I recently read why Samuel James, another evangelical blogger, deactivated his Twitter account. I value reading pieces like his to help think through my use social media wisely. After reading the piece, it seems like a wise move for him.
Social media use is a decision everyone needs to make for themselves. I have not taken similar steps as James but have had ample time over the past decade to taste the bitter and sweet parts of social media.
In this article, I’ll outline some of the guardrails I have in place for my social media use, ensuring that I use the tools of social media in the best way to further God’s calling in my life. Before diving into the guardrails, I’ll share my goals for social media because many are unique to me.
My Goals for Social Media Use
1. Edify believers. I share biblical truth and good resources on this blog and other places with the intent of building up Christ’s people.
2. Have a platform for writing. I don’t always love this goal but I won’t deny it. I probably wouldn’t have published my book without a social media presence. Having a way to share the ideas God lays on my heart has been a blessing for me and others. In the past couple of weeks I’ve received encouraging notes from all over the world on helpful things I’ve written. I don’t share this to toot my own horn. But I do thank God for the tremendous opportunity and ask for His help to be faithful.
3. Build relationships. Yes, you may call this ‘networking’ and sometimes it has spammy connotations. But in the kingdom, networking has greater value because we can advance God’s work better with other believers and ministries than we can on our own. I have met many social media connections in person and many I truly call friends. Additionally, my work with Unlocking the Bible will increasingly involve reaching into other countries and languages (I’m most excited about Spanish), and so having a network helps get the word out of what we’re doing, and in the end, ministry goes further.
4. Edify myself. I’m blessed by many of the faithful people I follow on social media because of their God-glorifying content. This content genuinely encourages me to follow after the Lord.
5. Stay in touch with friends and family. This is a goal I have for social media, although I prefer text messaging and WhatsApp for this purpose.
My Social Media Guardrails
No social media on my phone. No exceptions.
This guardrail is incredibly helpful in keeping social media and technology in their proper place in my life. It forces me to use social media less and more strategically, although I’ll admit I’m not the most strategic or compelling follow online.
Use social media blockers.
I use several apps on my laptop to block social media sites so I don’t fritter my time away when I’m working. I use Chrome extensions like Blocksite, Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator, Twitter Trending blocker, and also use the Mac app Self-Control to shut off certain sites for an allotted time. I use these daily and have benefited greatly. I also have tried the paid Freedom app but found that the aforementioned free apps do what I need.
I made a simple resolution to not argue on social media. The few times I have engaged in political or theological debates in the past have derailed me mentally and drained me emotionally for a day or more. Not worth it! I don’t want my wife and daughter to think I’m distant because I’m thinking about a Twitter spat instead of how I can enjoy time with them.
Other reasons I don’t argue: ministries I serve with could be hurt, and I’m a slow internal processor, meaning that my quick hot-takes are usually half-baked. Then when they are fully baked, the controversial has usually blown over and my hot take is not worth sharing.
My accountability setup is more passive than active. (I’m not suggesting that’s ideal.) My accountability mainly comes through CovenantEyes reports with random screenshots getting sent to accountability partners. I also assume my employer gets computer usage reports and sees how I spend my time. This accountability reminds me someone is always watching, and that ultimately, Someone is always watching.
Stick to theological convictions.
Time spent in God’s Word and with other people is paramount, and social media is often a fleeting use of time. I think of this quote from Drew Dyck at least once a month:
“Social media is broad but shallow, meaning you reach a lot of people but your impact on their life is minimal. Local church ministry is the opposite. You impact relatively few people, but the influence you have on their life is profound. It’s narrow, but deep.”
Yes, my particular use of social media can and does help the church. I’m very encouraged to receive encouragement on a post from a brother in Africa and encouragement about how my book is blessing someone in Australia. But I realize the flesh and blood people right before me in my family and church are the people I’m primary called to serve.
A Call for Wisdom and Discernment
By God’s grace, these guardrails have largely helped me enjoy the benefits of social media and reject the downsides. I hope my unique example is helpful as you think about what may prove the most fruitful in your life.
If you find yourself struggling with what you should do and don’t want to give up social media cold turkey, pray for wisdom. (Word on the street is that God gives wisdom in abundance to all who ask.) And most importantly, ask God for a greater love for Him. That is a foundational posture that will help us as we think about pursuing wisdom in this area and any other area of life.