I have come to a rather shocking realisation: Facebook has become my best friend. Yes, in a world which refuses to let you have a good night’s sleep because of the incessant beeping of your phone, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I probably belong to the minority - people who enjoy being constantly updated on how my friends are doing, who recently got attached to whom, and the latest launches on blogshops (online clothing stores). Keeping a blog for the past few years has also helped me chronicle major events in my life, and there are times I visit old blog posts just to see how much I have changed and grown.
When I really think about how “well-connected” I am, I wonder what bearing it all has on my walk with God. The Bible doesn’t say, “Thou shalt not put Facebook above the Lord your God.” Neither does the Bible state that the fruit of the Spirit is the number of followers you have on Twitter.
Hence, I can safely conclude that it is not morally wrong to tweet, nor sinful to read interesting blogs I stumble across. But for many in my generation, this is probably the dilemma we have to grapple with: is social media a help or hindrance in Christian living?
The erosion of our spiritual selves
If there is any image I can liken social media to, I find that it pretty much resembles a grassy field filled with land mines. On the surface, things look happy and healthy, but place a foot in the wrong place and — “BOOM!” — a part of you goes missing. What I mean by this is that we tend to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to information that we never would have seen or read otherwise. For example, local citizen-journalism websites like STOMP usually contain articles on high-rise litter, inconsiderate smokers and the like, but there are times that more salacious “news” appears (and receives the most comments and views). Trashy news-items may pique our interest, but that doesn’t mean we should let our minds be occupied with such information. So, while I love how easily accessible information is nowadays, I reckon it requires a lot more effort on our part to choose what we want to feed our minds with.
What is infinitely more dangerous, though, is that our preoccupation with developing our online personas results in our eroding the development of our spiritual selves. A church friend admits that his quiet time with God has been hindered by his compelling need to see what others are up to on Facebook. Like many of us, he spends more time socialising online than actually spending time with God. And I have come to realize that when we neglect our spiritual selves. My pastor recognises this danger well enough, commenting that an over-reliance on social media may lead us to want glory for ourselves rather than Jesus. It will be hard to right our balance when we fall, and I urge you to be careful with how you navigate this treacherous and unpredictable sea of information.
The real testimony: how human we all are
Severe warnings aside, I do see the value in utilising social media, mainly because the best way we can ever share about Jesus is through our lives. I scour Youtube for songs by Christian bands and singers, and I follow brilliant writers like C S Lewis, Joyce Meyer and Max Lucado on Twitter so I can re-tweet meaningful quotes from time to time. In a way, you are sharing your personal testimony to a wider audience now — and how wonderful it is to share how human and how forgiven we all are to our friends and strangers in the virtual world.
My pastor opines that culturally relevant social media tools can be used to “redeem culture”. He tells me, “Most things are amoral in this world in that they can be used for good or for evil, and I strive to use culturally relevant tools for the purposes of God.” And I wholeheartedly agree with his views. With Facebook and Twitter, I can now keep in touch with my church mates every day of the week and pray with them if they are facing personal struggles or difficulties. I post Youtube videos of Christian songs that have moved me, and was glad to hear that a colleague (who is a pre-believer) felt touched by these songs too.
On whether it is a help or hindrance, then, I have to say that social media is both a help and a hindrance. Social media tools keep people connected to church and expand our ability to minister to others in need. At the same time, many of us may unconsciously privilege self-glory and self-satisfaction and neglect the nurture of our spiritual beings. For me (and for all of you reading this), a more relevant question remains: who will you follow today?
Isabel Ong enjoys burying her nose in a good Kindle book, travels vicariously through Instagram and thinks phubbing isn't as awful as it seems to be.