Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and dozens more icons for social media sites are found everywhere.

Icons for Facebook and Twitter can be found on screens of popular television programs. News, sports, weather, serials, infomercials and commercials --- they all have them.

Magazines and printed catalogues have them.

Churches have them on bulletins and newsletters.

Social media is a promising communication tool at its best; an opportunity for greater stress at its worst.

Like all tools, promise is fulfilled or broken by those who use the tools. Let neither horror stories scare you off from using these tools nor claims of breakthroughs convince you to use them.

To use a tool:

  • Know what the tool is made to do

Twitter can be used for malicious gossip or it can help keep the user aware of what's going on

  • Learn how to use the tool

Facebook is used to connect, reconnect with friends or be used to further separate the user from direct human contact

  • Know what time and place it is most effectively legally, morally, and least dangerously used

Have you seen the billboards, "Texting while driving kills!" I have had to take to the shoulder of the road to avoid texters...I have also had to avoid those driving drugged by alcohol or other drug, and those falling asleep behind the wheel.

  • Use the tool without forcing it. Forcing can break the tool, hurt you or hurt others.

Churches that use the tool without asking and answering, "Do those we are reaching out to need this communication tool to be used?" are forcing the tool.

  • Use the tool as it is designed to be used (My mother often got mad when my dad used one of our dinner knives as a screwdriver.)

Prayer lists containing names and specific illnesses of individual members and friends of the church is often a misuse of the tool called 'Bulletin' (especially when listing those who have not "personally signed off on" publishing their names). It's an abuse that can have legal consequences. When the law catches up with social media use and abuse, abuse of social media tools will have legal consequences.

Awareness of and practicing of honoring healthy interpersonal boundaries will go a long way to using these tools constructively. Remember Jesus' teaching as found in Matthew 18.