Ancient Wisdom for Our Social Media Age

social media typing

Between a pandemic and feeding a newborn a billion times a day, I’ve spent a significant amount of time on social media over the past several months. I pick up my phone, use my thumbprint to unlock it, and pull up Instagram or Facebook like a bad habit. By the time I’m done, my heart is heavy because while my thumb was busy scrolling, my heart was busy comparing, judging, loving self-promotion, and wanting to respond to someone’s online foolishness with my own folly. For such a simple and mindless habit, my heart can really come out spinning.

While social media may be an area of temptation we need to flee at times, there are many beautiful, redeeming aspects of social media, especially in this moment in history. Social media is not the reason why my heart spins out of control; my sin is.

Social media may be new, but the condition of the human heart isn’t. Our hearts are prone to sin and, as John Calvin said, they are idol factories. In our social media age, we can look to the book of Proverbs for ancient wisdom that remains extremely relevant and desperately needed for today.

Exercising Restraint: Is It Wise For Me To Engage?

‭‭A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Proverbs‬ ‭18:2‬

Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

Proverbs 14:7

Let’s be clear: Not everything we think needs to be said on social media. Not all of our opinions need to be posted on social media. Not all of our reactions to other people’s opinions need to be said. It is foolish to give full vent to everything we think. Restraint is not a virtue of our culture, but it is a virtue of Wisdom. There are some many things I don’t need to voice on social media, but also there are some people I don’t need to engage with. Sometimes we need the restraint to not engage with a fool on social media because it will lead to unfruitful conversations, not words of knowledge. It is wise for us to exercise restraint and to ask ourselves: Would this conversation be more fruitful over the phone or face-to-face? Am I venting all my feelings online? Am I reacting to something or someone instead of responding? 

Other Proverbs to consider: 10:19, 11:12, 12:16, 13:3, 18:13

Exercising Prudence: What Will Be The Consequences Of This Post?

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

After we determine if something is worth saying on social media, we then have to think about the consequences of our words. This proverb relates to both the delivery of the words and their aftermath. Rash, or reckless, unweighed words can have deep ramifications. We know this to be true from relationships where we’ve hastily said something meant to hurt someone we love without considering the long-term consequence of those words, but it’s just as true online with someone you don’t know. Our words, even on a computer screen, have the potential to destroy, heal, bring death, or bring life. Before pressing the enter button, consider what you’ve written and how it could be taken. Are my words reckless or hurtful? If that’s not my intention, could they still be taken that way? What will the consequences of this post be – detriment or healing? When posting about heated topics, you may want to try running it by a trusted friend or spouse to ask if your post is more beneficial, harmful, or unnecessary.

Other Proverbs to consider: 10:11, 15:1, 15:28, 17:27-28, 18:21

Exercising Self-examination: Am I Trying To Elevate Myself? 

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

Proverbs 13:7

Naturally, we love to have people celebrate with us, we love to share things we’ve found helpful, or we have worked hard on. Sharing our lives and our accomplishments with others is not necessarily inflating ourselves or self-promotion, but it is wise for us to examine our hearts and understand our motives with posting. Am I seeking flattery or the praise of man? Is my heart to elevate myself above others? Is my post meant to make me appear better than I am? Or is my aim and purpose not to elevate myself, but to lift up others and glorify God? 

Other Proverbs to consider: 12:9, 25:6-7, 25:27, 27:2

Exercising Contentment: Does This Produce Envy In My Heart? 

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”

Proverbs‬ ‭14:30‬

My “social media envy” is nice houses. When I hop on Pinterest or Instagram and see pictures of flawless, crisp, perfectly organized houses, my heart starts comparing and I convince myself I need that kind of house. My head knows online snapshots aren’t reality, but my heart still gets caught up feeling like I lack something and I need that. Posts of nice houses are sometimes extremely helpful for me, but my heart has a tendency to twist it to make me discontent and envious. Some questions I have to ask myself include: Is there anything specific on social media that tends to rob my joy and lead to envy or discontentment? Am I spending too much time looking at that subject matter? What is the truth about God’s provision for me? How can I practice gratitude?

Other Proverbs to consider: 23:17, 24:19-20, 27:4, 28:6, 30:8-9

Exercising Intentionality: How Much Time Am I Wasting? 

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

Proverbs‬ ‭14:23

The average person spends almost two and a half hours a day on social media. I don’t know my personal average, but even if I did, I would probably be ashamed to share it! Some of us require social media to do our diligent work, but many of us are probably using social media as a form of laziness. I know I need to ask myself these questions when it comes to my social media usage: At what point does social media become a waste of time? Is social media keeping me from working diligently? Is social media interfering with my relationships or my personal responsibilities? Do I use social media as an outlet for laziness? 

Other Proverbs to consider: 6:6-8, 12:11, 13:4, 24:30-34, 31:27 

Exercising Grace

I don’t do a perfect job of asking myself these questions. More often than not, I realize after the fact that I needed to ask myself these questions. When my heart comes out spinning and I find myself acting a fool, I’m reminded Jesus gives grace in our failures. He gives grace by forgiving us when we use social media foolishly. He gives grace by empowering us with the Holy Spirit to grow in wisdom as we navigate social media. And He gives us grace by taking on our foolishness. Jesus, the Wisdom of God, died a fool’s death so we fools may have the wisdom of God. As we navigate this space of social media, may we seek to engage there not as fools, but as the wise. 

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