We have all heard the line, "think before you speak." While, social media might be typing and not speaking I think the same wisdom should be applied, especially in such emotionally intense and divisive times.
I've written about this before. I said things like...
"We are very good at hiding behind keyboards to debate politics in the name of Christianity but at the cost of the Gospel."
"I have a love/hate relationship with social media... you might think that I think it’s all bad but I don’t. I don’t think social media is a bad thing. It’s just a thing, it’s not good or bad, how you use it determines that."
But those were from serious posts, well, mostly serious. I thought this time we could have a little bit of fun mixed in with me offering unsolicited advice. So here we go.
1. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face don't post it online.
That's called bullying. It's not nice. Don't do it. And don't think that just because you didn't mention their name that it's cool. It's not. Even if they deserve the mean thing, or the rant, or the shade what good will it do? None. It won't do any good. You will think it made you feel better but that feeling will only last for a second then you will realize all you did was escalate a situation. So don't post the mean thing. Don't stoop to that level. You are better than that. (Pro Tip: if need be type out all the horrible things you want to say to get them out of your system and then just delete them. Repeat, delete them. Do Not Post Them.)
2. Don't make general statements that will hurt individual people.
Okay, we all have a right to our beliefs and our opinions and I am all for sharing them. But often we make these big, broad statements (usually about politics) and we forget that real people are on the other side of our opinion. So sometimes, it might be best, just maybe, to not say anything at all. "But I have freedom of speech!" Yeah, I know. But perhaps it would be better to have personal conversations with individuals rather then share that incendiary statement. Conversations are a lost art. We need more conversations about issues where we talk a bit and then, here's the kicker, actually listen to the other person with compassion and empathy, and then we talk a little more. I think conversations will get more done than those big posts. Plus, a bonus of a conversation is that the other person can see your face and hear your voice and perhaps feel your patience, grace and love. They can't get any of that from characters on a screen. You might think they can but they can't. It's too easy to ignore the fact that you are a nice person who might actually care about them from a screen. And before you say well, they know me so they should know...you do it too. You forget someone's heart while reading the screen. So...personal conversations for the win!
3. Don't get wrapped up in all the drama.
Like, our world and our lives are full of drama. But some of the problem is we like to focus on the negative. Let's stop doing that. Again, don't ignore that bad stuff in the world that needs to be addressed, but balance it out with some cat videos or something. When all we look at is the negative it affects us, it skews our perspective and changes our attitudes which then affect our choices. So find some positive news to share.
4. Don't believe everything you see on social media.
People lie. There really are fake news sites. It's called click bait and they just want you to like and click and share so they make money. Also if its not verifiable news don't "share it just in case." Take the extra minute to verify. Let's not add to the negative noise.
5. Don't share EVERYTHING you see/read.
Okay, we've all been there. We see something and it's funny, we share. Cool. We see something and it's interesting, we share. Cool. We see something and it warns others of danger, we share. Cool. But you don't need to share everything. Not everything is funny, interesting, or necessary to others. So ask yourself if this was worth sharing. Maybe come up with a system, like if on a scale of 1-10 you find it a 9 in laugh production then share, if it was only a 2 then maybe not. If I'm friends with you on social media I want to connect with you, and here your thoughts and hear about your life, not just see twenty million cooking videos.
6. Don't add people to groups without their permission.
Okay, this one might just be me. But don't add people to groups without asking them first. Invite them to your group, sure. Share your group in your newsfeed and let people know what it's about and how to join if they want to. But don't just add them. Then they have all these groups and they don't know what they are and it gets overwhelming. (PS: if you added me to a group there's no hard feelings, I still love you. You didn't know, heck, I didn't even know how much it throws my OCD out of whack. We're cool. If I added you to a group in a moment of weakness you have my deepest and sincerest apologies.)
7. Block the haters.
If someone or their newsfeed is toxic to you, unfollow them. Don't make a thing about it. Don't announce it to the world. Just add a point of separation. You'll have more peace in your life without seeing all the stuff they post that makes you mad or hurts your feelings. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I'm not saying unfriend everyone who thinks differently then you, we need to be open to other people's points of view, but if it's making you an unhealthy level of stressed, angry or sad then it's okay, we understand. Sanity is important.
8. Ask yourself if what you are presenting to the world is helpful.
I'm not saying everything has to be profound and life-changing. But I remember Lisa Bevere talking about the need to "pastor" her social media. That struck a cord with me. We may not all be pastors but for those reading who are Jesus-followers you are a representative of Christ to those around you, even online. You won't be perfect but I think we can all try a little harder to make sure the things we are saying online aren't deterring people from hearing the Gospel. I don't mean you have to always be sharing the Gospel online but if you are saying you are a Jesus-follower but showing hate, meanness, impatience, rudeness, selfishness, etc all the time (or most of the time) those can hurt our witness. Again, you aren't going to be perfect and that is 100% okay but we can try to make sure, as much as is possible, that what we post, tweet, snap and Instagram doesn't give people the wrong idea about Jesus. Simply asking ourselves if our feed would make someone want to be introduced to Jesus or not could do wonders. Maybe even ask why you are posting/sharing/tweeting what you are about to. Is it to throw shade? Is it because your angry or afraid? Is it from selfish motives if you are really honest? Is it prideful? Or is it good, and noble, and pure, and honest, and loving, and kind, and thankful, and gracious...I don't think i need to go on. You get it.
So, there you have my thoughts, or tips, or opinions on what/how to think before you post. Social media doesn't have to be the monster that drives us all to the edge of sanity. If we take a little time, use a little wisdom, it can be a glorious tool for connecting, building relationships and helping others.
What are your tips on using social media for the good? Or even your pet peeves. Comment them below, but remember to be nice, please.