Last week I stumbled upon a fascinating article by John MacArthur entitled “Social Media and Digital Discernment.” In the article MacArthur explores a number of the potentially destructive aspects of social media. As someone who values technology but has also written about the potential pitfalls of it, I recommend the article. It’s a helpful read.
One of the statistics MacArthur cited in his article came from a study in the New York Daily News which found that “80% of normal conversations consist of gossip.” In addition to that shockingly high percentage, MacArthur also added, “Statistics suggest that there are about 700 Facebook status updates and over 600 tweets every second.” When these two variables collide, MacArthur concludes, “Even if some of those [Twitter/Facebook updates] are profitable, that still leaves a lot of empty chatter.”
This recent trend in communication gives new meaning to the Bible’s teachings about the danger of the tongue. Proverbs 10:19, for example, tells us, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” At a time when technological advances have quite literally “multiplied words” by increasing the number of communication outlets available, this verse continues to hold great relevance.
Unlike generations before us, modern forms of communication are a true extension of “the tongue.” Though we are not speaking to someone in person, the ability to e-mail, text or tweet a thought or response with real-time immediacy brings with it the same temptations as natural conversation.
Considering that the Bible offers so many warnings about the danger of the tongue, and that we are now faced with an unprecedented number of opportunities to exercise the tongue (as well as an unprecedentedly massive audience), Scripture provides an important reminder that increased communication is not always a good thing. While I have always believed that, in relationships, the more communication the better, that is not necessarily true. It’s the quality of communication that needs to grow, not the volume.
Ladies, as you well know, we already struggle with gossip. Before Facebook ever existed this has been an area with which women struggled. So while my regular readers are probably sick and tired of reading my posts about the temptations of social networking, I have continued reflecting on this issue because the temptation is so great. We assume that because we have the technology available to us, we should use it. But as intentional Christians, that is not a good reason. God gives us the gifts that we have to be used redemptively and for His glory. According to Scripture, an undiscerning use of the tongue is unlikely to achieve those ends.
So as you continue to examine what it means to live out your faith in a world where you can carry a public audience with you wherever you go in the form of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, I’ll close with this comical yet convicting word from the Bible:
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
– Proverbs 17:28