Yesterday, Natalie and I enjoyed listening to Al Mohler’s recent radio program “Five Years of Facebook: The Moral and Cultural Impact of Social Networking.”
Like all technology, Facebook and other “social media” (blogs, MySpace, Twitter, Skype, Flickr, etc.) have both opportunities and pitfalls.
I’ve really enjoyed connecting with friends on Facebook, sending notes of encouragement, and browsing new pictures. Facebook also keeps me informed of new prayer needs and reminds me of upcoming birthdays.
But social networking can easily become self-centered. It can be a tremendous time-waster. It can serve as a cheap imitation for genuine, life-on-life relationships. It can open a door for internet predators. It can expose us to images and ideas that are spiritually lethal. In fact, avoiding raunchy content on the internet sometimes feels like navigating a minefield. (Though the free Firefox download Adblock Plus does help cut down on unwanted ads.)
Yet in spite of its dangers, social networking applications like Facebook can offer a lot of clean fun and can even be a tool to advance the gospel. Mohler gives eight practical suggestions to set up safeguards and redeem this technology for the glory of God:
1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication.
2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking.
3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness.
4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter).
5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any “friend” unknown to you.
6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology.
7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.
8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.
Now five years old, Facebook and other social networking sites are here to stay. We must remain vigilant in using this new technology, but it would be a tragedy to miss this chance to encourage one another and to reach the next generation. So if you’re not already on Facebook, why not sign up?
Illustration by: Matt Hamm