Social media has been one of the trickiest territories for me to navigate not only as an author and Bible teacher, but also as a friend, neighbor, and family member.
Do I retweet a positive comment about a book I wrote or does that look like self-promotion?
If I’m in a beautiful setting with friends having a remarkable dinner, do I share that with followers or will that leave people out?
Should I upload images while serving on a mission trip or does that look self-congratulatory?
Do I post thoughts about controversial issues or is that divisive to the body of Christ? Is it possible to share personal wins and joys without engaging in the humble-brag?
I hope I’m not the only person who feels this conflicted when it comes to social media.
One simple concept that’s helped me reframe the way I view my place within social media is this:
As a follower of Jesus Christ, social media has to be about a desire to serve people before it can be about anything else. Platform building, self-promotion, circling around our cliques must not be our ultimate aim.
Servanthood, of course, can take many forms and doesn’t mean we can only post Bible verses and Christian quotes—that would be terribly rote and uninspiring. Rather, servanthood is a posture that helps shape what we post and why. If our ultimate aim is to love God and love others, many of our internal dilemmas about what to post or not to post will solve themselves. With this in mind, here are some questions that have helped me navigate social media.
1. Does It Build Others Up?
Whether you’re mostly on social media to keep up with friends and family, you’re in some form of ministry, or you use it for business, you can always look for ways to encourage others. This will eliminate posts that are solely for our own self-advancement or that make us look better than others. When we look for ways we can encourage the lonely, leave an uplifting comment for a stranger, or get the word about someone else’s work, we’ll be using our social networks in ways that love people and honor Christ. Again, we don’t have to get legalistic here. We can, of course, post about special experiences and celebratory moments as a way of sharing a piece of our lives with others. This, too, can be used to build up others, as long as our hearts are in the right place.
2. What’s My Motive?
In Matthew 6, Jesus referenced three acts of righteousness the religious people of the day were regularly engaged in—giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. In each case the motivating factor behind these acts of “righteousness” was to receive the applause of others. The problem wasn’t that they weren’t doing the right things, but that they were doing them for the wrong reasons. In today’s jargon, they were putting their good deeds out there in hopes of more followers, likes, and approving blog comments for the sake of boosting their pride and platforms. Jesus pointed out that even though their activities looked good, the motives and intents of their hearts were purely self-focused.
When it comes to the updates or images I post, I try to regularly ask myself: What’s my intent? Even if what I’m posting is true or doctrinally sound, if my heart’s motive is about my pride or the applause of others, then I either need to not post it or wait until my heart is right. The Holy Spirit is always good to help me here.
3. When Should I Wait?
Since posting out of heightened emotions is never a good idea, I try to make it a rule not to post when I’m emotional about something. If I’m hurt, angry, or frustrated, it’s always a good idea to wait on hitting publish. Sometimes I come back a day or two later, and I feel free to post that picture or update that status. Other times it’s clear that posting wasn’t the right decision. I find it freeing to remember that the social media world has never suffered because it was missing a comment from me.
Our motives will never be perfect. We’ll never be perfect judges of our hearts. But when our overall posture is to make the name of Jesus great and to love His people, so much of what we publish on social media will naturally take care of itself. And we won’t have to spend so much time asking if we should post this or not post that. We’ll already know. And if we don’t, we’ll save a draft and wait.