“Adding a ‘dislike’ button or equivalent will just pour gasoline on the fire of pointless Facebook drama or possibly lead to . . . a proliferation of potential responses,” wrote Tony Bradley of Forbes magazine last week. Bradley was responding to a recent announcement by Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the popular social network will soon be adding a “dislike” button for its users.
Matt Swider of TechRadar also weighed in: “Facebook is playing right into the hands of this snarkiest generation in history, motivating twenty and thirty-year-old millennials to downvote posts without ever reading beyond the headline.”
Whether a “dislike” button will create more controversy on Facebook or more empathy on the social network (which is Zuckerburg’s hope), we shall see. What I do know is that social media has been on my mind a lot lately, especially since I deactivated my Facebook account for a six-week, self-imposed “fast.” In doing so, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself—my dislikes and my likes, my struggles and joys, and, most of all, how I fare in managing (or mismanaging) my personal time. Honestly, I’ve discovered more of what I “dislike” than what I “like,” but perhaps that’s just evidence of the Old Adam at work within me. The Lord only knows.
Here are a few of my musings about social media. Bear with me as I begin with some “dislikes.”
DISLIKE: Social media as “VentBook” or “GripeBook”
All too often, social media seems to be an all-too-easy way for us to vent our frustrations or gripe about our miseries. Especially when we feel isolated and alone, typing a quick status update to get a quick reaction out of people the whole world over can provide immediate gratification. At least for a brief moment, it feels good, even when we complain about what’s happening in our lives. Yet, I’m convinced that turning social media into “VentBook” or “GripeBook” will never satisfy the brokenness we feel. Only the Lord and His grace can satisfy our brokenness. Jesus Christ never leaves us alone, and His response to our worries and concerns is always greater than what our social network can provide.
“[Cast] all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
DISLIKE: Social media as a platform for ceaseless competition
I’m certainly not opposed to celebrating the successes and accomplishments of others. That’s one of the best parts about friendship! “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” Scripture says (Romans 12:15). Yet, when it comes to the immediate and instantaneous nature of social media, there seems to be a fine line between celebration and self-promotion. One person’s celebration of success may be another person’s reminder of failure. One person’s gloat may end up being another person’s heartbreak. A healthy, playful level of competition is great, at least most of the time. But a spirit of constant rivalry can often lead to spirit of jealousy and covetousness within us, and that will do us more harm than good.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).
DISLIKE: Social media as the easy (but usually not best) option
Sending a text, an email, or an instant message are awesome ways to quickly communicate with people all around the world. But many times society would be better served if we’d not take the easy path. Instead, I wonder what it would look and feel like if we decided to place a phone call, send a handwritten note or pay a personal visit to a friend instead of simply settling with an electronic shout-out. Social media is certainly a great supplement to interpersonal relationships, but it should never be the replacement of interpersonal relationships. True, lasting relationships take time and effort and are seldom, if ever, easy.
“A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).
Okay. Enough of the “dislikes.”
Here are a few things I do in fact “like” about social media, especially in how it assists our interpersonal relationships and our carrying out of Jesus’ Great Commission.
LIKE: Social media as a way to encourage one another
Having lived in and made friends in four different states during my life to this point, social media has proven to be a great way for me to keep in touch with many friends that I would likely have lost touch with over the years. Being able to share a photo of my kids with my spread-out family and to read comments from friends spanning from the deserts of Arizona to the plains of Nebraska makes me feel better connected with those I love. In both good times and bad times, when I use social media as a “tool” to better support and encourage those I love, I see many reasons to click the “like” button!
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
LIKE: Social media as a way to lighten and liven things up
A while back, someone told me the reason for using Facebook less often and Twitter more often: “All Facebook has become is a bunch of silly cat videos.” Well, aren’t there days where we would all do well to laugh at a good feline trick? I think so. While there’s certainly “a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), I’m a believer that we each need times to decompress and laugh more often. A wise person once told me, “We need to take God more seriously and ourselves less seriously.” Social media can help lighten and liven things up a bit when we share and respond to posts that highlight some of the joys we experience in God’s good creation.
“[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
LIKE: Social media as a way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ
If God has created something, it’s for our benefit. He is the Author and the Creator of all things, and through the agency of creative people He has creatively made, we live in a world with social media. While social media, along with all of God’s other good gifts, can be twisted and misused by the evil one for the purposes of drawing hearts away from the God of grace, I rejoice when I see Christian individuals, churches, and ministries using social media for global outreach. Let’s face it: people in our world today are using social media. They’re constantly “connected,” even as we all are finding that social media will never provide the full connection with God and others that our souls need. My hope is that we will continue to seek ways to utilize modern media for the sake of the Gospel. I’m amazed by how quickly a status update from our church’s Facebook site can reach hundreds or even thousands of people with just a few taps on a keyboard or a smartphone screen. The Lord is glorified when we use means such as these to make Him known!
I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that Jesus Himself would “like” what social media can do to help you and me share His message of life and salvation with those for whom He died and rose again.
Wouldn’t you agree?
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22b–23).
Rev. Jeff Alexander is Pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.