December 14, 2017

Thoughts about Technology and Social Media

Thomas Overmiller

When Apple releases a new handheld device, do you buy it immediately? When a new social media platform enters the online world, do you create a personal account as soon as possible? Do you jump on the technology and communication bandwagon with everyone else in the world, or do you walk circumspectly?

Ephesians 5:15 warns believers to walk circumspectly, to take careful steps along the pathway of life. In a humorous way, walking circumspectly is like strolling through a cow pasture. Step carefully, or you may get something smelly on your feet! On a more serious note, walking circumspectly is like stepping through a minefield. Trained soldiers navigate minefields with incredible caution, knowing that one misstep could prove to be fatal.

New waves of technology and communication are hitting shore rapidly. From 1900 to the present, our country, along with the broader developed, has witnessed the following progression: marketplace conversations, newspapers and magazines, the telephone, radio, television, websites, cellphones, blogs, social networks, smart phones, social news, social gaming, podcasts, and the proliferation continues. (I highly recommend this thought provoking analysis.)

Despite the excruciating effects these developments are causing in personal, family, church, and social life, it seems that few believers are being deliberate about walking circumspectly through this modern minefield. Was radio communication a good bandwagon to jump on or not? Television? What about the internet? Social media? The answer to these and other similar questions require answers that are more thoughtful than a simple yes or no. In each case and with each new development ahead, the believer must exercise conscientious caution – not casual caution but serious caution.

While the telephone, radio, and television have provided some good results, these platforms have also opened doors for immeasurable harm to the Christian cause. And while the internet and social media also promise unique and valuable benefits, they also present significant problems and complications that must be addressed by parents, pastors, and any serious minded Christian. Even secular analysis recognizes the need for some serious reflection.

What about you? Do you snatch up the latest gadget just because it’s snazzy and does some incredible stuff? Or do you wait a few months (or longer) to evaluate the pros and cons while the rest of the world rushes past you to who knows where?

Do you dump the details of your life onto some social media platform for the world to see, like everyone else? Or do you stop to consider the risks involved. And if you do consider the risks, do you carefully meditate on Scriptural principles and research safe methods that will enable you to accomplish worthy goals while avoiding destructive consequences at the same time? What if the cons are unavoidable?

Whatever you do, don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes the most cutting-edge thing to do is to slow down and ask a few more questions first, and maybe stay away entirely. In order to take careful steps, be informed, be skillful, don’t waste time, know clearly what God wants you to do, and be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:15-18). These instructions were relevant for the first century church and they are just as relevant today. And if you haven’t followed them prayerfully, you may be stepping on a mine.


Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.


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