Should Christians switch to alternative social media?

20 Jan

With the banning of President Trump from some social media platforms, the call to move to alternative applications has significantly increased. Platforms such as MeWe, Parler and Gab have attracted those who feel the more traditional options are suppressing free speech, or that they have some sort of hidden agenda.

Should Christians leave the more established platforms and plant themselves in these newer social media options?

To begin with, we should ask ourselves why we’re on social media. What’s the purpose? Should Christians be on social media at all? (And if you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest watching the docudrama, The Social Dilemma.) If you’ve reflected on this question, and feel that you’re using social media in a manner which is appropriate as a follower of Jesus, then it makes sense to ask if some platforms are a better place for you to be.

One of the major concerns with all social media is how they keep us engaged. Social media often becomes an echo chamber, reinforcing conclusions we already support (even if we’re wrong), and then takes us further down the rabbit hole, because frankly, that’s what keeps you and I on their sites. We can somewhat control this by managing our feed, and practicing discernment with what we read or like. But if we’re not thoughtful and intentional, the echo just gets louder and the rabbit hole just gets deeper. If a particular platform leads to this more, we should be especially cautious.

Then there’s the censorship issue. This is currently the biggest reason many people, including Christians, have cited for moving over to the alternative platforms. Certainly, we need to be cautious of censorship. We should be grateful that we live in a country where we can freely share the message of Christ (and hopefully we actively take advantage of this freedom). Censorship can be dangerous as it can be used to impose values on or control people’s thoughts. When it comes to things like religious freedom, censorship should be challenged.

Are Parler and similar platforms better places because they avoid censorship?

Well, not necessarily. Ironically, a site that is an echo chamber attracting a set group of people, even though built on advocating non-censorship, can end up accomplishing the very thing it is saying it’s avoiding. It effectively censors ideas its like-minded members don’t agree with.

I’d also add that sometimes censorship is appropriate. In law, there are essentially nine categories of unprotected speech.1

Paul gives us something that rules these out for the Christian in one sentence: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)

So, should Christians move to alternative social media sites?

It depends.

First, if a social media platform doesn’t ban and censor the kinds of free speech above, the Christian should seriously ask if it is profitable for them to be spending time there.

Second, if social media is causing you to be angry, or act in ways not consistent with Christian character, then perhaps you should consider abandoning it all together.

Finally, go back to your purpose for using social media. Why are you there? Are you there for news? Are you there for your hobby group? Are you there to brag about your lifestyle? Are you there to witness? Are you there to engage thoughtful ideas and have discussion? Are you there to post memes which may drive non-believers away from your witness? Are you just there to see your grandkids pictures? Whatever it is, just make sure that your reasons are consistent with who you want to be in Christ.

1 – While I’ve taken some college courses in law, this is outside my expertise. I can’t recall the origins of this list, so my apologies to the person who shared it with me for not giving credit. If I find it. I’ll share.

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