Most people who are on social media would agree, at least at times, that it’s a love / hate relationship. While it’s great to connect with old friends and keep up with new life events: weddings, babies, travels and more…there are other posts on social media that can rub us the wrong way. Just recently I met someone who I had taken an online college class with and had never met in person; we only recognized each other because of Facebook, so that was fun! But then there are posts from wives awkwardly complaining about their husbands to all 500 of their friends. There are the political posts inviting arguments, and there are the perfectionist posts that make you think I wish I had that…and so on.
Have you noticed how quickly a scroll through your newsfeed can turn into 30+ minutes of staring at the screen? That thing you were just about to do, all of that productivity, is out the window because something shiny on social media has caught your attention. I am definitely guilty of this. My plans to read before bed are often foiled by a quick perusal of social media updates…and by the time I rip my eyes from the screen I’m too tired to read anymore.
Angela (Alcorn) Stump, Randy Alcorn’s daughter, is the women’s ministry director at her church, and she has heard her fair share of social media complaints from the women she ministers to. She has written an article on EPM.org (Eternal Perspective Ministries) titled “3 Things to Remember Before You Post on Social Media.” She wants to “encourage and challenge Christians to examine how we represent ourselves, and most importantly, our Savior, to the online world.”
Here are 3 important things to think about before you post on social media:
1. “Check Your Motives”
Ask yourself, why am I sharing this post, picture, or video? Stump writes,
“Are you posting something for the sole purpose of getting comments to boost your ego or to have people add fuel to a fiery rant you’re getting off your chest? I think it’s fine to want to share a favorite picture, or a funny story, or even be honest about a struggle you’re having—as long as you’re not doing it just to get that pat on the back you think you deserve or insinuating that the “struggle” of trying to decide what’s for dinner tonight is the biggest one you’re facing.”
Sometimes we find that we were really just wanting to vent or worse receive permission from others to vent about whatever situation we had going on. Having people relate to us makes us feel good, but when we’re asking people to relate to us in a negative fashion it ends up hurting everyone involved.
Thankfully if you do post one of these posts with a bad motive there’s always that delete feature! Don’t be afraid to take something down once it’s up. But even better than deleting is stopping to think before you post.
Put a sticky note by your computer:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. …And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” –Col. 3:1-2, 17
And when you’re debating whether you should comment on that annoying post:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” –Col. 3:13-15
Bearing with each other is easier said than done, but if you really feel like someone’s post is inappropriate—and you can say what you need to say out of love—then consider sending them a private message so as not to publically shame them. If they are angry at your message, then maybe it’s time to “unfollow” this person so you no longer have to see their posts in your newsfeed.
2. “Remember Your Audience”
You probably have a set group of people whose posts you follow regularly, family and close friends, but there’s a good chance that your friend list is quite larger than the few you follow. They might not see your posts every day, but your posts will make it in their newsfeeds from time to time. Stump asks us to consider our audience:
- Not everyone is single, or married, or has kids.
- Not everyone who is single is either a) desperately looking for a date, or b) not praying hard enough for one.
- Not everyone who is married is living happily ever after.
- Not everyone who has children is loving being a parent every second of the day.
- Not every woman works and not every woman stays at home.
- Not everyone has enough money to go out to dinner every week...or at all.
- Not everyone who has extra spending money wants to or should spend it the same way you do.
This doesn’t mean that you can never post anything happy or sad etc., but it does mean checking your motive (why am I posting this) and asking who will see it (would this greatly upset one of my friends going through something hard right now, or how would someone who is not spiritually mature interpret this?).
Everyone is at a different place in their lives, and many people have hidden insecurities and struggles. Our words and pictures can encourage others, but they also have the power to discourage. Stump offers this advice: “Be sensitive. Be gracious. Be considerate. Be kind.” May we reflect on these verses and many others to help us understand the power of our words:
- “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Col. 4:6
- “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.” – Eph. 4:29
- “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Prov. 15:4
- “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Prov. 15:28
- “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” –Matt. 15:11
3. “No Really: Consider Your Audience”
I have non-Christians in my friends list, and while they may ignore many of my posts they will read some of them. What I don’t want is for someone to look at something I’ve posted and think I don’t want to be a Christian if they’re all like that… To help us avoid this, we have to ask ourselves if I weren’t a Christian would I understand this, if I weren’t a Christian how would I interpret this, would I be offended?
One thing to understand is that the gospel is naturally offensive to non-believers; who Jesus is and what he did is offensive to a self-centered soul. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post about the gospel, but it does mean that the words you use to promote, explain, or share the gospel should not be hurtful or fueled by anger. Someone should be able to read your post and see that what you’re writing is out of love, whether they agree with it or not.
They should be offended by the gospel, not by you. You might be tempted to battle it out with them in the comments section, but that won’t do any good…God doesn’t need you to fight his battles, he’s more than capable. He wants you to bear his image, which means that in your words and deeds you reflect the new life Christ has given you. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Gal. 5:22-23
This may seem like an impossible challenge since people are at an all time high for being sensitive and getting offended. Some toughening up would do us all some good; I think about the way that Jesus never got offended when those religious leaders and strangers said unbelievably rude things to him. Whereas I’d probably be fuming or crying in a corner… But I also think about the way that Jesus approached people, his patience with those who did not understand, and his willingness to engage in conversation and even eat meals with those whom society looked down upon.
“It may not seem that way, but every picture, every status update, every comment you post is a representation of Christ to those who don’t know Him. There are people who are curious as to what Jesus is all about and are waiting for an opportunity to see His truth and love in your life. But unfortunately, there are also people who are watching and waiting for an opportunity to say “and that is why I’m not a Christian.” Please don’t give them more ammunition with careless words or angry rants. (And if you do make a mistake, be willing to own up to it and ask for forgiveness! That kind of honesty and humility may be what draws them to the Lord.)”
People respond to humility because it goes against everything they think you will do or say in an angry response. Show them that your life is different because of Jesus, and that nothing they can say will change that. Don’t let someone else’s words change what you know to be true. People will want you to get angry, they will expect it, and they will be waiting to point the finger at you in shame for not representing what you preach. Don’t give them that chance. And when it comes to disagreements, a conversation in person is much better. People are more likely to listen and be respectful when it’s in person rather than hiding behind a screen.
“Bottom line: before people can hear truth from you, they have to trust that you care about them regardless of if they ever agree with you. Are you “speaking truth in love” or are you just irritated that people don’t make the same choices you do? Remember that as Jesus was being crucified He prayed for His torturers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Is that our attitude towards unbelievers, or even to Christians who are walking in sin? Do we pray for them and do our hearts break for them? Speaking the truth in love is gut-wrenching. It should bring you to your knees, not to 30 seconds on your keyboard and a click of the mouse.”
To read Angela Stump's article in its entirety please visit EPM.org.
Not only are we to think about what we're posting but why we're posting it. Next time your frustration flairs up on social media, pause before commenting or posting; then check your motive and your audience. Pray right then and there for the person who annoyed you, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you show grace just as you have been shown grace. Don't let comparison trap you eiher; pray for yourself if someone else's post has brought a struggle of yours to light. Whatever you're feeling, take it to God and worship him; thank him that he is the center of your life now.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/golubovy
Publication date: July 24, 2017
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.