Social media can be good and bad

Published 9:45pm Friday, June 24, 2011

The Anthony Weiner episode begged the nation’s attention these last weeks. The congressman once seemed to have a bright future. I remember seeing him on TV, and though his and my political persuasions differ, he was well-spoken and passionate. Now he’s relegated to the political dust heap with no apparent means of resurrection.

I don’t think most folk have animosity toward Rep. Weiner, but hope for his sake and for his family’s that he will overcome and move on. But the Weiner story alerted us to a new category of misconduct.

The Boston Globe reported in a story titled, “Your Tweeting Heart,” that “it has become clear that social networking has radically altered the way people initiate relationships, flirt, and, sometimes, get into trouble.”

I was at a Harvard conference last week and the big news in Boston was the indictment of the former speaker of the Massachusetts state house. He was convicted in federal court of influence peddling in state computer contracts. Local news reported that Speaker DiMasi was the third consecutive house speaker to leave office under an ethics cloud.

I suppose it’s easier to understand stealing money or underreporting income tax or even physically attacking an enemy than to understand the Weiner case.

The whole social media world is still a bit mysterious to me. I bought a cell phone fairly recently and most often absent-mindedly leave it at home or in the car. The current generation, however, has hands on all the time texting or checking messages.

But to take photos of oneself in questionable poses and send them online to people you don’t even know is beyond comprehension. This episode underscores the old adage that everything God made is good, but man tampers with them and they become bad.

Modern media are a good thing. They’ve made research easier and teaching better and worldwide communication possible.

And churches use the media in creative ways. I used to get a dozen or more church newsletters every week. Now many churches have traded in the photocopy machine for the web, or transformed the weekly newsletter into a glossy monthly magazine. The younger generation doesn’t look forward to picking up the daily newspaper as my generation does, so using the web to communicate with them is necessary. But the Internet and social media can be a bad thing if used to extort money, bully, or feed sexual lust. Followers of Christ have a higher standard.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22). In other words, if it looks bad, run.

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