Introduction: Detox, Discern, Decide
With Unfriend Yourself, Kyle Tennant has written a how-to guide for the Christian who wants to prevent social media from being a hindrance to one’s life and faith. The book is designed to be used as a tool to help someone go on a Facebook fast. Tennant hopes that the reader will gain a basic understanding of communication theory. He describes a three-step process during this Facebook fast. These steps include: detox, discern, and decide.
First, Tennant shows how four promises social media makes are negatively affecting us and our relationships. He also shares the danger that comes when you are isolated. Many people, who need personal contact and don’t have it, will “stalk” their friends, family, and others online.
Next, Tennant notes how “friends” on Facebook are not really friends. They are acquaintances. They are people whom one has “friended” on Facebook. Yet, only people whom one has had an actual contact in the real world were friends.
Importantly, Tennant makes the important distinction between network and community. A community needs bodies. When the network becomes based upon the self (as Facebook and other social media networks do), then it becomes increasingly difficult to love others (1 Peter 1:22, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Colossians 3:14).
I agree with Tennant that clearly, we have a problem when we seek community on a medium that is more about us than it is about others.
The Bible teaches that community by definition has been physical from the beginning (Genesis 1:27). As Christians, we are called to meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25), and greet one another (Romans 16:16, 1 Peter 5:14). In 2 John 12, the apostle sought personal contact with the church community.
Consuming Social Media Responsibly
Helpfully, Tennant suggests ways to deal with social media responsibly. He suggests managing your Facebook usage by learning to be your own master. One can learn to use supplements “supplementally.” In other words, use Facebook to supplement relationships, but not as a replacement. Spend time face-to-face with people as much as possible (2 John 12, 3 John 13-14). Avoid being “just”. In other words: stop using the following ways to relate to others:
“I’ll just text him.”
“I’ll just shoot her a message.”
“I’ll just write on his wall.”
He shows a scale of caring for those in need, or “relational responsibility.” The more “digital” the method, the least desirable. On the other hand, the more “face-to-face” the method, the more desirable. From worst to best it goes like this: text, then social media, email, a handwritten card, a phone call, and finally an in-person visit.
Tennant shares that social media has an agenda: to get you to talk about yourself. Self-presentation + sinful self = self-promotion. Therefore, a Christian should use filters when they post on social media. These filters include:
FILTERS FOR MY SOCIAL MEDIA POSTING, TWEETING, AND UPDATING
1. Encouragement Filter – Will what I write here build someone up? Or will it be malicious, boastful, and slanderous (Ephesians 4:29)
2. Care Filter – Are my words careless or careful? (Matthew 12:36, James 1:19, Proverbs 13:3)
3. Praise Filter – Are my posts and tweets good, honorable, praiseworthy? (Philippians 4:8)
4. Discernment Filter – Are my posts and tweets tested and spiritually proofread to see if it is wise to write? (Ephesians 5:15-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:21)
5. God-glorification Filter – Are my posts and tweets glorifying to God? (Colossians 1:15-16)
Finally, Tennant ends with a great summary. As Christians, we should approach social media:
My hope is that we become a generation that questions technology, that chooses to fight for friendships and relationships, and that seeks to use these ever-more-present technologies as opportunities to glorify God. Social media is a great tool—a tool we must subdue, and not be subdued by.
For Christians who have difficulty using social media, this book provides help. I encourage every Christian to read this book for it will guide how one can use social media responsibly.
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