Five social media guidelines for Christian teens
Practical advice for anyone who wants to honour God online and offline.
Social media has become a massive part of most of our lives, and transformed the way we interact with one another.
Although social media has many positive aspects, it also has just as many negative aspects which we should be aware of and do our best to avoid.
1 Corinthians reminds us that we are called to live for God in ALL areas of our lives:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. —1 Corinthians 10:31-33
To my mind, there are 5 key areas I think all Christians, myself included, should strive toward in applying this principle to their social media use.
1. Don't use it as your main way of socialising
One of the many advantages of the internet is the ability to communicate over huge distances and maintain friendships that would otherwise have suffered.
But what about interacting with those who live close by? We are created as relational beings, and there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. We should be showing our love for our brothers and sisters with our time and by being with them.
2. Be yourself
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram present us with the opportunity to show ourselves as we are: our interests, the things we did on the weekend etc. However it’s so easy to create a version of yourself that suits the wider public appeal, to fit in. This can be especially true of teens.
As James K. A. Smith says in an excerpt from his book Imagining The Kingdom: How Worship Works, teens are constantly aware of the things the “popular” kids are doing via Facebook. And in the never-ending competition for coolness, we will follow certain behaviours to fit in with that crowd.
As Christians saved by the grace of God we are called to glorify Him with all that we ARE, not with whatever it is cool to be.
3. Think before you post
If we are to glorify God through our use of social media, we need to be actively thinking of how we are portraying our faith through our actions.
I tell my youth group kids to ask themselves two simple questions: Is it loving? And does it further or hinder the gospel?
These can be applied to all of life quite easily, but in this case we as Christians really need to THINK before we post a status update, photo or comment.
Are your Tweets using loving Godly language?
Are your Facebook posts and photos constantly centred on you (bragging, selfies etc.)?
Are your photos modest in their depiction of your body?
This doesn’t mean that every post needs to be a bible verse or a deep and meaningful reflection. Rather, each post should reflect God’s love for us, His image bearers. Remember that we are to be ourselves and if you’re someone whose trust is in Jesus then whatever you post should reflect the hope you have in Him (1 Peter 3:15).
4. Think before you like/follow
Much the same as what we post, the things we like or the people/pages we follow on social networking sites reveal our attitudes and convictions to those around us.
Again, ask yourself: Is it Loving? And does it further or hinder the gospel?
Liking photos of girls or guys half naked on Instagram does not reflect God’s attitude to beauty. He is concerned with inner beauty (1 Peter 3).
Unloving jokes or bullying comments also don’t reflect what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We must be constantly THINKING of the effects our social media use has on the spread of the Gospel.
5. Be positive
Social Media should never a place to grumble or complain.
The Apostle Paul says that we should “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14), and Jesus himself exhorts us to show God’s love in our sinful world so that people might know we are his disciples (John 13:34-36).
Keep it positive and loving, people will notice your outlook and see the effects of God’s grace in your life.
If you need to vent because of a hard day, talk to a close friend about it in person. As Proverbs says: “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Even better, talk to God! He’s a better listener than any human (Philippians 4:6-7).