I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Though I’ve never gone so far as to deactivate my account, I’ve taken more breaks from that service than Ross and Rachel could ever dream of taking. On one hand, I can’t stand the constant torrent of political whining, vague rants from upset lovers, and just the general “Facebook drama.” But on the other, I keep coming back simply because of how useful it is. I don’t know who you, the person reading this right this minute, are, but I do know that you’ve at least heard of Facebook. You might not have an account, or you might be one of the 1.17 billion people that logs into it every single day, but either way, you know what it does. That means just about every single one of my friends and family members is on it or near it, too. Despite all its shortcomings, it is still a legitimately useful site.
But oh, the shortcomings. Some of them are related to Facebook itself, sure. Who doesn’t love finding out that their every online move is tracked by a company that has no opt-out request form? But mostly, the issues we all have with it come from the users themselves. Fake news only gets spread because people spread it without verifying its truthfulness. Your feed is filled with insufferable soliloquies because the people you’re friends with posted them. Yeah, algorithms play a part in our headache from time to time, but for the most part, Facebook is only guilty of showing us exactly what we want to see.
While I’m by no means innocent of contributing to social media frenzies, I did learn long ago that my expertly-crafted diatribes didn’t sound nearly as smart or as convincing after I hit “Submit” as I thought they were while I wrote them. I still post every now and then, mostly about my wife or a funny picture, but I’ve mostly transitioned to lurking and commenting on other peoples’ stories, pictures, and events. And as I’ve watched my feed scroll by over the years, I’ve observed other people begin to learn the same as well. Friends who used to be vehemently anti-military are now on the front lines of military support on the 4th of July. Anti-religious zealots have softened their tone toward the faithful. Guns, abortion, vaccinations, healthcare, education, welfare, immigration, investing, job-seeking, you name it, and I’ve seen a flip-flop on someone’s stance at some point along the way.
Reflecting on it now, especially in the political climate we live in, has brought up four things I want to publicly remind myself before posting anything online:
Speak with Conviction, but also Humility
Our culture has some weird aversion to commitment. Not just in relationships, but in principles and ethics, too. It’s not wrong to hold an idea or belief as true. It’s not wrong to share that idea or belief with other people, especially if you believe it will help them flourish as a human being. It’s certainly not wrong to continue to hold to what you know to be true, even if everyone else around you is telling you it is wrong. But don’t forget that every time you speak, you’re using lips that have been wrong before. When you assert the truthfulness of something, make sure you can back up your claim with something other than your own feelings (which have also been known to change from time to time, by the way). Be patient, be calm, and study your position well before proclaiming it as gospel truth.
1 Peter 3:14-16 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Consider Your Audience
When you speak, do you know who’s listening? People. People that have lived their own lives, their own stories, with their own way of looking at things. Just because you may be right about some certain thing doesn’t mean they’re in a position at that moment in time to hear it. Or perhaps they are ready to hear it, just not from you. Always speak with love, and your message stands a much better chance at reaching its target than it would had it been delivered with venom.
1 Corinthians 12:21-26 – The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Consider Your Opponent
Everything you say, no matter what it is, will be met with “nuh-uh!” by someone in the world. And you know what? They have their reasons for disagreeing with you. People don’t believe something without a good reason for doing so, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Consider what those reasons might be, and speak to those as you seek to win your opponent over. If you can actually engage someone in conversation rather than just shouting into the wind, you have a better shot at sharpening your mind and theirs in the process.
2 Timothy 2:23-25 – Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
Own Your Shortcomings
You’re going to be wrong. It’s just going to happen. And when it does, don’t tuck your tail between your legs and sulk in the corner. Learn all you can about what led you to that failure, seek forgiveness from whoever you may have hurt in the midst of it, and change whatever you need to change so that you’re not as wrong in the future. It’s a far greater mark of character to be able to admit to a mistake and say, “Yeah, I did that, but look, here’s how I’m making sure it won’t happen again,” than to go through and attempt to delete all traces of your history.
Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
I don’t think that everyone should quit social media, nor am I naive enough to think that’s even a possibility. But I do want to encourage you (and myself) to pause before hitting “post” and remember that what you say might be more of a reflection on you than a message to others.