As a default, I tend to call attention to the problems that social media, and our relationship with it, has introduced into our lives. Social media has a grip on our hearts and minds in countless, ever-evolving ways, and it is important for us to keep up with that. So much of it is harming us in ways we don’t see.
All of that being true, I think it is also important to also recognize the goodness of God and all that we do enjoy because of the social Internet. It really isn’t all bad! And we do well to be reminded of this.
With all of that, here are three reasons I think we can praise God for social media:
1) We can see the work of God around the world
Isn’t it amazing that social media has afforded us the opportunity to see the ways God is working around the world? In the days before the Internet, to learn of God’s work in Spain or South Korea or South Africa would have required a personal connection with someone in those parts of the world – perhaps our church sent a missionary abroad or a friend from college chose to serve the Lord in a different part of the world and we joined their mailing list.
Today, we can see the amazing work of God around the world by browsing the Internet, joining email lists of missions organizations, or simply engaging with brothers and sisters in Christ on our preferred social media platforms. Sure, an ever-present opportunity to be aware of the work of God in the world can tempt us to be overly-concerned with matters that are out of our control, but what a grace of God to be able to see his hand move across the world in such miraculous ways simply by scrolling on the screens in our hands!
God is always at work in every corner of the globe. He is eternally interested in revealing the fullness of his glory so that ever-increasing numbers of people can come into contact with his goodness and trust him as their God rather than themselves. The Internet, and social media in particular, have given us the ability to peek into how God is doing this all around the world in a way no one in history has had before. So cool.
2) We can connect with like-minded followers of Christ
As I mentioned above, one of the ways we can learn of the ways God is working around the world is simply by connecting with brothers and sisters in Christ on social media.
Of course, one of the saddest effects of the social Internet on Christians is that it enables our desire to meddle, gossip, and wield our virtual tongues in ways that do not honor the Lord. I am guilty of using social media to hurt others with my words, as are most of us, I’m sure. This is a real sin of which we ought to repent, too – hurtful online speech is no less real than in-person hurtful speech.
But what an amazing grace of God it is when we use social media to connect with other believers not to debate theology or call into question their faith, but build one another up through encouragement, prayer, and fellowship!
I am grateful to God for how social media has acted as a way to keep in touch with brothers and sisters across the world or from past periods of my life when we lived close to one another. And, at the same time, I am grateful for all the relationships the Lord has given me that have almost exclusively taken place through various social internet avenues. There are dozens of brothers and sisters in Christ I have interacted with on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere that I will not meet until we dine together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. How amazing is that?! Praise God for such an opportunity.
3) We can study the beliefs and culture of all kinds of people.
I don’t know about you, but I love learning. I read all kinds of books. I like reading books about U.S. presidents. I like reading books about business moguls like John D. Rockefeller (which I’m reading right now). I like reading books about social media. I like reading books about God’s work in our lives.
On top of reading books about all kinds of subjects, I love accidentally falling down what are often called “Wikipedia Rabbit Holes” – maybe you’ve experienced this! You find yourself on one Wikipedia page, then another, then another, and before you know it you’ve wasted an hour! But that time is so often not wasted! Just the other day I was researching some famous criminal who came up in conversation, which then led me to a Wikipedia page about one of the highest security prisons in the world. It was so fascinating! I learned a lot.
How cool is it that we can use the Internet to learn? Even more specifically, we can use social media to learn! Social media doesn’t just have to be all about political arguments and funny cat videos. Simply by spending time on social media and interacting with people who are unlike you, you can learn about how different people live, believe, and see the world. Maybe you’ll never make it to India and experience the richness of Indian culture, but if you happen to connect with an Indian person on social media, you could engage in conversation with them about what they believe, what a typical day looks like for them, and learn how their life is different from yours.
Social media has afforded us the opportunity to have a much more diverse, well-rounded perspective on the world. Of course, when we engage with people who hold different worldviews or systems of belief, we don’t have to adopt their perspectives, but the more we can learn about other people and perspectives the more we can question our own and grow! If we are intentional, we can really learn a lot by scrolling on social media. It doesn’t have to be all about consumption and entertainment.
Remember to praise God
I really try hard to keep up with the ways social media is evolving so that I can write helpful articles that caution us against blindly adopting every new and latest social media trend. We need to be more careful about how we use social media.
But cynicism and unhealthy negativity can so easily creep in when I constantly study the harmful effects of social media. It is important to remember to praise God for the goodness He shows us in these small provisions.
Any peek we can get into the workings of God in the world is amazing. Praise God for the tools he gives us to see him work and make much of his name.
This is reprinted with permission from Chris Martin’s Terms of Service newsletter which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective. You can sign up to it for free. He has just published his first book, “Terms of Service: the Real Cost of Social Media,” which is available at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.