This is the second post in a series about social networking in which I answer three questions given to me to prepare for a panel discussing biblically informed use of social media.
Part One: What principles guide your use of social media? Can be found by clicking on that link.
This is Part Two:
What opportunities and challenges do you encounter in your usage in light of biblically-informed wisdom?
I’m going to deal with this in reverse order to the question, discussing challenges first and ending with some wonderful opportunities.
There are so many challenges in social networking: wasting time, gossip, meddling, self-absorption, just to name a few; but I struggled with all of those things before I connected to the internet, and would struggle with them still if I disconnected from all social media tomorrow. The biggest struggle I face that are a direct result of my participation in the social networking world are voyeurism/exhibitionism (in the non-sexual sense of those terms).
Facebook was specifically designed to create an atmosphere in which people would willingly submit the intimate details of their lives to the general public for the amusement and titillation of all. While it has grown beyond and become more than that original purpose, that first intent has shaped not only every application for Facebook, but all of the social networking platforms to some degree.Voyeurism is not a side effect of the social networking experience, it is a primary effect against which we must guard.
I like to think that I succeed in avoiding the worst of the voyeuristic side of things. I avoid “trolling” facebook looking for blatant “gotchas.” I have unfriended people when their posts seemed to be offering far too intimate a peek behind the curtains of their lives or if I find myself looking specifically for details of someone’s life that they have chosen not to post.
The exhibitionism, however, is more of a challenge for me. This is not primarily because I crave attention (although, let’s be honest, I do) but because I believe there is value in sharing our lives and I struggle with drawing the lines in the right places. Scripture tells us that one of the reasons for our suffering is to comfort others. We can neither be a comfort to, nor derive comfort from others if we don’t share our struggles honestly. However we must exercise discernment in separating sharing from airing laundry, grumbling and complaining, or outright inappropriateness. I don’t believe that I crossed that line in sharing our miscarriage the way I did, back at the beginning of the blog, but do I cross it with my flippant tweets about my children, or comments and blog posts about our seminary life that don’t point anyone to find comfort in Christ? This is an ongoing question that I ask with every blog post, and should ask more frequently about my tweets.
I share this as my biggest struggle, and yet, it has also been my biggest opportunity in social media. Because of this blog primarily, and then my increased online presence, I have been encouraged by, and been an encouragement to, women with whom I would never have otherwise made contact. It started out as just conversations about infertility, but now I get emails from people saying they have been encouraged in motherhood and in their seminary journey. I stay at home with three small children all day, and that is my primary calling from God right now; but through social media, the Lord has also allowed me an opportunity to step out of the bounds of my home, without stepping out of my door, and it is something for which I am very thankful.