The dangers of social media are becoming more observable in our society. People are divided. Civil discourse dwindles in the online sphere. Tempers rage as people engage on these various platforms. Many social media users remain oblivious to the reality that the person on the other side of a screen exists as a real human being made in God’s image. Yet, the social media machine continues to churn out malcontents.
Those who created the technology might tell you that social media itself does not seem to be the problem, but rather the way these platforms are often controlled by the companies who utilize and sustain them. Recently, I learned that the algorithms employed on social media are used to capture data (your social media habits) and use this information to impact people who engage online just like you. Think about that for a moment. Your social media presence is being collected by the system to impact and influence others–often times in a negative way.
As I have thought about this issue, two biblical truths keep coming to mind as to why many of us should delete our social media accounts. Many books and articles are being written discussing how dangerous social media is on human beings. People are being hurt and hurting others by the same technology that promised to bring all of us closer together. Below are two biblical thoughts that keep racing through my mind as I think about social media’s impact on human beings.
Love Your Neighbor
Many social media users are addicted to their accounts. From the knowledge I have gained reading about this technology, the algorithm keeps you scrolling. In fact, the algorithm uses all the information of those who are like you to–you guessed it–keep you swiping up and down your social media news feeds.
This leads me to thought number one. Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40 exhort his followers to love God and out of the overflow of our love for God we are to love our neighbor. How are we to specifically to love our neighbor? Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We love our neighbor as ourselves in accordance with how God commands us to, which we see in the moral law of God throughout Scripture–think Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.
My question is, “If we understand that social media collects our habits to possibly impact our neighbors in a negative way, shouldn’t we love our neighbors well and delete our accounts?” I will leave that question for you to answer. My goal is to not tell you what you ought to do, but give you an opportunity to think about how the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22:37-40 addresses how you might think about your social media usage. To put it another way, the way social media works might harm our neighbors, and if that is the case, we should think more deeply about using this technology.
Preventing Your Neighbor from Stumbling
Some of you might be thinking that you aren’t addicted to social media. You are immune to the algorithm’s antics–we can save that argument for a later post. Perhaps you are strong enough to overcome the temptation of social media’s system, but if it is true that they are using your online presences as a means to impact others, would that not change your position? Maybe you are immune, but others in our world are not. The algorithm is using your scrolling habits to impact others, which should cause a moment of pause and concern.
This leads me to thought number two. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he talks about refraining from eating meat that has been offered to idols for the sake of his brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to note that Paul is talking to the church, but I think this principle could be applied more broadly by combining it with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew. We can infer from the letter that some new believers are struggling because they see mature believers eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. Paul would be in the mature group, but out of his maturity, he asserts, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). What the Apostle Paul just expressed was the principle that if something I do causes another believer to stumble (specifically their conscience), I will refrain from doing it.
My question is, “If my use of this technology can be used to negatively impact someone else, shouldn’t I refrain by deleting my accounts for their benefit?” Again, I will leave that answer up to you. As previously mentioned, my purpose is not to tell you what you ought to do, but rather to ask you to think about what social media is doing to you and possibly others.
To be clear, these are two biblical thoughts I am wrestling with as it pertains to social media. Some people who know more about the technological side of social media are speaking up about how the technology seems to be hurting people–people made in God’s image. As Christians, we should hold to a high view of human beings because of our belief in the imago Dei. Therefore, we should do our due diligence to think biblically not only about how we act and speak, but also the technologies that we use because we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and prevent others from stumbling.
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