How to make your online presence God-glorifying in the age of new media and technology (A handout I made for Fundamental Baptist youth gathered in a recent December conference)
So you’re a Christian? Balancing how you relate with others through Facebook (and other social media) and how you live your faith is tough. Does FB have a place in our lives as Christians? How do I comment, like, post and befriend the Christian way? Let’s find out.
Writer’s note: These insights and practical tips are results of my experience on Facebook and in class. I handle a DevCom major subject called DC157: New Media and Technology, where we discuss topics like this for one semester. I talk with my students about how computers, the Internet, its technicalities and new media work.
Insight: Your Facebook presence is still a part of your Christian testimony.
Facebook is a community where people gather online. Before computers and the Internet came, people knew you from how you behaved in public. Now, they will know about you even if you sit from your computer chair. If you have a Facebook account, here are some tips you shouldn’t miss.
1. Do not post something that you will not say in public. This includes angry comments and bad words even if you won’t name the person. Private conversations should be kept private also. Facebook is a public place. Avoid making chat boxes out of comment threads, especially when the topic should be only between you and your friends.
2. Ask this before you post anything: Would I post this if Jesus was my Facebook friend? Would He “like” it if He sees my post on His news feed? Or how about my pastor?
3. Do not complain about your family, school or work publicly. There are recorded cases of family splits and employees being fired because of what they posted online.
4. Choose who could see your posts wisely. Choose only “Friends” instead of “Public”. Don’t court confusion or misunderstanding by letting anyone see what only your friends should see.
5. Only share content that are good and God-glorifying. Do not post links to articles and photos that have bad language, green jokes and sexual content (or anything worldly in general). Do not share photos of dead people ran over by trucks, or other gross content. Choose the music and videos that you share online wisely. The Bible says that friendship with the world is emnity with God. Love the music that honors God.
6. Handpick photos before you upload them. Do not upload everything from your digital camera or cellphone. Bawal ang walang ka-art-art! What I mean is, you must be careful not to share the awkward and private moments caught on cam that only you and your family should see. This includes your bedroom, bathroom, what you wear when you’re inside the house, revealing clothes, intimate couples, awkward surprised faces and repeating poses.
7. Use an appropriate profile picture. It is public and it is the first thing netizens (Internet citizens) see. Avoid making faces, or showing yourself awkwardly or in revealing clothes.
8. Do not tag friends to draw attention. The rule is to tag only people included in a photo or post. (Of course, there are exceptions).
9. Do not express too much emotion on Facebook. “I’m having a hard time moving on”, or “I’m so in love with ___”. Instead, share it to your mom, dad, Bible Study Leader or pastor. Ask for advice on your feelings and let them pray for you. Or instead, keep a diary. Not on Facebook.
10. Spell your name correctly. Do not spell it backwards or a la jEjEmOwHhN. If your name is too long (or unstylish), you can use a nickname, which is cooler. But do not murder it. The book of Proverbs emphasizes the importance of a good name. Your parents gave that to you for a reason too. What if Jesus used ‘SuSeJjj’?
11. Do not put too much information about yourself. There are recorded cases of women raped and murdered because they put their address and contact numbers on Facebook, so be careful. Do not invite stalkers or “secret admirers” kahit na. Avoid posting your whereabouts or “things to do”. You can put your birthday, hometown, school, but not everything.
12. Do not fake information. Do not pretend studying at “Harvard University” or that you “Worked as a Sniper at Counter-Strike”. Or you know how to speak “Spanish, Ilonggo, Waray, English, German, Portuguese and 18 other languages”. That is lying. Man fell into sin because the serpent lied. Tell the truth.
13. Be honest about your Relationship Status if you want to show it. If you’re single or in a relationship, tell the truth. It’s not really Christianlike to say you’re in an Open Relationship or It’s Complicated. If you’re a girl, do not say you’re In A Relationship with one of your girl bestfriends. Or, you can just hide your relationship status if you have nothing good to put in it.
Insight: Facebook can be an idol.
14. Do not spend too much time on Facebook. If you can’t read your Bible for 10 minutes or pray for 15 minutes, or take time to share the Gospel to a friend for 15 minutes, think again. Some people have resolved not to stay on Facebook (or any other website) longer than their quiet time, unless it’s really necessary. Do not skip Sunday School, Prayer Meeting or Youth Fellowships for Facebook.
15. Facebook addiction is real and scientific. Scientists say that we Facebook users are “doped”—we release a hormone called “dopamine” too much. This is resonsible for that nice feeling when we find out something new. In Facebook, there is an unending desire to know more about what’s happening to friends. Later on, we increase our tolerance to this hormone, and we will want more and more everyday. We become addicted but we deny it. We shouldn’t be like what Apostle Paul describes as “busybodies”—concerned too much with other people’s matters that we forget to work for God. Anything that takes the place of God is an idol. Like computer games, TV, music, cellphones. Your time in Facebook can rob your attention and time from God. That makes it an idol.
Insight: Make a Facebook environment that encourages you to continue living a Christian life.
16. Be discreet about who to “friend” and “unfriend”. Some people prefer to Confirm All Friend Requests. If you share a lot of personal things on Facebook, that is a bad idea. See first if you know the person. Avoid mysterious names or pictures. You have the right not to befriend them if they you don’t know who they are.
17. You do not need to add or confirm ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. If you get hurt from bad memories, do not torture yourself. You can pray for forgiveness and reconciliation but help yourself too. This also applies to people you had misunderstandings with.
18. Do not pore over photo albums that give you bad thoughts. This incudes sexy photos of good -looking friends, or people you’re not in good terms with. The Bible says we should bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
19. Interact with friends politely. Do not argue online. If you want a post deleted, ask them in a private message, not in a comment. Do not insult people. The Bible says that our words should minister grace to the hearers.
20. Interact with Christian friends more often. Form a Facebook group for your youth group, choir or Bible study group. If you’re away, you could communicate with them there.
21. Post verses and testimonies instead of pickup lines or wordly quotes. The world is dying to hear grace and truth that only comes from Christ and the lives He has changed.
22. Do not be afraid to show your faith. But show it in a way that they will understand.
23. Hide posts from friends that you do not like. This includes gruesome photos or any content that doesn’t make you happy in God. The Hide option is at the right side of every post. If your friend keeps on sharing inappropriate content (and you don’t need to be his/her friend), you can just unfriend that friend, okay, friend?
Insight: Facebook-to-Facebook communication cannot replace face-to-face communication.
24. Not everyone is on Facebook. Your lola, a church worker, or even choir director may not be online, but you must still interact with them.
25. There are conversations that should be personal. Whenever possible, talk to real people in the real world. Say “I love you” to your parents in person, not only on Facebook. Give them a hug. Encourage a brother, shake his hand and give a good, hearty smile. These are things that Facebook posts cannot replace.
26. Don’t make “online evangelism” as an excuse not to do “offline evangelism”.
27. Do not judge people who do not want to use Facebook. They might have their reasons for not using FB. Reach out to them in other ways.
Insight: Keep your profile clean.
28. Don’t subscribe to apps that fill your profile with unnecessary posts. Do not use horoscope apps too. Horoscopes don’t have a place in the Christian’s life.
29. Review previous posts and erase those that do not make God smile.
30. For college students and jobseekers: Think of your Facebook profile as your online resumé or curriculum vitae. Future employers look at the profiles of their applicants. Sanitize your Facebook accounts of whatever can make them think you are not up for the job.
31. Do not “like” pages just so you can tag them.
32. Do not be ’emo’. Don’t use gloomy or bloody fonts and designs to make “I Love Jesus” graphics. Give formality and respect to your faith. Make it different from the world.