I have mixed feelings about social media. It is a blessing, for sure (for instance, a lady like myself can start her own blog, publish her own posts, and call herself a “writer”. Thank you, internet!).
But it can also be a mixed bag of weirdness and drama and unnecessary ridiculousness.
And while I don’t imagine I have the wisdom to speak to the world at large on this subject, I can at least target one group of internet users and abusers: Christians.
My peeps, if you will.
A few days ago, I was contemplating how exciting it is to be able to interact with almost anyone via the web. Have a new favorite author? Entertainer? Someone whose music you admire?
Where just a few decades ago we were resigned to writing fan mail and sending it to addresses we knew Justin Timberlake did not actually live at, praying that somehow his assistant would read it and be struck by its contents before making sure JT saw it with his own eyes, today, we can simply ‘like’ that person on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, and, miracle upon miracles, its like we’re friends, y’all.
And if that person is too launched into fame to actually have time to respond to our little one-liners or even ‘like’ them, we can at least have a glimpse into their every day activities and get a better idea of what they are like as “real” people. I would have died of happiness to know what sandwich Justin was eating for lunch 14 years ago, but (sniffle, sniffle), I just didn’t even know, you guys.
Life was so hard back then.
But I digress.
In the Christian realm, I think this blessing grows exponentially, and it has been a huge thrill for me to interact with my favorite Christian authors and speakers on facebook or through e-mail, to learn more from them, and to have the opportunity to tell them how they have spurred me on in the Christian faith.
Therefore it has been absolutely distressing for me to witness the jabby responses, the unnecessary rudeness and the unsolicited responses and advice that some “believers” are habitually spewing across the internet, especially in the comment threads of influential brothers and sisters who have been kind enough to allow us into their lives.
I am blessed here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary, mostly because my readership is so small, and the only people who really want to read what I have to say seem to agree with me across the board. You might not love the fact that I accidentally dressed up like a witch last Halloween, but…water under the bridge, right? (Right?…)
However, I am shocked sometimes by the things I read in the comments section of other blog posts or in response to even the most innocent and light-hearted facebook status updates.
The commenters obviously consider themselves to be devout and of the Christian faith – I can tell by their language – but their tone can be so very condescending, sometimes laced with bitterness, sometimes dripping with cruel sarcasm, and most of the time, completely inapplicable and utterly off-the-mark. They misread the author, and then in their haste to respond, they wound the original source, they enrage a host of other readers and they make themselves look like arrogant, unfeeling, out-of-touch…meanies! And the sad part is, I bet most of them are pretty nice people in real life.
And so, speaking of unsolicited advice, here is some from yours truly, a glimpse into my personal social media etiquette:
1. Only comment in the following scenarios:
- to encourage the author of the blog post (or tweet or status) or to make them giggle.
- to ask a serious or heartfelt question that you would like the author to respond to.
- to engage with other “followers” or “fans” who are probably of a like heart and mind in a way that edifies both parties.
2. If you are leaving an impassioned response to reform an author or speaker, or to sway their audience, save your breath. These are real people, and they have their own pastors and their own spouses and their own accountability partners. Let’s trust the Spirit to teach them through the people that are actually a part of their life. It is probably a proven fact somewhere that these forums are the least effective for changing anyone’s mind. The only people who will agree with you are going to be the people who already agree with you. Everyone else? You’ll just be riling them up. Not cool.
3. However, if you are truly concerned by something you’ve read and are seeking understanding or a deeper dialogue, do so through a private message!!! If you can’t find a way to private message that person…well, sorry. I was never able to get that private audience with Justin Timberlake, either.
4. Learn to read. I am a very literal person, but I know the difference between a facebook status that is a joke or an attempt at self-deprecation, and a true plea for advice or comments. Unless someone actually says “What should I do?” they are probably not soliciting a serious response.
5. Before hitting ‘enter’ to post your comment, ask yourself “Would I say these words to this person in this context if we were face-to-face? Would I say this to anyone EVER face-to-face?” The answer is usually ‘no’. So don’t say it.
6. Remind yourself that, just because you are sitting and staring at a screen, there are real people on the other side, and you will be held responsible for every word you say. The Bible explicitly says that the world will know we belong to Christ by our love for one another, and we are shooting ourselves – and the gospel – in the foot with our unnecessary opining if the overarching theme is not love and kindness and a spirit that at least longs for unity. If you cause one person to stumble by a comment you leave on the web, you, as Michelle Tanner would say, “are in big trouble, mister.” Weigh your words and, no matter how vehemently you disagree and no matter how badly you want to throw in your two cents, silence is usually the best course. On the web, that is.
7. It is lazy to say “well so-and-so put herself out there by saying that in the first place. She asked for it.” Nonsense. That doesn’t mean you should retaliate.
9. Humble yourself and remember that the world doesn’t really need to hear what you say. Your family needs you, your church, your friends – you are actually called to hold them accountable and to speak truth to them – but those random hundreds of thousands of people on the internet? They might not need you, especially if you are mean-spirited, and you are certainly doing more harm than good by continually picking fights in comments sections. If you are not seeking to encourage or to simply enjoy yourself, it would probably be best to sign off and stop using your computer keys to jab at everyone.
10. If a person you follow is continually riling you up and you just can’t handle the temptation to keep from responding, there is a sure-fire way to soothe what ails you: the ‘unlike’ button. Done. Your life – and everyone else’s – just got a lot sunnier.
Of course, if you run your own blog, you can opine all you want, with 10 points and everything.
Thank you, friends, for listening. Hope this helps. And remember, I will see all comments, but only publish those that are edifying and/or agree with what I said.