And may every place and company we are in be benefited by us.
~The Valley of Vision (217)
As I closed the prayer these words hit hard, a blunt force trauma to my sin-sick heart. Is every place I go benefited because I am there? Is the company I keep better off because I am keeping it? Tough questions, to be sure. Tougher still when I direct them to my internet presence.
Last spring, the Holy Spirit began to tug at my heart with the words of 1 Thess. 4:11-12: and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. I began praying about a quiet life and what it might entail. I diligently sought to live a quiet life, both on screen and off. I would make progress only to backslide under the weight of temptation. When the dust settled, my heart would turn its course back toward the quiet life. The thought of it captivated me, luring me like a siren. In April I retired my blog and started a new one to chronicle my pursuit of a quiet life, its pitfalls and rewards. It is a small, quiet corner of the internet and it suits me perfectly well. I pray it is a benefit to anyone who stops long enough to read.
While I have taken pains to make my blog home a place that might bless others, I wonder if the same could be said of my online interaction as a whole. My comments, status updates, and tweets - do they benefit others or are they the mark of a soul bent on self-promotion and validation? Does my public discourse highlight me or God?
As I've considered these things over the course of the week I've realized anew that living a quiet life that brings glory to God alone is tricky business when it comes to social media which, by its very nature, feeds our inner narcissist. Still, I believe that with God's grace, Christians can use social media to benefit the virtual company we keep.
We should use 1 Corinthians 10:31 as our guideline, but there no one-size-fits-all solution. For me (for now, at least), I will focus on benefiting others by not being a distraction to them. That means no more adding to a conversation (or starting one, for that matter) just to "hear myself talk". Instead, I will seek to make substantive contributions and cut down on the meaningless chatter that draws attention to me rather than the Lord.
Now, Reader, I'm interested in your thoughts. What could you do to benefit the place you occupy and company you keep on the internet?