Biblical Ethics for Social Networking
Just a few short years ago My Space, Facebook, and Twitter have revolutionized how we reconnect and communicate with friends. Ethically, Christians must think of social networking no differently than other forms of speech. The Biblical instructions concerning one’s words broadcast from the mouth apply also to words broadcast over social media. Try reading James 3:1-12 and replace each instance of the word “tongue” with “post”. Really. Do it. See what I mean?
Here are six simple rules for posting:
- Venting your petty frustrations only frustrates others. Complaining about poor service, a homework assignment or your neighbor’s dog isn’t helpful. You may feel better, but your friends won’t. Besides, since when is venting – in any format – OK? (Read that James 3 piece again.)
- Say what builds up, edifies (Ephesians 4:29). This one should go without saying, but be encouraging! I’m often energized and exhorted by what my Christian friends and heroes post. In fact I expect my “friends” to remind me of the Gospel and God’s calling on my life. Am I doing the same for those who follow me?
- Post the “such is life” moments.Post the funny, the strange, the random and the interesting events. A child’s birthday, an exciting development, and unexpected visit, your favorite team. Sharing life is what makes social media just that – social. Even the apostles shared their very lives. (I Thessalonians 2:8)
- Seize the platform, but don’t make social networking your pulpit.Post Bible verses, quotes from sermons and books, and even your own insights and convictions. Share the Gospel and Gospel-centered thoughts. Resist the urge, though, to make social networking your personal sermon to the world. Casual conversation doesn’t afford you such privilege, and neither does social networking.
- Save your privacy and avoid TMI.As I heard once, “You can get your skeletons out of the closet without hanging them in the yard.” Not everything should be posted. If you wouldn’t share it in a room full of people at a casual event, then don’t post it.
- Keep personal conversations personal. Some back-and-forth is fine, and even a little light-hearted banter can be fun. Remember, though, no one wants to hear a personal conversation in public space – whether in an elevator or on a social networking page. Use direct messaging for private exchanges. Better yet, use that mobile device and talk to someone privately.
A common thread runs through these rules. Social networking is a semi-public space. Posting is the equivalent of saying something very loudly in a large room full of people with whom you have varying degrees of relationship. Don’t post what you wouldn’t say in that room. Rather, “give grace to those who hear”. Ephesians 4:29