Social media: The blessings, the woes, by clerics
The Social Media has become a vital part of modern living. Indeed, it is one of the important factors that have made the world a global village. Many people have become so addicted to it that they simply can’t imagine life without it. This is quite understandable, as the social media has made it convenient to connect with the rest of the world without having to leave your small corner. It has also made it easy to be abreast with happenings even in the remotest part of the globe. But like everything else, it also has its many disadvantages despite the positive ones. And because of these abuses, which seemingly outweigh the positive aspect, some people would rather leave it out altogether. Could it be said that such people are throwing away the baby with the bath water?
How can the faithful navigate through the unsteady waters of the Social Media and emerge unscathed? Should believers discountenance the social media? Is it doing more harm than good to the society? CHRIS IREKAMBA (Lagos), NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE (Abuja) and ANN GODWIN (Port Harcourt) report.
‘Christians Must Practise Caution, Especially Young People’
(Archbishop Joseph Ojo, Presiding Bishop, Calvary Kingdom Church, Lagos-Badagry Expressway)
Social Media is one out of the several platforms for information and communication. It is an online means of communication used by a large group of people to share information and develop social and professional contacts. These days, many businesses use it positively to generate sales and advertise their products. Churches also use it as a tool to reach out to their members. When we talk of the worth of a tool, most times, we concentrate on the benefits. So, I would say that the Social Media has its place in positively impacting users’ lives.
For instance, we send series of emails from wherever we are to a desired recipient that may be far away. Nowadays, emails are linked to most of our social media handles and as such, the connectivity knows no bound. We can definitely say that it has done a lot of good.
However, there is the fear of misuse and perversion, which is definitely inevitable. People are bound to abuse whatever is meant for the good. We need to constantly teach and counsel against its abuse. It is called ‘media’ because it is a channel. Once you weigh the worth of a channel, medium, mechanism or avenue, you then decide whether to subscribe or not. So then, it is a matter of choice; just like the print media, one may choose to use it or not. As regards distraction, anything at any time can become a distraction safe God’s Word. So, Christians must practise caution, especially the young ones that can easily be trapped by it and become addicted to it. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil. 4:8)
‘I Navigate Away From Vulgar Materials Since My Religion Frowns On Them’
(Professor Is-haq Akintola, Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, Lagos)
SOCIAL Media does not create any wedge between its user and his/her Creator. It is true that it exposes us to dirty sites, but that is only if you stay glued to a dirty site. I am free to navigate away from vulgar materials, since my religion frowns on them. It depends on social media users. The same Twitter used by a dirty-minded person to stimulate romance is also used by a Dawah activist to remind people of Allah’s omnipresence. After all, the gun manufactured for gaming is also used for committing murder. So, it depends on how things are used.
The reply is: Yes and no. ‘Yes’ because I use Whatsapp to chat with my daughter in the hostel. We chat over many issues for as long as 30 minutes sometimes. It is cheaper that way. And ‘no’ because social media has exposed little children to rough and dirty graphics, sometimes these are sex materials. This is not good enough. I think parents have a role to play here. They should control what their children use. They should partner their kids and share with them beautiful moral stories and make them know the evil in sharing or using dirty materials on social media.
Adults should also let people in their contacts know their preferences. You delete or block a contact that sends unsolicited materials to you. After warning him, others will buckle up. Religious organisations have a lot to gain by maintaining sites on social media. Black Berry and Yahoo Groups afford fast and easy communication. What is important is to ensure that we have an efficient, mature, patient, firm and fair moderator. The rules must be spelt out from day one and recalcitrant violators must be promptly penalised. This is the way to ensure discipline in these loose online relationships.
To a large extent, I agree that social media can be harmful, but that is only for those who cannot control their appetite. Communication on social media is like contact with ghosts, people you hardly meet or may never see. It is also time consuming, but there is no problem, if one knows his/her limits. Chat a little and go back to your books, if you are a student or return to your job, if you are a worker. That is the rule. Nobody awards any certificate to you no matter how long you chat. You have a certificate from your elementary school, another from your secondary school and yet another from the university. But chatters get nothing in return. You cannot use chatting to bag a good job, for instance. So, you must know the limits. Social media can be used for relaxation. It may also be used for business. You just have to know the limits.
