I have often blogged on my Virtual Lawyer page about the legal minefield that is the world of social media. Time and again we have seen people lose their jobs or even face criminal action because they tweeted before they thought -
There is no doubting the massive influence of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. My LinkedIn profile is currently telling me that my connections potentially link me to 12m people! That is population of a reasonably sized country. The potential reach of Twitter is even greater. If each of my followers retweet something to each of theirs we are talking about a reach of millions, within a few minutes.
That is a sobering thought which should certainly make anybody stop and reflect before pushing the tweet button!
So is there a spiritual dimension to all this? Should Christians give it a second thought? Many will just avoid it as being a waste of time. I remember once being told that my interest in politics was wrong because the bible says – ‘All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient’. (! Cor 6:12). But to adopt that attitude to social media is a bit like saying the air we breathe is nothing to do with us. It is part of our world. It is how the majority of younger people communicate. Avoidance is not an option.
Another option might be to dabble from the safety of exclusively Christian material such as daily bible verses or church Facebook pages. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. But it keeps our world very small.
In fact it can all be used very positively.
In my ‘dark side’ blog I talked about those who send insulting tweets – often known as trolling. There is certainly a need for the opposite attitude – to turn the other tweet! If I read something that makes an impression I will always try to retweet or share it. There is nothing quite like the encouragement of knowing that somebody has taken the time to read what you say and acknowledge it in some way. It is even possible to express disagreement in a way that maintains dignity and integrity.
There is also, no better way of keeping in touch with what is happening around us. Up until about three years ago I struggled with Twitter. I just didn’t get it. Then I went on holiday to Egypt and was there when the crowds first gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo. I became addicted to the live tweets coming from the square. Our media and press can give us one perspective but there is nothing to match the voices of those who are there.
The power of social media is undeniable. Which is why we should embrace it, but embrace it with care. It does irritate me when I read Facebook updates which are being published to the world but obviously intended for one particular person who has stepped out of line. It is a bit like shouting an insult across a crowded room, only from the comfort of your own home. In fact that image is often helpful – to imagine the thousands who might read what you say before pushing the button.
Social Media is here to stay. In fact even our current platforms could soon be out of date. It gets a bad press and sometimes for good reasons. But of itself it is neither good nor evil. It has the potential for both. In fact it is a bit like humanity itself…