Social Media -How I present myself there
Bro. Jerry Gibson Joy
Over the last decade or so, the social media has gone from being a place to reconnect with friends to actually being the place where people understand who and what you are all about as an individual or an organization.
At an individual level it has helped people connect and reconnect with people they had never thought possible. In today’s world, very unlike the world my parents grew up in, we can actually be actively and instantly in touch with people who were with us in different phases of our lives. From snail mail to email to social media. This has become the way to connect and has changed the way we communicate forever. Gone are the days of long hand written letters. We are now in the days of messages that are short, crisp, filled with vowel-less words, emoticons, short forms to express what people have to say. Celebrities too use social media to preserve and increase their fan-base to become more personal in the way they relate with them.
At an organizational level Social Media is used to create and preserve a brand or public image. It’s increasingly being acknowledged in today’s world that to continue to influence and preserve market share, one has to be willing to put the time in to be extremely relational in the way businesses are run. Social Media enables that.
In the wake of the surge in public use, many of the vices that were otherwise personal and face-to-face continue but now virtually. The possibility in this virtual world are endless, not the least of which is the possibility of masking or manipulating one’s true identity behind the computer monitor. Like one of my friends said of a chat he was having, “To her I’m a muscular 6’2” guy. How will she ever know I’m not?” That comment is like a double-edged sword tells me that there’s no way of knowing he is actually talking to a girl online. And so almost two and half decades after the arrival of internet that has changed the way we communicate, we have seen so much promised but lots left wanting in the way of relationships, emotional health and identity.
There have been a number of behavioral disorders that have come to light as a result, like Social Media Anxiety Disorder (or Social Network Anxiety Disorder), Social Network Addiction (It is said that many parents in Korea actually send their kids to boot camp to help them detox from Social Networking). Social Media has definitely affected the way couples communicate too. It has often led to people leading virtual lives while their real lives pass by right in front of them. Research has revealed that one of the negative impacts of using too much technology is that it can leave people feeling more alone. (Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other)
“Stefan Hofmann directs the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. He says, pressure to read and respond on Facebook and Twitter is the main source of stress for older people who use the sites. For younger people the stress comes from increased peer pressure as friends share personal information online.”(http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2012/04/social-media-anxiety-disorder)
A number of criminal activities also run wild on these networking sites some of which are cyber-bullying, identity theft, stalking and the like. Marketing firms use data available from Social Networking sites like customer interests, purchases, friends, etc to customize their purchase suggestions to things that they feel that we, the user, would like. And therefore we have search engines, purchases, suggestions all customized on the basis of our pattern of using the internet and connecting with the world around us. In a way this creates another problem of self-aggrandizement where we can easily tend to think that the world is all about us. We can choose who to listen to and who not to. We can shut off from music, video and news that we don’t like and tune in to things that are more to our liking. So in many ways we can turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the needs and cries of the world around us and just continue to live our lives with us on the throne and the world to do our bidding.
As Christians therefore, in a changing world, we are left with the newfangled task of developing moral standards and approaches to navigate ourselves through myriad of Social Media choices available to us in a way that does not compromise on our Christian witness.
The following are 5 ways we can present ourselves in the world of Social Media
1. Preserve your identity - Let people see the real you. Not the “fixed up” You.
Social Media offers us the opportunity to portray our real selves. Some have differentiated between the real and the reel – the true and the authentic versus what we like to show to others. We have a God-given identity as a result of our choice to follow Jesus. The Bible says we have been made a new creation, transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Jesus, a chosen generation, a holy nation, chosen to declare the praises of God in the world we live in (2 Cor 5:17; Col 1:14; 1 Pet 2:9). The reality of an identity is that we carry that,every time we breathe. Like Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31).
An identity is an inextricable part of our lives. And therefore being a person of integrity means to preserve our identity, to be the same whether we are online or offline. Whenever we compromise on our identity we lose self-respect, we don’t walk in the truth of God’s will for our lives and we will never be able to walk in to all that God has for us. The world around us offers us a lot in the way of patterns, lifestyles, information, and ideas. The question for us would be, “How can I live in the midst of all of these without compromising on my God-given identity?” The bottom-line is, anything that doesn’t fit in with who we are, doesn’t belong in our lives (or on our social media profile). On the other hand, one look at our profile on Social Media should give people a fair idea of who we are and what we believe in.