‘Social Media Has Certainly Affected
Morals Very Negatively’ (Fr. Evaristus Bassey, Executive Secretary Caritas Nigeria and Director Church and Society Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria)
THE truth about Social Media, like many things in life is that on its own, it is good. God made everything good. It is the use we put these things to that may make them evil. Social media is a form of social communications, and we need social communications to improve society, form opinions and build good attitudes. Good people need to be part of social media and influence it, because of its force for good and evil. In the Catholic Church, the use of any media must be moral, which means it must be intended for good. The moral obligation is on the user, as well as the producer.
Social media certainly has affected morals very negatively. There are certainly numerous abuses. You know the normal mass media have editors, but social media is almost free for all. And in Nigeria, where we have a tendency to engage in high profile verbal terrorism, many Nigerians have the space to display this skill. Many of these media reveal a lot of hate; you simply realise that people are neither that tolerant nor sensitive. In the Catholic guidelines on media, what is published must be true and there must be sensitivity towards any damage to reputation and dignity of individuals and groups. But in Nigeria, there is hardly any such sensitivity. People just don’t care whether they hurt you or not and this is sad.
Social media has come to stay. If you are not there, you are cutting yourself off. Religious groups can take due advantage, but monitor to ensure the content is from them. There are lots of scams on social media. For instance, mischievous people created social media accounts for the Pope and were posting things not said by the Pope. Even Archbishop Kaigama has had three Facebook accounts created using his name. I get people accepting friendship invitations I have not sent. Social media could be dangerous, but is quite useful. Religious organisations should simply get smart at out-smarting mischievous people and use the media to communicate positive values. We can’t neglect it because of the pitfalls.
‘It Has Done Our Society, Family And Nation More Good Than Harm’
(Rev. Mrs. Olayemi Titilope Aderigbe, retired Pastor of Ijero Baptist Church, Ebute Meta, Lagos)
SOCIAL Media refers to computer infused tools that permit individuals or network of people to create, share and exchange large tons of data in virtual communities. The great commission given by our Lord and Saviour Jesus as written in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He has asked us to spread the gospel and we are to determine the medium we employ. Technology advancement has made us drop the use of Camel for the plane. Can we replace airplanes with Camels? Romans 10: 14 goes thus and how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Social Media explains the HOW.
Yes it is just like every other human endeavour. Social media can be referred to as a double-edged sword with its good and bad sides. While it is common to see several anomalies on social media, I believe it has done our society, family and nation more good than harm. Not only has it made information dissemination easier, it has greatly helped in the development of soft skills and values. It is now common to see ladies learning how to tie gele via social media platforms such as YouTube; even self-learning of instruments is not left out). In addition, social media has helped to galvanise citizens’ positive energies towards great cause and this is evident in harshtags such as #BringBackOurGirls and most recently the #FreeEseOruru. It is worthy of mention that social media has provided us with a common front not only in the journey towards societal reformation, but also the creation of a platform for easier proselytisation of Christ gospel.
Unfortunately, Social media also has its bad side. For instance, take the tensions and apprehensions that occur, when a rumour or hearsay is shared on social media. So, I would advise all and sundry to ascertain the veracity of any message or news before they share such on the social media, as this can cause irreparable damage with just a click. It is no longer news that Social media is a raging wave that has defined communications and 21st century lifestyle and as a result, different forces ranging from worldly, satanic injunctions and so on have made their way into this phenomenon.
