3 reasons Christians should be extra careful online

41861251_sI’ve argued that Christians should be engaged with social media, but they aren’t always heard and are sometimes annoying. Sometimes they also seem a little clueless, at least in terms of the dangers. Here are three:

Protect your privacy

I will argue later for our being more transparent, but there are cautions. And first you should know that nothing you post is as private as you think it should be. In an article entitled “The Illusion of Online Privacy,”  US News and World Reports says by the end of August of this year there were 505 data breaches in the U.S. involving 139 million records.

All kinds of information about you is being collected, stored and analyzed. It is being repackaged and resold; the advertising we see (or our family sees when they are on our computers) reflects the pattern of our interactions online.  There is no getting around it: we trade our privacy for the convenience of being connected to college friends or grandchildren. Or watching kittens. Or worse. It can be a problem. Just ask the 400 pastors who resigned after the Ashley Madison data was released.

But that is not the privacy I’m most concerned with. I’m more concerned with Christians who share information openly that shouldn’t be shared at all—details of their problems at work, or worse, their marriages. I’m  concerned when they ask other for advice about things for which their churches provide counsel through pastors, older women or other mentors. Social media is no place to reflect on our worst selves or relational crisies.

Why would you ask your “friends” on Facebook, some of whom don’t really you know you or the Lord, what to do about your spouse? Or share embarrassing things about your kids that will cause others to judge them when they have no context. If you are doing this, stop it. Stop confessing your sins online. And stop sharing your friends and family’s sins too. This is not being transparent. It is being careless about the reputation of people you love and the church you attend.

Which leads to another concern:

Plan on permanence

What you share online doesn’t go away.  It is being kept somewhere, so before you post something, imagine what it will sound like in 20 years. Then imagine it will probably sound worse.  It reminds me of Christ’s warning that we will give an account for every idle word. Now we don’t even have to wait for eternity; we may have to account for it next week.

No one should be more careful about what they say online than a Christian. No one’s words will be scrutinized more closely than one who claims the name of Christ. If you are a Christian, I don’t say this to suggest you say nothing at all. Your voice is needed. But everything the Scripture says about how our speech should be seasoned with grace, and how we should avoid coarse jesting, and how truth and love are important, is more important online, because it is not private and it is permanent.

Reread the things you say before you say them. Ask the Spirit of God to give you discernment and wisdom, because when you get it wrong, it reflects on your church and your God. Be careful. Please. Be careful. It’s permanent.

And one more thing:

Ponder your priorities

What do your posts, taken as a whole, say about your priorities? That you are materialistic? Covetous? Gluttonous? I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever post a picture of your new car or amazing meal or cute kid. But I am saying if you post about the same things all the time, it says something about your heart. And perhaps your idols.

Our social media has so much potential to offer life-giving words, it would be a shame if no one noticed them.  If people hide your posts because you are always talking about the same thing, or always talking about yourself, you have lost the opportunity to be a blessing.  Life is rich and varied and God’s blessings are real and important. By all means celebrate them.  But don’t worship them.

Jesus said what comes out of your mouth reveals your heart.  Your priorities are pretty clear on social media.

Check them.


Coming up in this Monday morning series: why social media is addictive, how to manage interpersonal relationships online, does social media make us narcissistic, how can we use social media to care for others, what are social media’s limitations, the surprising potential of social media.  Subscribe (upper right) to get them all.

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