Most of us have had to learn about social media etiquette the hard way. Since MySpace took off, and Facebook subsequently took it’s spot on the mountaintop, and now all the other methods that I’m not hip enough to jump on have taken it’s spot (instagram, vine etc), the way we communicate has changed. Our thoughts, ideas, and every mood swing are published for all to see all the way back to where we first signed on. All that said, being in full time ministry has somewhat forced me to be more careful and purposeful with Social Media. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty comfortable in the middle of tough conversations, and awkward topics. I still step in “media-poo” every now and then, and I’m still learning. But I thought I’d share a few of my personal guidelines with the rest of you. Yeah, I’m a pastor, but I’m called to the same things as every other Christian. My hope is that these few simple guidelines will help you reflect Christ better to those watching, and at the same time, not squander the idea of transparency, which is very powerful, and sometimes a great opportunity to share a laugh. Note that the things I’m writing below are things I’ve learned from my own experience, and they are written with People of Faith in mind. If they call you out, you’re in good company with me. So, let’s begin.
- Be Beneficial.
- Yes, You “can” tweet that, and no one “should” judge you for it and form unfair opinions about you…but they will. The Apostle Paul talks about how although he has the freedom to do something (permissible), it’s not always beneficial, and it doesn’t always reflect God well. This is perhaps the most critical of the guidelines for that reason. Can you? Yep. Should you? Probably not. I say this a lot to myself. Very often, I type something, think about it, then I hold down the backspace button until it’s all gone.
- Be Direct, privately.
- Does a passive aggressive post or meme about someone else make them look crazy? No. It makes You look crazy. There is a Biblical prescription for handing our frustrations with other people, and this is not it. We get two luxurious difficult options. First: Just keep our mouth shut and consider the grace God gives us every minute, or Secondly: Consider the grace God gives us every minute…then go talk to them. This is another important way we reflect how God does things vs how the world does things. At the least, these statuses foster gossip. The first question people ask when they see it is “I wonder who they’re talking about.” This also includes passive agressive posts about how passive aggressive people bug you. lol
- Don’t Fight.
- This one is simple. Has your mind ever changed because of a heated fight you had online? Nope. I do think there’s a place for defending each other, or clarifying damaging posts. But, for the most part, none of these interactions ever get sorted out until the two people sit down and talk in person. As a pastor, I am often caught between two thoughts: 1. I am not getting involved in a ridiculous FB scuffle. 2. This looks horrible on God and the Church. I have to say something.
- I’m not against posting politics or controversial topics. But, If you do, remember the saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Let that impact the framework of your post. If you just want to scream “I’m right,” and are not looking to challenge people lovingly with a realistic hope of them “getting it,” or are hoping to follow with good conversations, it’s probably best to Just keep our mouth shut and consider the grace God gives us every minute. ;-)
- Don’t make Assumptions.
- One of my mentors used to routinely ask me “Is that about them, or is it about You?” when I’d get upset about something. When we assume something is about us, or take unnecessary offense, it becomes a breeding ground for overgeneralizations, and blanket statements. No emoticon can fix this. Although these make for nice organized thoughts, they are not fair, and often people feel judged before a conversation can happen. Though you may not agree with someones thoughts, it’s very helpful to think about it or a second from their perspective, and also take a minute to consider the idea that people have different perspectives because they actually think that’s the best idea. They’re not trying to ruin the world, or your day. Usually when we respond personally to someone elses thoughts, it is about our insecurities or hangups. Not theirs. Respond with “trust” in the understanding gap. Don’t assume their intentions are bad. People feel passionately about things. Mom’s celebrate pregnancy because they’re overjoyed. They’re bubbling over. Single people post pictures of the bahamas because, well, they can. Neither have anything to do with the other. But, when we make it about us, dangerous harmful thoughts happen. As Christians, we should celebrate the victories with each other, and weep with each other too.
The things we say and portray either bring people closer to understanding God, or farther from it. Helps our witness, or disables it. Thins the herd or expands the kingdom. It hurts or helps. It makes someone laugh, or maybe even cry. But that’s not always the biggest casualty. If you’re not careful, the worst happens. Your own words change your heart and you start despising people, looking down on others, getting depressed, envying others, or it explodes your head with pride. Your frustration turns to disgust or disdain. It’s just too easy to be a jerkface, and then log-out feeling vindicated and “right.” In the end, if it’s all too much to handle, take a break. If someone drives ya crazy, block their news feed. All that said, most don’t need to go disable their Facebook account. Use it for the good it can do. Like any other thing, it can be used for good or bad. Use it to connect, keep up, make folks laugh, and encourage each other.