In other faith traditions, we hear about the seven deadly sins. These are considered sins that literally and spiritually lead unto death. Various authors and writers in recent years have drawn links between popular social media platforms and the tendency of each one toward various sins.
As more young people—and people of all ages—spend increasing time on social media, I wish to echo and expand upon this conversation. Here are the seven deadly sins, and the social media platform I think most closely links to it.
Wrath & Twitter—U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska recently said, “I took seven months off from Twitter and (upon returning) almost forgot that we’re supposed to hate each other.” What Senator Sasse observes is that Twitter’s defining mood is rage and wrath. As Christians, we are, instead, called to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).
Sloth & YouTube—Cats playing piano. Movie clips. Silly homemade videos. The social media video giant YouTube is home to millions of videos—some good, many worthless—in which a person could spend endless time consuming and viewing. YouTube can uniquely turn into a time trap, and Christians are called to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16).
Lust & Snapchat—As one of the most popular social media platforms among teens, this app supposedly lets people send texts, photos and content to people that disappears after a few seconds. This illusion of temporariness has given rise to opportunities for sexually explicit material being sent, and has become an incubator for inappropriate content. Of all social media, this is the one to be shunned (Mark 9:47).
Envy & Instagram—With glorious vacation photos, perfect-looking families and picture-perfect moments abounding, Instagram has become one of the fasting growing social media sites. While it does not have the discord of Facebook or Twitter, it does often lead people toward envying one another. When people can see only the perfection, not the imperfection and struggle, envy may be nearby (Gal. 5:26).
Greed & LinkedIn—People are creative when drafting their resumes, and the social media platform LinkedIn is one giant networking event. While people ought to work hard and earn a living for their family and the glory of God, we need to remember the poor and vulnerable and not elbow others out of the way, so we can win in our careers (Heb. 13:5).
Gluttony & Pinterest—From home décor to fancy cuisine, Pinterest is home to a lot of creative content. At the same time, it can become a celebration of luxury or excess. Terms like “food pornography” are used to describe meals that inflame the appetite. While the social media tendency toward gluttony is probably the least potent, Christians must guard against disordered appetites (Prov. 25:16).
Pride & Facebook—It has been said that pride is the parent of all sin, and Facebook is the king of social media. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said that people have a craving not just to be right, but to be seen to be right. Facebook shows this. Think of the average Facebook argument, post or pic, and it often devolves into someone taking pride in themselves. Most of us are on Facebook and most of us are given to pride. Ask the LORD to give you a spirit of humility, including online (1 Pet. 5:5).
While these social media outlets offer much good and opportunities in the world—and the platforms are only as good or bad as the people using them—Christians must be aware of the tendencies and leanings of each one, even as we try to be salt and light on them. Jesus said “go and sin no more,” and that extends to our deadly sins on social media, too.