Another pertinent question for us to think about is, “When people see mine or my organization’s presentation on Social Media, Does it attract them toward Jesus or does it make them want to have nothing to do with him?” I have watched so often with a broken heart how believers jibe each other with words, propagate rumors and create much division on these sites. While we think we are safe behind a computer monitor, we need to be aware of how the Kingdom of God is being affected by our callousness. Much like we wouldn’t have our family discussions made public, let’s learn how to deal more wisely with disagreements we may have within the larger context of God’s family.
2. Don’t promote what you don’t practice. Don’t endorse what you don’t subscribe to
Recently renowned Actress DeepikaPadukone did a photoshoot for Vogue called “My Choice”, basically bringing out the idea that we are not accountable to anyone for our actions and that we can choose whatever we want whether it’s to have a child, have an affair, say whatever, do whatever we want because it’s “my choice”. And even while it strikes a chord among the young especially suppressed women, one wonders whether this kind of an idea bringing a false notion that our choices affect only us and no one else, is really what this generation needs to hear. Fortunately many have spoken against the ideas propagated in this video.
There’s much available like this video that propagate ideas that don’t fit in with who we are as the people of God. It is wise to filter everything we hear and see through the values espoused in scripture. Sadly many people share comments, videos, and pictures on Social Media because they sound attractive or they have a famous personality on it. Whatever the reason, whenever we endorse something we don’t practice, it does bring to question our understanding of the identity God’s given us.
3. Stay away from dead-end arguments:
We have all been tempted to do this. A person from another faith background, holding another value-set says or shares something on his Social Media Profile. The internet gives us a boldness that we wouldn’t normally have, were we face-to-face. So in the safety of our screens and using our keyboards as the sword, we then attack publicly the said idea with Bible-thumping force. From there ensues argument after argument, theories are expounded, evidences brought in, but at the end of the day, one has to wonder, “Who wins?” Nobody. Not even the Bible-thumper. It pretty much serves to divide those for and against even farther. “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know they breed quarrels”, Paul said. Advice we would do well to take (2 Tim 2:23).
While it is true that we have the responsibility to witness, so often we are answering questions that people aren’t really asking us. Peter advices us to be ready to give people a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). The best discussions happen when questions are posed and answers are given with respect and grace (1 Peter 3:16). At the end of the day we are not called to win arguments, we are called to make disciples.
4. Don’t Miss Out on Life – Learn the Art of Tuning in and Tuning Out
How often we heard the saying, “People don’t talk anymore”. Family members under the same roof may even resort to texting each other rather than actually talking. Social Media with all the thrill of giving us a peek into the life of the other, has proven to lead people to prefer the virtual world to the real world. It has also been proven that prolonged exposure to the lives of other people can lead us to comparisons, discontentment and even loneliness. Real life holds so much promise – relationships to be strengthened, creativity to be used, needs of people to be met. How often do we see these opportunities squandered because we prefer the thrill of the virtual rather than make things happen in the real world?
Tuning in out of Social Media is a habit we need to develop. We don’t need to respond immediately to every email, message, and social media updates. Personally, I keep a 10-10 rule. Where I don’t go online to browse on social media between 10pm and 10 am in the night. I also have switched of instant updates on my phone. So I don’t feel the need to constantly check my email and respond to it. Handling such things in my “in-between” time have freed me to focus on more important things. Things that add value to my life.
5. Church’s Call: To Create Authentic Community
Finally, the surge in popularity of social media have brought to light one of the deepest of needs to humankind to connect, relate, love, and be loved and related to. God has already made provisions for this by creating his body on earth – the Church. The Church is the family of God (Eph 2:19). The world that the church is present in today is a world that longs to connect. As God’s Family on earth, we have a great opportunity here to create and model authentic community. Community that accepts, builds up, redeems and restores. God is one who sets the lonely in families (Ps 68:6). So the question for us as the church is, “How can we use Social Media to create authentic communities that reflect and represent God’s passion for people in the world today?”.