Social Media Part 3 – Do No Harm
One of our family patriarchs was born, grew up, and spent his whole adult life in the Southern Oregon town of Paisley (Pop 213) Most famous for its annual Mosquito Festival!). We lived in Tri-Cities, WA and traveled the 400 miles to Paisley every year or so for family visits. I remember an incident from a visit there in the mid-70’s, when the Vietnam war was winding down.
Every evening, whoever was at home would gather in the living room for the news. Homes in Paisley had access to one TV station, from Klamath Falls. The reception was poor, the picture was snowy, the sound staticky. On this occasion there was a news item on about Vietnam and Papa Earl launched into a diatribe against the Vietnamese, all Asian people—in fact against all “those damn furriners” in general. He had a very strong opinion, anchored entirely and solidly in prejudices and misinformation!
Also in the room was a young man in his early 30’s who had not long before spent a year in SE Asia and had lived and worked among and fought alongside the “furriners!” This young man really, really wanted to bring some light to bear on the one-sided discussion taking place!
But Papa Earl was not interested in accurate facts or correct information. He was not interested in knowing the truth. He did not want light. He was more interested in generating heat! And the young man, that would be me, decided not to engage Papa in an argument about Vietnam, the world political situation, or “furriners.”
I had facts that could enlighten his uninformed, misinformed opinion. I had experience that could have informed his prejudice-based, bigotry-fueled rant! But my facts would also damage or destroy a relationship that was far more valuable than “Being Right!” There would be no satisfaction in winning in an argument at the cost of a relationship! And I really loved the old guy! I learned a lot from him through the years. Just not about Global politics and “damn furriners!” (He was about the age then that I am now!)
Whenever I remember that little vignette from 45 years ago, I remind myself that if you win an argument and lose a relationship, nobody really wins.
As Christians, we may choose to align ourselves with a particular ideology and political party. We may choose to support and promote political candidates we feel will serve us well and lead us wisely. We may choose to communicate our ideas and opinions with others on social media and in our small groups and at lunch and wherever. But our true allegiance is to a servant-King, Jesus Christ, who is not up for election or re-election this or any other election year. And Jesus Christ has some clear and simple things to say about our lives in community and about our communication with those we agree with and those with whom we strongly disagree!
Here are some questions to ask before posting to Social Media: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind. Will it encourage or discourage. Will it build or destroy? Will it open minds or close minds? Does it need to be said?
Add Value Every Time
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT)
Let’s be sure we think through these things I’ve mentioned. I don’t mean that every time you want to post a kitten video, or a photo of your birthday cake, or the snow on the patio furniture in your backyard on Facebook, that you’ve got to pray and fast and seek legal advice before hitting the “Share” button.
Let’s be aware, friends!
- Be aware of credibility.
- Be aware of truth and lies.
- Be aware of help not harm.
- Remember that keeping a relationship healthy is way more important than winning an argument.
To paraphrase Ephesians 4:29 “Let everything you post be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who read them.”
A Couple of Footnotes to this series of posts:
- Among the unhealthy effects too much engagement with social media can have on us is discouragement and depression. We’re sitting on the couch in our pajamas watching NCIS reruns (again), scrolling through our Facebook Timeline on the tablet while the commercials are on. We’re looking at this seemingly endless stream of photos and stories of vacations, parties, family gatherings, and adventures our Facebook Friends it can seem really depressing. We’re comparing our dull lives to their exciting lives, and we end up feeling left out and alone. Or is that just me?
- Try to remember that people carefully curate their story and its accompanying videos and images to present the very best moments in the very best and most exciting way! And it’s entirely possible that while you’re scrolling through the social media record of their Most Excellent Adventure, they’re sitting on the couch eating Doritos, watching Guy’s Grocery Games and scrolling through someone else’s Best Life Now presentation on Facebook.
- The instructions I listed earlier for how to control what you see on your Facebook Timeline are not absolute guarantees. Facebook does use algorithms that affect what gets sent our way, but you have some control. Your Social Media experience will be enhanced if you use it wisely!
Here are some scriptures that have influenced me in my Social Media use and in writing this article:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. 28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. 30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 NLT)
I hope this has been helpful!
Grace and Peace,