Post Author: Brenda Lovick
Editor's Note: This article represents the author’s opinion on safe and appropriate posting etiquette. The content is Facebook-oriented, but it applies to all social media venues. This is a regular topic of discussion for The Young Clergy Women Project Board. Members of the board work carefully and intentionally to monitor TYCWP’s social media resources. For those who are in TYCWP, please take note of the pinned post on Facebook that highlights policies in place for community life on social media.
I want my life motto to be Galatians 5:22-23. …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. (CEB)
Some days, life with these virtues is so hard.
Imagine this. You have had a full day of ministry, and your brain is about fried. You’ve been going, going, going for 14+ hours, and you need a moment to step back and take a breather. You get home, get into some comfy loungy clothes, grab a cup of tea (or maybe a glass of wine), and sit down in your favorite cushy chair. It’s a perfect opportunity to unwind. You think, “I’d love to catch up with some friends. I wonder what they are up to today.” You open your Facebook feed.
What you see does nothing to revive your soul. It does not help you reconnect with your friends. Instead, you begin to feel more disconnected and even offended at what you see. You become discouraged, hopeless, angry.
Here’s a sampling of what you might find:
- A blog post with an image of a woman with her mouth duct taped shut and her husband celebrating “Peace.”
- A cartoon of a blatant -ism: racism, sexism, homophobism, xenophobism, you name it, it’s there.
- An article with an angry politician reminding you of how important he or she is.
- An op-ed piece about how unimportant said angry politician has become.
- A picture of a corpse (human or any animal) in any circumstance.
- Anything where your first response is “OMG you will not believe the horrible thing that I just saw….”
- A story that needs to be prefaced with “Trigger warning!”
My first filtered thought when I find posts like these is “Go away! I don’t want to see this!” Whether I’ve had a long day or not, content like this does not brighten my day. It puts a cloud over me and reinforces my disgust of our broken world. It makes me wonder why I spend any time on social media at all.
Yet Facebook enables me to stay connected in ways I otherwise could not. I want to be connected, but without social media, I would not have the time or energy to do so. As a pastor, my dearest family and friends are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Thank God technology enables me to stay in touch with people I love when otherwise I might only exchange Christmas cards with them.
I know that I am not the only person in this situation. It’s no wonder our collective society is more stressed by each passing day.
As a pastor, I don’t want to contribute to the stress of society. I’d rather help to alleviate the stress. There are lots of resources on the interwebs about etiquette for posting to social media. It’s not earth-shattering news, yet it’s helpful to have reminders with a touch of theological and biblical reflection.
“THINK before you post” is one of the simplest ways to remember what is appropriate to post regarding care of and concern for others. Even (or especially) on social media, we need to be mindful of those fruits of the Spirit listed above. The acronym THINK can help.
Is it True? Untruthfulness is one of the most dangerous aspects of media. It’s easy to assume that a news source is truthful, but the reality is that you cannot assume this. Reposting a picture or an incomplete quote can take out the sentiment of the origin. It’s best to investigate the truth before taking a stance on any particular issue. When your post can brand you with labels like nay-sayer, liar, and the like, why not be sure that your branding will be truth-teller? These are the things you should do: Speak the truth to each other; make truthful, just, and peaceable decisions within your gates. Don’t plan evil for each other. Don’t adore swearing falsely, for all of these are things that I hate, says the Lord. Zechariah 8:16-17
Is it Helpful? Contribution to a discussion should move toward mutual understanding and clarification. If it slams an idea or puts someone down, this does not promote respect. How would our world be different if everyone tried to learn from one another’s personal experiences? We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Is it Informative/Inspiring? I love to read something where someone was excited about learning something new. Even better when someone shares that they were challenged to think differently. Move people to think deeply and critically. The goal should be opening ears to a new perspective, not knocking people down because of perceived ignorance or stupidity. Hope for the best in people, and remember that people all come with different experiences. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
Is it Necessary/Needed? This is especially about personal sharing. Even if you post in a group that is “secret” or “closed,” posting about your private life is never private. “Safe space” on social media does not exist. Is your post something that is really necessary to post, or would it be safer for you to send your private comment in a personal message with a friend? Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Galatians 6:1
Is it Kind? Kindness should go without saying. But social media has eliminated a layer of interaction so that the audience isn’t considered. Social media “bullying” has become a real problem because kindness has lost its importance. Please look at how a post might be seen from a different perspective before hitting the “send” button. Does it promote violence? Sexism? Racism? Does it build up your neighbor or knock your neighbor down? Will it hurt someone who has had difficult experiences? Especially on Facebook, you can filter your audience and share a post with a smaller audience than your whole friends list. If you want to post something that is a bit off color, but don’t want some people to see it, you can customize your audience. One way to share something that is informative and/or helpful but might feel inconsiderate of another person is to post “Article in comments about war” or “Opinion in comments about rape culture and misogyny.” When you put an article or picture or blog post in a comment, others who have fair warning won’t have to see it. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
It’s as simple as THINK. We have begun a new election year. We live in a world that thrives on fear. We experience more hostility and volatility than ever before. Our high-stress, fast-paced world becomes overwhelming. Please, I ask as a pastor and as a fellow Christian, use social media for good. THINK before you post.
Brenda Lovick is the pastor of East Koshkonong Lutheran Church in rural Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Image by: Shannon Long at http://www.technologyrocksseriously.com/2014/10/before-you-post-think.html#.VnQRCUorLIU
Used with permission