‘I Correct My Church Members On Facebook, Also Point It Out In Church’
(Prof. Iroelekanya Cyriacus Uwanaka, Presiding Bishop, The Pentecostal Restoration Church, Mafoluku, Lagos)
Christians and churches should use the social media to counter the evil that is multiplying now. When I see ugly things posted on Facebook, such as ugly pictures and abusive languages among others, I correct immediately by putting what should be there. When they abuse some leaders, I react by saying what God says and if it is a vulgar picture, I also react. It is the polluted mind that brings such pictures. And so, whatever a person posts on the Facebook tells you his/her state of mind. For instance, when people misquote the Bible, I quickly react with the aim of correcting such misleading Bible references. I tell them what the Bible says and not mislead people who are also using the social media. If they post what is right, but they want to use politics or propaganda to turn it upside down, I put the correct thing. No matter the political party — PDP, APC, etc., I am not a politician but I know what is right. I wish that people would use the social media to post only the truth and I am surprised that even those in leadership positions post falsehood on Facebook and other people go about believing it as the truth.
Whenever I see my church members posting wrong things on Facebook, I react by correcting them and when I come to church I also point it out. I pray that God helps other men of God because what one sees on Facebook is too ugly, and sometimes I close it for weeks. It is good to use it to spread the gospel, speak the truth and use it to help families that are torn apart. Some families are tearing apart because of what they see and read on Facebook. But using the Facebook as a platform, you can counsel families and others that are watching can take correction and learn from it. I think that is the positive aspect of it. Social Media is good and also very bad because the young ones are learning so much evil from it. And adults that are supposed to correct these young one are also involved in the evil. I want men of God, who live right to talk on Facebook, if they have access to it. Those not living aright haven’t got the moral background to educate the public, especially on social media. People should not use the social media to abuse leaders or those in authority, which is what I see often on Facebook, but you can tell them the truth. Let punishment come from God, if people have erred in one way or the other.
‘Effect Of Social Media On Individuals/
Families Depend On Upbringing’
(Rev. Clem Emekene, General Overseer, Glory Reign Assembly, Port Harcourt)
SOCIAL networking has become such a massive part of our lives, whether we embrace or reject the notion, that it can no longer be ignored. There are numerous gains that are derivable from the social media. There are also many ills that have been afflicted on innocent persons and families via the social media. Through the social media, you can operate from any part of the world, writing your own updates and reading those of others. You can enjoy being able to interact with friends, family, and random strangers online, sometimes in a controlled environment.
For those working at home, this is a big positive. However, what some people would conceive as positives can also be negatives to others. There are no hard and fast rules, when it comes to the effect social networks are having on us all in this day and age. When determining the merit of any act, we need to calculate the gains versus the losses. Many areas of life are concealed. Therefore, to avoid harm’s way, one needs to make an honest assessment. It has never been easier to make friends than it is right now, thanks mainly to social networking sites. Just a few decades ago, it was pretty tough to connect with people, unless you were the overly outgoing type able to make conversation with anyone at a party. The rise of Internet and mobile devices helped to change this.
Now people connect in a new way. Since the social networks sprang up, the whole idea of friendship changed forever. The speed at which our world is changing is truly unprecedented. Social networking sites have a beneficial effect on our way of life. They increase our social interaction and give us more ways to make social connections. As long as the individual remembers and accepts that a decrease in privacy comes with that increased social interaction, then it is a benefit. It stops being a benefit, when people forget about the decrease in privacy and do things through social networking sites that they may not want everyone to see. The onus of the effect that the social media will have on individuals and families will depend upon their upbringing and values cultivated over time before becoming active on social media.
Parents must pass on to their children/wards the right values, otherwise strangers in the online environment will teach them the wrong things. Parents must get involved with their children/wards. They need to know the world of their kids. They need to develop a strong relationship with them before they begin to know their left from their right. Without a strong relationship with our children/wards and/or students, our guidance will have little, if any, impact. Is it advisable for religious organisation to be on the social media? It is not only advisable, but strongly required and highly recommended. Religious organisations should be setting the pace and determining the prevailing agenda for discourse and trending social issues online. The social media provide veritable platforms for disseminating the perspective of their faith and supplying the much-need inspiration that will inspire spiritual growth and commitment. In any case, life abhors vacuum. If people of faith don’t take advantage of the social media, others with dangerous and damaging doctrine will fill the space.
