If you run a Google search for “fired because of social media,” you will find case after case of people losing their jobs as a result of something they posted on a social media account. The platform isn’t important. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others have gotten people into serious trouble. And it doesn’t matter who you are, because anyone—recent graduates to celebrities; Chipotle workers to CEOs—can be reprimanded for what they’ve said online.
Even if we don’t have a million followers or an important job to lose, what we say online matters. It’s important that we find a healthy balance between having fun and using good judgment. Social media is a great tool and resource if we know how to use it in a constructive way.
One of my favorite scriptures, Philippians 4:8, says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (New International Version). I like to use this as a source of guidance when I’m online. Am I reflecting these good things in my online presence through things that I share on Facebook or Instagram? Am I protecting myself by not reading or watching things online that are contrary to these things?
Here are a few easy-to-remember do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when spending our time on social media. They can help us balance fun and discretion so that we get the most out of this awesome technology.
DO: Share your thoughts, photos and fun stuff! Social media was meant to connect people from all over the world. Saw an amazing cat video? Post it on your BFF’s timeline! Really excited about that concert coming up? Gush about your favorite band for bit and maybe gain them another fan. Proud of your accomplishment, such as getting a good grade, buying your first car or finally mastering that perfect wingtip eyeliner? Announce it to the world! And honestly, your Grandma loves it when you post photos of your trips or friends at school. It makes her happy to keep up with your busy life.
BUT DON’T: Overshare to the point where you are endangering your safety, creating a bad image for yourself or hurting someone else. Being mindful of what you post is quite important not just for you, but for others as well. Remember the guidelines from Philippians, and ask yourself these thought-provoking questions: Is what I am about to post true? Is my action in this moment noble? Am I right to say this to a friend? Does this photo reflect purity or loveliness? Will I be admired or praised for this post or comment?
DO: Behave online as you would in real life. Sometimes when you’re just one person behind a screen, it can be tempting to act differently on social media than you would in real life. People often say or do things online that would be embarrassing or mean to do in front of others. Social media was not meant to hide our true selves, but to be an extension of who we already are.
BUT DON’T: Get caught in a comparison trap. It can make us feel bad when we look on Facebook and see that our friends are doing awesome stuff while we feel like we’re just sitting at home all the time. It can make us feel like other people are constantly traveling the world, eating delicious food, or that life in general is just better for them than it is for us. Remember that whatever you see online is often only one facet of a person, so don’t feel like your life doesn’t measure up to theirs just because you haven’t posted something amazing lately. Most of the time, most people are mostly doing nothing noteworthy or exciting! So be excited for your friends when they share their highlight reel, and they will return the favor for yours.
DO: Use your social media accounts to be a light to your friends. Jesus Christ said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV). It is so easy to share our Christian life on social media. You can quote a scripture you’ve been pondering, share a story about a blessing God has given you or be inspiring by just being nice and encouraging to others online. All of these things show people that you are living God’s way of life.
BUT DON’T: Use social media as a means to condemn others who don’t share your beliefs. There is a big difference between healthy discussion and an ugly debate. Don’t give people a reason to turn away from God by hating others in His name.
Sometimes it can be tricky to manage how we present ourselves online and in real life. But we are blessed with a relationship with our loving God who provides scriptural guidelines for us to follow and forgives us when we fall off balance.