Social Media & The Power Of Words

Posted by Todd Linn, PhD on November 2, 2021

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!”  That’s the childhood mantra we repeated to our enemies on the playground, believing that if we only said those words long enough or loud enough somehow they might become true. 

We’ve long since learned that while the phrase is admittedly catchy, it is otherwise entirely useless in protecting us from the stinging darts of harsh words.

As a minister for many years I have learned about the damage my words can do when they are not well thought out or carefully chosen.  There have been those times I felt like the guy who said he only opened his mouth to change feet.  Can you relate?!

I know I’m not alone in this. Just check out Twitter and Facebook–or scroll to the bottom of any online news story if you dare and read the poisonous entries in the “Comments” section.

We must remember that influence can be used both positively and negatively.  Indeed, the power of words channeled through the ubiquitous presence of the internet has the potential to encourage or destroy; to build people up or tear people down. 

King Solomon lived a long time before bloggers and negative social media influencers of the web, but he certainly knew a thing or two about word power.  In fact, he wrote a lot of words about words. 

In Proverbs 18:21, for example, Solomon wrote that “the tongue has the power of life and death.”  That is, you can use words for good or bad. 

Here’s another one: “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18). 

And my personal favorite: “Where words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19).”

I don’t know about you, but I know my fallen nature all too well.  I know how easy it is in the heat of the moment to write something “really clever” or really cutting only to regret it later.  The problem is, once we hit “submit” on our keyboards, it’s all over.  We can no more easily take back what we have written than we can get toothpaste back into the tube. 

How thankful I am that God continues to forgive my blunders through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Let’s remember what Solomon said: “He who holds his tongue is wise.”  If we’ll hold our tongues we’ll be wise—and we’ll keep our feet out of our mouths, too.


Other Resources:

A recent Sunday School Lesson at our church was on this topic, here are some stats and suggestions:

Statistics
• The average user checks their phone 63 times/day
• 86% of smartphone users will check their device while speaking with friends
and family
• 58% of smartphone users don’t go one hour without checking their phones.
• 71% of smartphone users sleep with or next to their phones.
• 44% of smartphone users admit to have been woken up by the noise from their
phones
• 87% of smartphone users check their phone within an hour of waking or going
to sleep
• 84% of US working adults use their personal phones during working hours
• 75% of users admit they have texted at least once while driving
• Hours spent on smartphone: 3 – 4hrs/day
• Hours spent on Social media: 70 minutes/day
• Conservative estimate classifies nearly two-thirds of all phone users as phone
addicts.

Consider:

  • Turning off all nonessential push notifications
  • Deleting expired, non-essential and time-wasting apps
  • Keeping your phone out of the bedroom at night
  • Using a real alarm-clock instead of your phone to keep your phone out of
    your hands in the morning
  • Guarding your morning disciplines and evening sleep patterns by muting
    notifications one hour before bedtime to a time when you can expect to
    be done with morning disciplines
  • Using self-restring apps to help limit your smartphone use
  • Recognising that much of what you respond to quickly can wait.
  • Responding to emails from a computer at set times in a day though you
    may need to read emails on your smartphone
  • Invite friends, family and your spouse to offer feedback on your
    smartphone usage
  • Leaving your phone out of sight when eating with your family members or
    friends,
  • Leaving your phone in a drawer or your car or simply turning it off when
    you are spending time with family or when you’re at church.
  • A digital detox at strategic moments in your life and recalibrating your
    ultimate priorities. Step away from social media at different points in a
    day, a day in a week and a few weeks/year
  • Family values
    a. Using screens for a purpose, and using them together, rather than
    aimlessly and alone
    b. Spouses have one another’s passwords, parents have total access to
    children’s devices
    c. Show up in-person for big life events

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