‘Church Can Use It To Build People Morally And Spiritually’
(The Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Ogunmuyiwa, Bishop, The African Church, Diocese of Abuja/The North/National Coordinating Chaplain for Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ecumenical Centre, Abuja)
I BELIEVE social media has its advantages and disadvantages, but it can also be used as a vehicle for the gospel. I am on Facebook, for instance, and I’m using it to spread the good news of our Jesus Christ to the general populace. So, I believe that social media is a very good vehicle to reach as many people as possible, especially the youth. Virtually all the youths are on social media; so if you really want to catch them young, use the social media. It is a good forum to use in catching the young ones.
I know that it has torn many homes apart, but it can also be used to mend the homes and bring people together. It depends on the way you look at it and don’t forget that if many people are making use of it, you can also use it to get the best advantage of it. By so doing, you would have succeeded in mending many homes that have been torn apart. A Christian on his way to heaven should be focused. You can use ungodly instruments to achieve godly purposes. For instance, you have churches in hotels, which are generally used for all manners of immoral activities. But when you plant a church there, you use it to reach out to those going there for ulterior motives. You can use that to change their mind to Christ; same thing applies to social media. I personally feel that since it is a means of communication, reaching out to people just like the television and radio, social media is also a very strong medium to reach out to people. I think the church can use it effectively to mend homes, build people morally and spiritually. The motive of bringing social media could be evil, but if the church take advantage of it, and turn it around, it will come out well. And don’t forget that the church is the light of the world, when we do it in the way that God wants it, you have achieved His purpose. Even on TV, you can also have Christian programmes and if people give their lives to Christ through watching your programme on TV, they can also do the same on social media.
‘We Need Some Level Of Control On The Social Media’
(Imam Fuad Adeyemi, National Chief imam Al-habibiyyah Mosque, Asokoro, Federal Capital Territory (FCT))
IT is what is in vogue right now and anybody who wants to be balanced must know how to use the social media positively. During Prophet Mohammed’s time, what was in vogue was literature. So, what the social media and ICT in general are in vogue now. Anybody claiming to be spiritually inclined must have access to the ICT, especially the social media. The social media has its merits and demerits, but what matters is how it is being used. When you get addicted to it, it is not good for the family. When the Internet came, the Council of Scholars in Saudi Arabia said it is not good for anybody to use it. But the same scholars now send their religious laws and disseminate their own message via the Internet. However, the social media has some terrible side effects. For instance, the issue of the Arab spring started on the social media. So many people have been cheated, killed or kidnapped by friends they met on the social media like the late Asokogu. That is why we need some level of control of the social media. People should priotise and know the things that are important to them. It depends on what an individual uses the social media for. While some people use it to disseminate useful information, there are others who use it to promote immorality. Therefore, we should be careful the way we use the social media and should avoid getting addicted to it.
There is need for government to put in place some regulations to monitor and control what people put on the social media. Also, parents should monitor what their children do on social media platforms. Religious bodies should create special programmes targeting the youths on the social media, where they now spend most of their time. It is highly advisable for religious organisations to be on the social media, if they would be able to adhere strictly to the rules and regulations guiding their faith. They should use the social media as a platform to guide their followers to get close to God and educate their followers that excessive usage of social media is a very dangerous thing. What is referred to, as poison is anything that you do too much. Excessive use of the social media causes distraction. Some people are so addicted to it that the last thing with them on their bed is their phone, when they wake up in the night, it is their phone and when they wake up in the morning, it is also their phone, which drives them away from their spiritual development. They waste the time and intelligence they would have used for more useful things on the social media, forgetting that the person created Facebook is just a young boy, who is now a super billionaire. Why can’t we use the time we spend on the social media to create something better for our communities, the nation and ourselves?