Mrs. Gore’s Social Media Etiquette

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 brethren.

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.

8. Shush.

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. 🙂

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how Christians should behave on the internet

46 thoughts on “Mrs. Gore’s Social Media Etiquette

  1. I totally agree!! Meanness is never cool, especially from Christians. I do want to tell you that I really enjoy your writing. I am Tami Hunt Shackelford’s mother in law. She speaks very highly of you. Keep writing. You are makin a difference.

  2. I totally agree Lesley! I am shocked and amazed how rude people can be, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ!! I see many comments on my Facebook page that I don’t agree with, but I don’t have to reply! I sometimes unfriend them, or make it where I don’t see their posts. And if I do want to continue to see them (family, etc.) I usually just don’t read them. Well said, you have such a gift of writing and expressing your thoughts, and with such grace as well!!

  3. Thank you so much….I have seen some very hateful comments towards someone who I consider a “friend” though we’ve never met. Words hurt and Christians slinging them as though they mean nothing are wrong in that assumption…..think before you speak/type/ Speak the truth in Love…..always

  4. Thumper comes to mind in these scenarios…”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Thus, point number five is a great checkpoint for adults and teens alike. It’s so easy to be extremely opinionated sitting at home, alone, typing on your laptop since the idea of anonymity or secrecy often is the precursor to sinful behavior. Keep up the great testimony – speaking the truth in love.

  5. I have been following you since “Magic Mike” and thank you that you quashed any inkling of a desire I may have had to see said movie and replaced it with positive, encouraging thoughts about real, live, good men…those is both your life and my own. I have had similar thoughts to those you have so succinctly and beautifully stated in this post but they are just running around randomly in my brain and not grouping together, grasping hands and marching to the front line so that they could be expressed. I wish I could do some kind of permanent “ctrl C” of this post and then “ctrl V” it whenever I come across some of these hurtful responses people seem to feel compelled to make.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with your wisdom! I also see some who are in Christian leadership who choose to post about topics that for one reason or another get Christ-followers feeling discouraged or disheartened. It seems to me that those in leadership need to also practice your principles and “think before they write.”

  7. I love number 8, if we (I) all would sometimes remember that it is better to hold our tongue than spout venom. The Bible has a few things to say about that in proverbs!
    Well said, on all points!

  8. I agree completely. Love Love Love #5. I that we can disagree tactfully and with grace–AND thats hard to do. So, unless you shouldn’t. 🙂 I love the beauty of personal opinions and I have learned a lot from people who disagree with me. I think its a beautiful thing when someone can have a different opinion and still be respectful AND respected. But, I suppose in posting this I’m breaking your 10 rules 🙂

  9. Sister Gore!!
    Hallelujah and Amen and from your sweet smart sassy fingers to God’s people’s ears!!!
    And you are a LOVELY writer, friend! Grateful to have found you!
    Glennon (Momastery)

  10. This is so great, Lesley !!! I just wanted you to know I shared this on Twitter…. I didn’t find you on there. Just thought I would let you know and post the link here. So glad I saw your blog post that Jen Hatmaker posted today. Wonderful encouragement for us all !
    Lisa McMann (@lmcmann4) tweeted at 5:09 PM on Tue, Feb 19, 2013:
    Awesome post from “Mrs. Gore’s Diary ” about social media etiquette!!! (no its not Al Gore’s wife LOL.

  11. I actually invoked a #10 today, but it had been a long time coming. Thanks for the sweet way you say everything. While “other” authors may be trying to state the same opinions, they come across as arrogant. While yours is just sweet and respectful. Thank you for that.

  12. Nice, NICE article! Not too long ago, I took on the following mantra.. “You simply will not change someone’s mind in the comment section of a post or video.” So, I don’t even go to the comment section much anymore. Just not worth it.

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