t a bad idea once in a while. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1John 5:21).
In another aspect, don’t let your children become addicted to technology. Rather than simply sitting around playing video games all the time, children should have the opportunity to explore God’s creation and enjoy doing things physically, while interacting with others. Encourage creativity in finding things to do that are not all about screens and buttons. It’s even better if you can participate with them in some of those activities.
If you’re defensive about others seeing your screen or using your device, think about whether there is a reason behind that attitude. We have good reason to keep private things private, but let us be sure that those private things which God sees are pleasing in His sight. Spouses, it is worthwhile to consider sharing your login information with each other or sharing accounts.
Have you backed up your Bible notes and documents lately? Remember that when it comes to computers, the question is not IF you will lose your data, but WHEN. Use flash drives, external hard drives, or online services like SugarSync to make sure your notes are not lost. I’ve heard of so many people losing valuable information—don’t be one of them!
Viruses, Hackers, and Phishing
This is another common technical issue that you need to become aware of so you don’t become a headache to someone else or lose your data. Windows users need antivirus software if you access the Internet or use E-mail. If you don’t have a program installed, I suggest installing Microsoft Security Essentials (for free). (Note: Windows 8 users should automatically be protected.)
E-mail hacking is also a common problem sometimes evidenced by your contacts receiving messages that say they are sent by you when they are really not.
Finally, always verify that the address of the link you are clicking (e.g., in a PayPal E-mail) is the address it is supposed to be, or someone will have access to your financial records and you won’t have a clue. (Get more info at: gospelriver.com/tech/threats.)
Posting Audio Messages Online
If your assembly’s messages are recorded, mp3’s can be posted to services like Dropbox, Drive, or Box.com for the assembly to access rather than letting the whole world see them on a website. If placing messages on a website, you should choose messages that are appropriate for anyone to listen to rather than posting all of your assembly’s messages. Ask yourself, “Would this be appropriate if it was on Christian radio?” Also, it is common courtesy to ask the preacher if their message may be uploaded before placing it in a publicly accessible location. Another issue to think about is if you post messages from your assembly online, establish guidelines so that brother A is not hurt when his message is not posted and brother B’s was.
Movies can easily desensitize us to proper moral values. They can steal real communication time with family. They affect children more than you realize. For example, a young child played nicely with his toys until after watching the movie “Cars.” Again, a six-year-old was talking about her boyfriends and all the boys she had asked to marry her. We may think that’s funny, but it could have serious consequences in the future. Consider using pluggedinonline.com for detailed video reviews that indicate inappropriate material. Better yet, consider DVDs about creation or missionaries instead of fictional movies.
Remember that we are defiled by what we come into contact with, whether we agree with it or not.
Music issues have been covered elsewhere, but remember that peer-to-peer free music-sharing sites may contain illegal material. There are serious fines for downloading copyrighted material, and it’s simply not right.
According to World Health Organization (http://who.int/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en), regular and adequate levels of physical activity in adults reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and the risk of falls. It improves bone health and is fundamental to energy, balance, and weight control. If you have a desk job, consider taking short breaks to stand up throughout the day to rest your eyes and help prevent repetitive motion issues.
Physical activity in the young (5-17 years) helps with physical development, has psychological benefits, and improves social development (http://who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_young_people).
In all our technology, let us not forget the practical: fostering relationships, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality, visiting the afflicted, and remaining unstained from the world (Rom 12:12, 13; James 1:27). Let us pray with David, “Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust” (Psa 16:1).
This isn’t about rules and regulations. This is about a holy God Who requires holiness in His people and about a loving Father Who desires growth in His children. Take a moment to read Ephesians 5 again. Then put on the armor of Ephesians 6 and stand in this evil day. The way we shine here will affect how we shine up there. Oh, that our service and time here below might be found “acceptable” in His sight! (Psa 19:14; Rom 12:1; 15:31; Eph 5:10; Heb 12:28).
To make comments on technology and the Christian, or to find more in-depth or updated information, please visit http://gospelriver.com/tech.
The following resources have been highly recommended for related reading:
Biblically Handling Technology and Social Media by Biblical Discipleship Ministries (available from creationproclaims.com and christianbook.com).
Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart by Heather Arnel Paulsen. Available from amazon.com (including Kindle), creationproclaims.com, and christianbook.com (including e-book).