Social Media Discernment for Christians

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In this episode, we’re talking about navigating social media, especially as Christians. If we’re transformed people, how should that change how we use social media today?

We’re going to start by talking how our use of social media has transformed throughout our own lives (mostly Xan’s).

Xan’s Social Media Journey

I didn’t grow up with social media in the same way today’s younger generations have.  I made a Facebook in 6th grade. But, at the time it was basically uploading our Photobooth pictures after a middle school dance. Instagram didn’t come out until I was in high school, but when it did, the tides seemed to shift. Snapchat came next, and by the time I was in college, social media was the full-blown world it is now. Even since I’ve started using them, these apps and how we have used them have changed so much.

Throughout high school and college I used social media platforms like the average high school or college girl would. To post pictures of events with my friends, to snap an artsy pic of my food, and mostly, to keep up with all the distant not-really-friends-but-know-them-through-the-internet people I followed.

My senior year of college marked a shift in my social media habits, because I started to build a platform on Instagram more purposefully.  I was growing a business and was now viewing social media through a whole different lens: gaining followers, leveraging my platform to earn an income, showing up consistently with new content that people want to see…and with all that, I found myself needing way more honest heart checks online than ever before.

Being able to earn an income and provide for my growing family has been an incredible blessing that I truly thank the Lord for, but it hasn’t come without its downsides and many lessons learned. If I could go back and write a letter to myself about how to use social media, here are the 9 principles I would say:

1. Steward your platform well, while recognizing it’s the Lord’s first.

Use the platform you have, whether there are 20 people following along or 20K, to glorify the Lord. But hold it loosely. Social media is powerfully influential and is ultimately the Lord’s. Use your words on social media to point to the truth of the gospel. Use your posts to encourage others in the hope of eternity.

For example, a major reason that we are going through foster care training is because I (Xan) saw someone post about it on their account.

But at the end of the day, realize that if you experience any growth, it’s the Lord’s doing and not your own. Your heart is fickle and pride is waiting to creep in any chance it gets. Continually thank God for what He’s given you on social media, but realize your job is to simply steward it.

Whether you’re producing or consuming social media, ask yourself if you are glorifying God (1 Cor. 10:31).

2. Be authentic…but, actually...

This applies to everyone on social media, but especially for when you post on social media. Everyone loves to emphasize the importance of authenticity, but even those trying to be authentic can fall into the traps of social media “norms” that go against this authenticity. 

James 3:14 says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

If your marriage is struggling, don’t post pictures and captions that present the facade of a perfectly happy and healthy marriage. Authenticity online doesn’t mean you have to share your hardships (though it’s worth mentioning here, that you should absolutely be sharing those with your “real-life” friends), especially while you’re going through them. However, it does mean you shouldn’t knowingly present a picture that doesn’t represent your reality.

Be real. Be humble. Don’t contribute to the culture of presenting a life online that isn’t reflective of life off-screen. 

3. Be aware of the time you spend online.

We are typically awake for 16-18 hours a day. If you spend 2-3 hours a day on your phone, that is a large portion of life to live behind a screen.

Social media apps can feel like vortexes. What was intended to be a three-minute scroll can turn into 30 minutes in the blink of an eye.  Your time is a precious commodity in the Kingdom of God. While you have the hope of eternity, you must not squander the days that you have on this earth to tend the garden you’ve been entrusted with, especially not squandering them by staring at a mere screen of entertainment. If you’re not fighting it, it is so easy to slip into the doom scroll.

Put the screen time alerts on, delete the apps if the boundaries are too hard to maintain for yourself…ruthlessly fight the addiction to your apps. Souls depend on your alertness, and your time spent investing in them.

4. When you go to share something, ask yourself, “what is my motivation behind posting this?”

Even with something as simple as an Instagram story, asking yourself why you’re posting is a helpful heartcheck. Is it to educate someone on a product they’d love? Or is it to show off something nice that you have and are proud of? Is it to celebrate a moment with friends or is it to show off vanity?

We’re not saying that you have to make every post directly about sharing Jesus. You could be sharing something just because you like it! The key question is what is your heart motivation?

Pursue modesty every day in your social media habits. And I’m not talking about to-post-or-not-to-post the bikini picture. I’m talking about the modesty of the heart – one that pursues loving others and making others think more of God.

5. Pay attention to what you’re consuming. 

When you finish scrolling through social media, do you find yourself desiring more of Christ or more of something else? While obviously countercultural, you should actively be fighting media that leaves you desiring more or something other than Christ – whether it be a different home, a significant other, more success…if it’s not centered on the pursuit of Christ or leading others to that pursuit, cut it off.

After consuming something, ask yourself: “did this make me desire Christ more or less?”

This could look like being more intentional with what you consume (start pruning and unfollowing accounts) or just getting off of social media altogether. We are too comfortable being friendly with the world.

6. Fight gossip actively.

As Christians, we are called to be radically different in how we communicate with and about others. It’s so easy to slip into gossip, even on social media. Even if it’s internal, we are so prone to judgement.

It’s rampant on social media, and it doesn’t always look like a group of girls sitting in a circle talking trash about someone they all know. It usually looks more like being entertained by comment sections, or sharing something you learned about someone through social media with your real-life friends. It’s still gossip, it’s just become more socially acceptable even in the Christian world. But as a Christian, you must fight the temptation to indulge in this sinful gossip.

If we dehumanize people behind a screen, we start to dehumanize people in real life.

7. Remember that everyone on social media is made in God’s image.

As a natural follow-up to #6, when you remember that every person you scroll past on social media is made in God’s image, it will change your heart toward them. When you’re tempted to slander or think less of someone, remember that God had His character in mind when He made him or her. Pray that you would have eyes to see others this way.

8. Avoid the temptation to covet or envy.

When comparing your life to the highlight reels of others, it’s easier than ever to fall into the trap of comparison and envy. It doesn’t matter how much you have or don’t have.

Be able to celebrate the accomplishments and joys of others without feeling less-than or envious.

Ungratefulness for our own lives breeds discontentment in what we have and jealousy for what others have. Actively fight this discontentment and jealousy by continually looking for and thanking God for what you do have.

When a friend receives something, ask yourself if you feel genuine joy or deep envy?

9. Be willing to give it up–for a season, or indefinitely.

Lastly, hold your platforms loosely. If God calls you to give them up for a day, a year, or forever, don’t hold on so tightly that you talk yourself out of obedience to Him.

If you find yourself unable to give it up, evaluate why. What are you putting so much stake in that you can’t part from it? Entertainment? Monetizing? Feeling validated by engagement? It all vanishes in the wind…hold it so loosely.

One Degree Shift

At the very least, evaluate your habits. Delete it for at least a day. Set screen time limits to an hour/day.

Want to Stay a Little Longer?

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