Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Social Media for the Christian

I'm a lay person, a Christian woman, who happens to write. I've made my living from writing in the past and I'm thrilled to be able to use the talent God gave me for His glory now writing in a Christian context.

I'm older, 55 years of age, and I distinctly remember life before internet. For a writer wanting to publish, bumping up against the monoliths of the Madison Avenue publishing companies, and the chokehold of the magazines and literary journals, (and the publishing rejection letters) having a free platform in which to share one's thoughts and words with the world was a revelation. I took to it instantly and with glee, going online in 1996 and becoming an Amazon.com customer in 1997. Finally, an equalizing global conversation could be had.

I don't think young people have a well-developed sense of just what a privilege it is to have global access to speaking one's mind on any topic. I pointedly remember the frustration of rejection letter after rejection letter, of seeking the underground, mimeographed 'zines as they were called then, of a regular person not having a voice. Or seeing the ones with voices squander them or limit them or censor them. Conglomerates purported to speak for the masses, and more often they didn't, but their lobbyist money did speak to the corruption. Journalists were supposed to speak for the voiceless but more often they were kowtowing to Corporate. Benjamin Franklin felt the same frustration so he started his own papers and printed them on his own presses. The Second Amendment gave the promise of free speech, but never made any promises about how or where. No platforms were ever promised. That, one had to figure out for one's self.

Of course all those words back then were important in the civic or personal/creative realms, but were wind and chaff to God because they were not for His glory.

I converted to Christianity late in life at around age 43-45 (who knows the exact moment the Holy Spirit gripped me, God knows). Until then I'd been occupied with writing for my weekly newspaper and curating its online version. When I sold the paper in 2006 and moved down south I needed to fill the void left by not writing intensively, so I started my personal blog The Quiet Life in August of that year. It's hard to believe it's coming up on nearly 10 years since I founded it. What a joy to play with the Layout format, press 'publish' and one's thoughts and words could be seen by the world. Of course, back in 2004-2006 blogging exploded and there were a million blogs starting a day, it seemed. How to make one's own blog rise to the top amid the sea of cacophonous voices also clamoring to be heard was something left to one's creative problem solving. Now we had the platform, but how to make people listen...
Social media pinwheel. Source Wikipedia

As the Holy Spirit solidified my faith and grew me in sanctification, I founded this blog in January 2009, and once again it's hard to believe it's been nearly 7 years since then. Though I write intermittently on The Quiet Life I am committed to using the gift of writing and proclamation and exhortation for the Lord and I've been faithful to write daily on this blog since the beginning. Though I've been writing longer at The Quiet Life and there are 70 pages over there, there's double the amount here, 140 pages, containing about 3,500 essays. And fortunately, I don't have to stress over about whom to make listen. The Holy Spirit takes care of disseminating the message to whom He desires.

I joined Facebook in 2008, and joined Twitter then also. This year I added another Facebook page, The End Time. Online newspapers and journals enabled comment sections. People from the great to the small posted their email address, allowing direct conversation. Cell phones, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Flickr, Podcasts...Suddenly, there were platforms everywhere and it seemed like the cacophony grew but so did the possibilities for getting the Gospel out.

The question today is, just because social media exists, does that mean it is wise, profitable, or even safe to enter the fray?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

That is a question for each Christian to answer and there are different considerations if one is a parent, a missionary, or is living under a restrictive regime or just to personally consider in the face of doing our utmost for His highest (to paraphrase O. Chambers).

Here are some thoughts in my experience, in my opinion, and remember I'm just one lay-woman with a small sphere of influence. There have been pros and cons with being so present on social media. Just as with anything, there are considerations and there are joys.
  • I am a single woman so there are safety issues with being too open.
  • Yet I feel compelled to be truthful and transparent, openly proclaiming the message to as many as possible.
  • If The Lord allowed the internet to be invented then I resolve to use it to the best of my ability to honor Him and spread His message.
  • Yet there are also a great many temptations to sin with my mind and with my mouth (typing fingers) and present a poor witness.
  • I have stumbled before in being so present online.
  • Yet when I sadly do, it presents more opportunities to repent, grow, obey and rely on Him- and to be mindful next time.
  • Seeing before me in living color so vividly the woes and successes of fellow believers; and being accountable to an online community of believers widens my perspective and reminds me of how large His body really is.
  • It presents a tendency to want to focus on just the virtual believers to the exclusion of those in real life.
  • When someone is encouraged by something I've written, it offers a high uncomparable to any other.
  • When someone in the next pew is encouraged by something I've said, it offers a high uncomparable to any other.
  • People online can be mean, nasty, and hide behind cowardly anonymous comments. Combating their effects can steal your joy and re-direct your energy better used in other ways.
  • People in real life can be mean, nasty, and hide behind cowardly gossipy comments. Combating their effects can steal your joy and re-direct your energy better used in other ways.
So, you see, the pros and cons are similar to laboring in any other medium or any other sphere. No better, no worse, just different considerations to consider.

