Many of us now inhabit two worlds: the online world which exists through a whole variety of social network media such as Facebook, and the physical offline world. Even those people who never use a computer will have an online existence as a result of the legitimate actions of others. Many are concerned about the impact that online relationships are having on offline relationships. For example more than a third of UK divorce filings in 2011 contained the word ‘Facebook’! How do we respond to this as followers of Jesus? Is social networking an intrinsic evil we should avoid or can it be a useful tool for the gospel?
This helpful little booklet explores some of the underlying issues behind social media: image, identity, idolatry and self-promotion to mention a few. Dr Tim Chester addresses these in a clear and concise manner, drawing upon pastoral and biblical wisdom. He asks questions to help us evaluate the impact of Facebook on our lives and concludes the book with 12 guidelines that he recommends to keep it in an appropriate place in our lives.
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say were the people concerned in the room.
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t share publicly with your Christian community.
- Ensure your online world is visible to your offline Christian community.
- Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self reflects a self-created identity rather than identity in Christ.
- Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self doesn’t match their offline self.
- Use social networking to enhance real-world relationships, not to replace them.
- Don’t let children have unsupervised Internet access or accept as online friends people you don’t know offline.
- Set limits to the time you spend online and ask someone to hold you accountable to these.
- Set aside a day a week as a technology ‘Sabbath’ or ‘fast’.
- Avoid alerts (emails, tweets, texts and so on) that interrupt other activities, especially reading, praying, worshipping and relating.
- Ban mobiles from the meal table and the bedroom.
- Look for opportunities to replace disembodied (online or phone) communication with embodied (face-to-face) communication.