My boss, Sojourn Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery, recently gave a talk to Christian teens at a Louisville school. Part of his talk centered on the use of Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media outlets by teenagers. Daniel, me and all the Sojourn Communications team kicked around some ideas, and came up with four principles for teens who use social media.
Obviously this advice is an open-handed issue — we wouldn’t dream of becoming legalistic about something like this. But we believe these four tips are good advice for teenagers to follow as they use social media. I’ve encouraged my own children in this area, and I think it would be helpful for your kids and your church youth groups. For that matter, these Christian social media principles are good guidelines for all of us:
Principle 1: Be Real. Because You Are
We have this tendency to lower standards and inhibitions online – to act like that’s just “virtual reality.” News flash:
Who you are online is who you are. What you say online is what you say.
Every command, every standard God expects in your face-to-face dealing with people is what God expects when you’re dealing with people online.
- Do unto others online as you would have them do unto you (online or off).
- Forgive others online as Christ forgave everything you’ve done (online and off).
Principle 2: Think About The Future. It’s Coming
When Facebook rolled out Timeline, it freaked a lot of people out. One law professor said:
It’s unsettling to see the past presented as clearly as the present. It’s your life in context, all in one place.
In no time at all, some of you will be applying for college, or for a job or a prestigious internship. You’ll be meeting someone you may want to marry. Or you’ll be meeting that person’s parents. Do you know what’s becoming the number one way each of these people and organizations find out background info? Social media.
Think of every photo you’re tagged in on Facebook. Think of everything you’ve written on Tumblr or Twitter. Think of everything you’ve pinned on Pinterest and every video you’ve uploaded to YouTube. Would you be nervous if your future in-laws or employers discovered all those items?
And if you think Timeline is scary, remember that one day you’ll appear before the judgment seat of God. He’ll know everything you posted on Timeline, and even the stuff you didn’t. Think about the future.
Principle 3: Don’t Get Caught Up In Everyone’s Hype
More and more people are getting depressed every year because of their friends’ status updates. And a recent study reported that Facebook may particularly trigger teen depression. When all you have to go on is the updates people post, it’s easy to think everyone is having more fun, going more places, and getting more opportunities.
Don’t buy into it. Sure, some people will post status updates like “I’m bored” or “Nothing is happening.” But most people only post things that make them look good, or items that document the very best, most fun times they have.
God says “Don’t covet.” This is always hard, but it’s even more difficult now when many of us have hundreds or even thousands of “friends,” who post pics from Kings Island or videos of their birthday gifts. Just remember that social media profiles are very incomplete documentaries of your friends’ lives.
Principle 4: Don’t Get Caught Up In Your Own Hype
This applies to all of you but especially any of you who want to promote yourself, or any art or products you make.
For instance if you’re in a rock band, you’ll naturally want to make everyone aware when you’re playing a show or you release an album. That’s fine, but don’t let it consume your online identity. Don’t blast people with five “Come to our show” or “We’re playing the school dance” messages a day.
The same thing goes for athletes: we’re proud of you for winning the big game. Really. And it’s okay to tell us that you’re excited you won the big game. But don’t gloat about it for a week straight, in update after update.
In fact, some social media specialists even advise that for every Tweet or Facebook message that is basically an advertisement for yourself, you send eight messages about something else. I don’t know if a 1-8 ratio is best, or 1-5, or 1-10. But I know that if all you do online is to promote your interests, you’re going to be viewed as someone who boasts of himself, which is contrary to your calling in Christ.
- See Pastor Daniel Montgomery’s article “If You Think Facebook Timeline Is Scary, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”
- See our “Social Media Marketing for Independent Music Bands and Artists”
- See Justin Taylor’s “Being A Better Blog Commenter”