Social media can be really fun. It’s a great way to connect with friends who live far away, see cute pictures of your nieces and nephews, and view a friend’s vacation photos. Online forums do, however, have a dark side, with which we are probably all familiar if we interact online at all.
This is perhaps especially evident because this is an election year. Sometimes it seems that Facebook and other social media outlets are simply a long list of peoples’ bitter, cynical, angry opinions.
And Christians definitely aren’t immune to becoming part of the fray. Whether it’s politics, theological issues, church, family, or numerous other topics, we all like to have our opinions heard, and often we don’t think them through well enough.
That is why Natalie Walker at Relevant wrote a post titled “Why I Stay Silent on Important Issues Online.”
Walker writes that it took being unplugged from social media for a time in a remote location to realize how harmful some online reactions can be.
She writes about the “echo chamber” many of us create when we quickly post emotional responses to news headlines or others’ opinions.
“Despite our best intentions to share convictions that we hold deeply, a post written in the heat of emotion may come across as judgmental towards the people who know us, love us and are already grieving the hurts of the world right alongside us,” she says.
As Christians, we are particularly called to use our words for good.
Ephesians 4:29 admonishes us: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The 21st century provides particular challenges to living out this verse; namely, through our online interactions.
Walker suggests using our online presence to extend grace to others. Sometimes, this may even mean not posting anything at all.
Often, people may view silence on important issues online as apathy, but instead, let your silence mean that you are looking to open doors of more in-depth, face-to-face communication later. Silence online may also allow you time to research an issue more.
After all, anyone can have (and post!) an opinion, but it is much more difficult to “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6), or even to refrain from jumping into an argument at all.
We must remember that our goal is ultimately not to win arguments, but to be good witnesses for Christ. Many times, this will mean choosing carefully when and how we post online.
Crosswalk.com contributor Rachel Dawson writes in “Social Media Mistakes Church Leaders Should Never Make” that “There are few arguments that can be won in 140 characters.”
Instead, seek to open doors to have more genuine, heartfelt conversations with others, encouraging them to seek the truth instead of becoming enmeshed in endless fruitless arguments.
How can you use your online presence to show Christ’s love this week?
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: September 28, 2016
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com