4 Ways to Be a Light of the World … on Social Media

“Can we reclaim social media? Can we redeem the opportunity we have at our disposal?”

It doesn’t take long for those who know me to realize I’m a huge fan of social media. Almost daily you can find me active on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

Yes, you can fill me in on all the bad stuff you don’t like about social media. But I see an awesome opportunity with it. Call me optimist or idealist, but just because people abuse a privilege doesn’t mean we need to throw it all out. Some of the misuse, I feel, simply comes with zero to no thought of or any type of vision for it.

Something happening in me a few years back. The more social media I engaged in, the more “personal rules” formed in my head. For example, if you use the word “go” at the end of your post, I utterly refuse to comment out because of some weird pet peeve I have (“What is your favorite restaurants … go”).

Or if you constantly post cheesy Christian memes that say something like, “If you love Jesus, like it and share it,” you may get unfollowed (not unfriended).

Or one of my favorites … the people who want to hijack a fun thread with criticism or negativity. I remember posting about my staff and I having fun ,and someone came in to proclaim, “This is why the lost are not hearing about Jesus.” I’ve learned to delete the negativity and move on.

Then I noticed something else. Some notifications stirred stress while others brought an immediate smile. Why was that? The social media reputations of people preceded their posts. Some people have built up a trust (or lack thereof) and anticipation for what they had to say.

So I sat back and begin to form a set personal social media rules to guide me and help (or even repair) my social media reputation. I love the smile that comes to my face when others post, and I want to bring the same thing. So here are the four:

1. Inspire a Heart – Hebrews 3:13

Every morning, I like starting off with something “inspirational” that will encourage and/or challenge someone. Usually, these are born out of my journal postings, Bible study and reading. There’s no rhyme or pattern, as they are just thoughts that I feel the Lord is developing and working in my life. As silly as it may sound to you, keeping this in front of me has challenged me to continue to journal, process thoughts and work hard at bringing them to a simplistic form (144 characters or less). In the midst of a world of constant media that facilitates no hope, I want people to know where they can find some sort of encouragement every morning.

2. Bring a Smile – Proverbs 17:22

My daughter and I talk about how much we enjoy “finding the funny” in life. From moments in stores to the stuff that happens every day in our home, I learned a long time ago from my Canadian grandfather to “find the funny.” It seemed that he had a way of looking at the serious world in a different light.

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People think authenticity is reason enough to be negative in the name of “being real.” I feel negativity is a lazy and takes little to no effort. I see authenticity as reason enough to connect to others about how human you are. I don’t care about my “title.” My heart is to help bring a smile to someone.

Social media is a chance to say, “I bet I’m not the only one who’s done this.” Some of you worship the image of yourself that you’ve been trying to create on social media. I’m about smashing idols. Be humble enough to share mistakes. Be open about the silly things that happen. Find ways to add to someone’s joy and amusement. It’s amazing that, in the midst of your humiliating authentic where people will connect and open up. Why? Laughter connects and heals hearts.

3. Give Some Hope – Colossians 1:27

People should be able to see Christ in me and the hope of glory. It means my attitude and character needs to be seen in my postings. Whether my posts are about sports (most of those I leave on Twitter) or about my beliefs, people are watching me and getting a glimpse of Christ. It doesn’t mean I’m ultra serious, but it does mean that I am a steward of my social media reputation. The question I ask myself, “In the platforms where I express myself, is Christ being expressed?”

I am determined that believers can be Joshuas and Calebs (Numbers 13-14) standing up in a world of hopelessness and be the voice of hope. I think that our statuses and posts can inspire kingdom characteristics (Galatians 5:22-23). It shouldn’t be our only voice of evangelism but is a tremendous place for people to get a glimpse of the Christ in you and the hope of your glory.

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4. Distinguish Between Public and Private – Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 19:11, Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Peter 4:8

Just because social media is a form of community doesn’t mean all conversations need to exist there. I’ll admit, there are some subjects I won’t breach on social media because it isn’t the proper platform to express myself and/or handle the emotions behind the issue. In the words of the great social media guru Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away. And know when to run.”

It’s maturity to know when to direct people toward private conversations instead of threads. It takes wisdom to say, “Hey, let’s continue this conversation over coffee (or at worst, a private message).” You cannot see it as an act of cowardice but a place of stewardship. Far too many threads explode out of the lack of conversational tone or ignorance over the issues and past conversations.

In the words of the great theologian Uncle Ben (Spiderman’s uncle), “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Can we reclaim social media? Can we redeem the opportunity we have at our disposal? I think with the access we have, we can develop community and be a source of refreshment to those we’re connected to.

Let’s make social media great again and trump the negativity (too soon? … My wife, Anne, told me to put that).

Dave Barringer (@PDBarringer) is the lead pastor at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God in Portage, Michigan. He blogs about pastoring and marriage at PDave.me.