Unlike other people who have expressed distrust or disdain over social media use to share a holy Christian witness, I don't believe social media is the devil. It is merely a vehicle into which we can pour our energy and message depending on what the Lord has called us to do. Some pour their message into children through motherhood. Others who are not called to motherhood became missionaries and brought the message to orphans overseas. Some who were writers without the advantage of social media got the message out anyway using the vehicles of their own day- hymns.

"The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan, meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. ...Extending the argument for understanding the medium as the message itself, he proposed that the "content of any medium is always another medium – thus, the content of writing is speech, print is that of writing and print itself is the content of the telegraph.
McLuhan understood "medium" in a broad sense. He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept of "the medium is the message". A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that "a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence."(source)
So be mindful of the medium you choose to employ to spread God's message, from your own tongue in real life to the cold virtual reality of a laptop keyboard, to... whatever else. As a matter of fact I've always held that the internet is one of the world's great inventions. The Gospel message can be disseminated in podcast, tract, devotional, online bible, visually through art and animation, Youtube, the ancient writers' work is spoken alive online to new generations or can be read anew for those who can't afford the precious tomes but can afford the lower price of an online connection or even free at a library. Wow!

Through online blogs and sermons and devotionals I was strengthened by John MacArthur's preaching and discovered the Puritans and Reformers. I connected with solid doctrine at The Master's Seminary and learned of Paul Washer's fire. I learned that I, too, had a platform that may strengthen even one woman seemed too good an opportunity to pass up- as long as I kept my priorities straight. But that's like any ministry, it's life, isn't it? It is all a struggle and no matter the sphere or means the Lord provides, the devil will attempt to corrupt it.

So make your decisions about social media with your husband or pastor or family. Decide how "out there" you feel led to be, and which means to use. Elisabeth Eliot, Gladys Aylward, Eliza Spurgeon, Fanny Crosby, Katharina von Bora (Mrs Martin Luther) all used the means at their disposal and through obedience to the Lord to influence those in their spheres. How large or small or what that means the Lord will use through you within that sphere is a personal decision. But don't let scary stories or condescension about social media taint your view of how useful it can be to getting the message out there. Just be safe, be wise, and the Lord will take care of the rest.




5 comments :

  1. Thank you! I've been discouraged about Facebook and whether to even bother any more. So many people just don't seem to want to hear the truth but are blinded by their emotions and wanting to be guided by their experiences and feelings rather than the truth of God's Word. But my husband reminded me that I'm responsible to proclaim the truth, not to change people's hearts and minds. And who knows who is being quietly influenced?

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    1. You're welcome! It is pretty discouraging, I agree. It burdens my heart to see all the misguided comments, the anger, the doctrines of demons blaspheming Jesus. And yet what you said is so true: there are always lurkers, always someone the Spirit sends by the Page and is uplifted, a word going out and not coming back void. I think about the few Christians in the churches in Revelation the Lord praised, the few believers in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira etc worshiping among not only a totally pagan culture but battling sin among their own fellowship. Or how the Corinthians felt watching their fellow believers getting drunk at the Lord's table, ow!

      So I keep on keeping on. And I pray for the Lord to return!

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  2. Elizabeth, thank you - this is helpful! May the Lord strengthen you and twiga92 and me to serve Him well, glorying in our weaknesses.

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  3. Please don't get discouraged, Elizabeth. I think you would be SHOCKED at how many people read your posts and are affected, but for some reason, don't comment. I read almost every day and get so much out of your posts. I just don't feel comfortable commenting most of the time. I'm not on Twitter or Facebook either.

    Thank you so much for all your hard work! I can't wait to meet you in Heaven!

    Diana C.

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    1. Thank you Diana!! :) What an amazing time we will have in heaven, meeting each other.

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