Social media advice for seminarians

Social media advice for seminarians July 10, 2012

This comes from the good folks over at Jesus Creed, my blog neighbor here at Patheos, and while it’s not specifically geared toward Catholic seminarians, its truths are universal and offer some old fashioned common sense:

Social media has changed the way we interact with one another. Sometimes it is for the good, sometimes not. As a seminary prof who happens to be chummy with his students on Facebook as well as following a few on Twitter, I’ve noticed some things that concern me. It is not that I am terribly surprised by what I see, but given who it is coming from I have some reason for worry and concern because I care for my students and want the best for them. So in this post I want to give some advice to seminarians out there—advice that probably applies just as well to college and university students in general.

1. If you are going into ministry, you are an example.

Most seminary or Bible college students are already in ministry or have spiritual influence over some of their peers. If you use social media you are inviting an extra spotlight on your life and you need to take that seriously as an ambassador of Christ. Be wise and think before you post that video, that link, etc.

2. You are giving a green light for others to do as you do.

If you are constantly playing Facebook games while in class, having constant Facebook chats in class, and complaining about other students or your professors on Twitter, you are modeling how others, especially youth, can act. Once you are out there in ministry, don’t you want the people in the pews to actually listen to you? People in your Bible study to actually engage with you? Model respect so that others in your circle of influence can do the same.

There is also such a thing as too much funny. Remember, your social media persona is a snapshot of who you are and may be the primary way people interact with you. If ALL they see are jokes, funny videos, funny pics, etc. people may wonder “Is she every serious?” The opposite is true too—if you are dead serious about everything, and if every post you make is a mini-sermon of judgment, then you’ll be viewed as too serious. Find the right balance.

3. Cut the complaining.

As Christians who are willingly putting the social media spotlight on ourselves, we need to be upright in our conduct and speech. Complaining about life and particularly about classes, teachers, parents, etc. not only sheds a bad light on you and your heart, but it is also a sin. “Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9). There is a tendency to go and air out our grievances on Facebook or Twitter when something really annoys us or when we feel we have been wronged. Resist that temptation. Leave the judgment up to God. This does not mean you can’t share your opinions or do social commentary about the world, but do so in a way that shows respect and exhibits integrity.

4. You may be burning relationship bridges.

If you’re in seminary you are not only learning from your professors but you are also building relationships with them, with the entire school, and with your peers. Your professors, all of the staff, and your classmates can and will be a resource for you in the future. But if you become that student who complains about everything on his blog you will quickly be burning relationship bridges. And do not think to yourself “I only complain about one teacher.” Guess what? Your professors talk to one another. Our calling as seminary profs is to partner with God to form you and equip you to be the best minister you can be for His kingdom. Which means we talk about you, we pray for you, and we collectively share the joy of your triumphs and successes. But we also get collectively irked over your social media rants. And for some of your peers, the majority of the interaction they have with you may be social media. And these same people may well be partners in ministry with you later in life. How do you want them to know you? As the complainer? As the person who talks about inappropriate things on Facebook? Or as the person who writes thoughtful comments, makes them laugh, and whose speech is upright before God?

There’s much more. Check it out.

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