One Christian Apologist’s Advice On Using (anti)Social Media
A quick skim over the comments section on Youtube would reveal that there’s a lot more anti-social to the social media than many people acknowledge. The truth is that people seem almost willing to say anything and everything — even about your family members — while hiding behind a fake name. In addition, there are all sorts of crazy theories finding their audience online. But having a keyboard and an opinion doesn’t mean that we should feel compelled to have to exercise either one at every opportunity. Restraint and self-control are, I think, virtues.
But with the number of people, posts, and pictures flying around in the social media world, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to participate in it. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t take up the bulk of our time or become the object of our waking hours. However, there are some questions we (assuming you’re a Christian apologist reading this) must ask ourselves: What should the role of social media have in the life of the Christian apologist? Should we even have our pinky toe in its polluted waters? Is there any real discussion going on there? How many times should you listen to someone insult your dear mother, using all manner of crude and rude adjectives, simply because you disagree with them?
Three Pieces of Advice (2 Timothy 2:2)
As an occasional, reluctant, sparing user of social media like Facebook, Youtube, WordPress (Duh!), Line, etc., I’ve found that there are scriptural principles that you can adhere to in order to use social media instead of having social media use you. Here’s what I’ve learned. (Feel free to add your own suggestions.)
#1: Limit Your Number of Responses (Titus 3:10)
Don’t ever think that you’re going to be able to answer every objection or complaint that the world is going to throw against the claims of Christianity… especially online. You’d think most of the critics of Christianity and Jesus would have read books like Contra Celsus by Origen and find that almost none of their arguments is new. But experience shows that, no, critics (not all) aren’t usually serious enough about their own objections to do the literary legwork in order to find out whether or not said great, new objection has been enunciated before (and often better) by someone else.
And that’s part of the problem. In the (anti)social media world, you’ll often find yourself dealing with people who aren’t really interested in getting answers, but who are extremely interested in complaining, even half-heartedly so. But a complaint is not an argument. (Besides, as I always tell students, complaining is easy. Anyone can do it. Finding solutions / answers is the difficult part.) And there is no lack of unfulfilled, disgruntled people who think nothing of wasting your time with a random assortment of questions.
So before you let yourself get drawn into an endless back-and-forth with half-hearted complaints and blanket assertions from a critic of Christianity, decide beforehand the number of responses you think the questions / criticism / complaint warrants and, most importantly, don’t let yourself break your rule!
#2: Stay On Topic (1 Timothy 1:4)
Shakespeare, I think, once said, “Rantless comment, rantless comment! My kingdom for a rantless comment!” When you’re interacting online (or trying to), you’re going to come across comments that border on the impossible, like 57 truth claims within 3 sentences. And before you even press “Reply”, another 63 people with the even more truth claims packed in even fewer sentences have already joined in. What might have originally been an interaction on the veracity of radiometric dating soon breaks out into a contest to see how many objections you’re unable to respond to (critics like the word “can’t”) and a test of how much profanity the Google filters will allow. You’re going to get off topic and someone is going to try their best to keep you off it. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself buried, if only virtually, under a pile of Nephilim, UFOs, Ron Paul, assertions about your level of intelligence and insults about every member of your family. Even your pet hamsters will be dragged through the mud. Don’t do it! Stick to one topic. Stay on it. And don’t move on to any other topics until the critic(s) has: (1) acknowledge your response and explanation; (2) shown you their sincerity in interacting with you by doing (1).
#3: When On Youtube, Focus On Content Creators, Not Their Votebots or Lemmings (3 John 9,10)
Whenever using (anti)social media, try to focus on content creators. Avoid, at all costs, interacting solely with their minions. Youtube is notorious breeding ground for lemmings and trolls, which, for all practical purposes, means you’re going to have to endure an endless barrage of reply notifications if you dare venture to join in what can only very loosely be called a “conversation” in the comments section.
There’s a better way!
If you enjoy suffering the great, collective wrath of some highly anti-social people and do dare to comment on a video there, direct your comments towards the person(s) responsible for making or uploading the video, whenever possible. The most effective and practical way is to focus on a mistake or caricature, which often (not always!) forms the foundation of no few atheist and anti-Christian videos. Point out the mistake or caricature (complete with time stamp!), then provide a source for the correction, which would include either a link to another video by a relevant authority or a link to a relevant document.
Don’t avoid social media. There are too many people spending too much time on it. Our call is to proclaim the good news about the life, death, and resurrection of the savior of the world, Jesus, and the coming judgment of the world wherever there are people. So we should go to where the people are, while at the same time never taking for granted or avoiding real-life interaction with real people.
With that in mind, I’ve crafted these tips to help you save time and maintain a balance between society and the (anti)social networks.
From the NAA desk,
content © 2014 Joshua Warren