I was 12 when I first got my Facebook account. My parents believed it was a good way for me to stay connected to my family who all were starting to disperse across the nation. I already had an email account through a child-friendly service so my parents could access and read every email (even if it had previously been deleted). Facebook felt like my first account that had true freedom on the Internet. I could post whatever I wanted, and I could talk to any of my Facebook friends. My parents warned me not to accept anyone I didn’t know in real life and that even if the Internet seemed temporary and I could delete, posts live on forever. Soon, I was on my way.
Growing Up in a Digital World
This is the story of a lot of folks around my age and demographic. We were so young when we started using technology to share our lives with others, and now we can’t imagine not doing so. It now seems like a red flag if you don’t share your life in this way. It almost asks, what are you hiding?
Social media is a prevalent part of everyday life for most people. It’s almost like we exist in two different worlds. One is our physical world. Our other is the digital world. As followers of Jesus, we need to be aware that our online presence impacts our walk with Christ and our witness to Him in real life.
Our Words Impact Our Witness
Although we have the antidote to sin at our hands—Jesus Christ—we also know that there are real-life consequences to our actions and words (both good and evil).
Over the past two years, Christians whom I used to admire have posted things revealing their feelings and thoughts about people who don’t believe what they do. It hasn’t always sat right with me. It has made me scratch my head and go, “They do know people who don’t agree with them can see this, right?” I’ve watched faithful men and women use venomous words to describe “the other,” whether that be politically, socially, or religiously different. When I was not a believer in Christ, I would see posts like this from Christians and it would “prove” to me why I thought they were The Worst. It would “prove” to me that they were judgmental and clearly didn’t follow whom they said they did. As a Christian, I can view these things through a different lens—a lens that says we all fall short.
Our understanding of the Eighth Commandment (putting the best construction on everything) should guide us away from this behavior. But we often don’t let it. Colossians 4:5-6 states, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” This isn’t here to say don’t speak out on issues God has put on your heart. But this is here to remind you that the way you speak online can impact how people who believe differently than us think about Christ and His Bride. Whenever you speak, whether online or in person, your identity as a forgiven saint and sinner is on display.
Our Consumption Has Impact
Stewarding our online presence is an important piece of honoring God in the digital age. How we use the digital space and the way we interact with others online can be used in ways that are sinful and ways that are good. God guides our use of this technology just as He does other aspects of our daily lives.
Think about how you interact online. Are you spending too much time interacting with content that does not reflect what Truth is? In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Although there is nothing necessarily wrong with exploring interests of yours, I feel like it is important to question whether it is honorable content.
For anyone who knows me, they know that I enjoy listening to true crime podcasts. But recently, I felt like I was spending too much time listening to, as one podcast put it, stories about “the worst things that can happen to a person.” Although I do believe some of these stories are God-honoring and showcase incredible Christian principles, many I was listening to were not. Personally, I decided to replace these shows with other podcasts that were more honorable. Take a step back and ask yourself about the content you are reading or watching online. How does it impact your walk with the Lord? Is it true, reputable, honorable? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Our Life is More
In Redeeming Technology: A Christian Approach to Healthy Digital Habits, A. Trevor Sutton and Dr. Brian Smith, the authors, ponder how, “It used to be hard to get online; now the challenge is unplugging, getting offline.”
I find this very true. I’ve checked my phone at least one hundred times while writing this post. Most of the time I have to myself, I spend checking to see if I have any notifications or on a social media site scrolling through almost mindlessly. Taking time away from our phones, social media, and other digital content is important. Log off and be filled up in community with the people who physically surround us and unplug to admire God’s creation. Although our online spaces have become increasingly important, our physical world gives us chances to see past the curated lives people present online and meet them in whatever they face (and for others to meet you in whatever you face). Our physical world is one place where Jesus meets us where He says He will (in baptism and communion). While it’s not a big deal if we ignore our digital world, we cannot neglect our physical one.
Our lives as followers of Christ are more than mindless. And social media can be a place where we’re seemingly never enough, we’re too old to get the references, we’re never conservative or woke enough, and our lives seem to not compare to the picture-perfect videos and photos of people who seemingly have it all together. Our identities as baptized followers of Jesus tell us that we’re enough and that our lives have meaning. Jesus values each and every one of us for who we were created to be. He values us so much that He suffered and died on the cross. For us. We need to make sure to be wise in how much time we spend digitally. And especially, consider how you can honor God, both online and offline.
Creating healthy digital habits can protect your mind, body, and soul.