Social Media: Friend or Foe?

I continue to be amazed by the power of social media.   I recently reconnected with a colleague to whom I had not spoken nor have seen in over 20 years. Suddenly we reconnected with one another (through a posting to a mutual friend). Last night I sat down and caught up with the past 2 decades of his life. I suspect we will continue to be in contact.  Through this same communications medium I remain in contact with people from my past in terms of schools I attended and jobs I have held over 40 years. I even meet new “friends” in whose presence I have never been without a digital interface.

It was through social media we found out that our son had a girl friend (a changed Facebook status!)  We use it to follow events in other parts of the country and the world. It promotes social causes, raises consciousness about issues and is a very useful tool.

But people also use this same media to get personal information that can identify a house where the owners are not home, or details of another’s life that can be used against them, or used to steal identity. Many have found that pictures posted on-line are never very far away even for potential employers to find years later.

Social media can be a way to bully others, to promote disinformation, to create scams which steal money and identities. It can also steal time and energies from ourselves. I cannot recall the number of times I sit down to do one thing and an hour later have not done it but have poked around the media looking at this, commenting on that, catching up on trivial matters while neglecting to do what is crucial.

Some people become so involved in the social media that they forget how to be social person to person. Others prefer to hide on the other side of a screen and relate only through the digital intermediary. It can become a way to hide and only reveal what I want of myself or to create a new on-line self that fools me as well as others.

Social media is not a savior nor is it evil. It is a tool, that can help us stay in contact, provide information and education – all positive uses. But like any tool it can be used in ways that alienate or destroy, that cheat, steal and lie. We must be the master of the medium and choose to use it wisely and well. It is not just the other of whom we have to be wary, but also of own use of it – to make sure that we keep it perspective and allocate our time and energies according to our values and priorities.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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