Friday, 7 October 2011

'Facebook' and Taming the Tongue

A few months ago I watched The Social Network, the triple Oscar winning film about the origins of Facebook.

It’s incredible to think that a site that was only launched in February 2004 now influences the lives of so many people. The site now has 800 million active users and is expanding every day.

Love it or loathe it, for most people under 40, Facebook has completely changed what it means to interact and connect with others. For the uninitiated: users create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and then exchange messages and photos which are visible to everyone in their friends list. For many people, it is unthinkable that a day would go by without them viewing their Facebook page and interacting with their ‘friends’.

However the irony the film focuses on, is the fact that the two best friends who set up the site – Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin - ended up falling out over it and suing each other!  

The foremost social networking tool of our age split up the friends who founded it.

And the reason it did of course, is because fallen human nature is wired to sin and sin brings separation: not only from God, but also from others. Remember Adam and Eve?

And for any Christian who uses Facebook, or any other form of social media for that matter, this sin-factor needs to be borne in mind.

While Facebook has undoubtedly led to a greater flow of personal communication, the virtual nature of it’s social environment has led to a massive downside. It is much easier to post something hurtful, ungracious or downright sinful when you’re on your own sitting in front of a computer with no one looking over your shoulder.

Most word processing software today has a spell-checker and a grammar-checker, but they don't have a sin-checker. And unlike an email (which has the same downside), when I post something hurtful, ungracious or sinful, I can’t delete it. It’s logged forever for all my friends to see, respond to and get dragged down by.

For a Christian then, Facebook is a tool that needs to be handled with great care.

I can’t help but feel that so many of the verses in the Bible regarding taming the tongue have a direct application to how a Christian should use social media like Facebook.

Proverbs is full of up-to-the-minute wisdom for the age of social media:

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (10:19)
A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. (11:12)
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)
He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. (21:23)
In summary then:  whether you’re a dinosaur like me and only use email, or whether you’re more hip and use Facebook a lot:  be careful what you type.

After all: better to switch off the computer than start a forest fire!

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. (James 3:5)
One of our Elders at Woodgreen passed on to me the short article below recently, listing '10 Searching Questions to ask yourself when using Social Media'.

I think it’s a really helpful tool to help us tame our electronic tongues.

I don’t think there’s any need for Christians to ditch Facebook, but we can use it for God’s glory, by being salt and light in our (online) community.

Why not print them out and stick them up next to your computer?

10 Searching Questions to ask yourself when using Social Media -