I am the type of person who typically overthinks and analyzes before posting anything to the Internet. I delete more tweets than I write but that’s only because I am always thinking about how something I write might affect my witness as a Christian. I've had several posts that I regret sharing because I didn't fully think through the impact my words might have. Words have so much power and as I scroll through social media, I am reminded of their ability to wound or heal...put-down or encourage...bless or curse.
Oftentimes on social media the disconnect created by text versus person to person contact creates an environment where words are easily taken out of context. I can't tell you how many times I have received a comment or text message and not been able to decipher whether the person was mad or just in a hurry when typing. Typing in all caps might not bother your best friend but when commenting on a post, it might come across as yelling or angry to someone else. If you know me very well, you will come to find that I can be pretty sarcastic. Unfortunately, sarcasm doesn't always translate well via social media so I rarely post something sarcastic without a disclaimer. I have to keep in mind that most people that I engage with on social media are at an "acquaintance" level so my sarcasm is best left to myself. The book of James helps us remember the power words can have:
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water James 3:5b-12
Social media is not a platform I use to just let my words and thoughts run freely without any means of putting on the brakes. If I claim Christ as Lord, then my commandment is to go and make disciples. If I am making disciples, then I have set myself over someone to teach and train them in godliness. My words are the instrument I use along with my actions to reflect what Christ is working in me. I must question my motives before posting my words as a quick "heart check". What is driving me to write this? How do I convey a positive light on social media in a world that consists of cyber bullying and trolling? Here are five questions I started asking myself before posting to social media. An easy way to remember this is B.L.E.S.S.
B. Am I bragging?
The other day I had just finished a workout in the same room as my sleeping four month old and I started to post something on social media about how it’s difficult to do a burpee quietly. I hesitated before writing the post because I questioned whether my words were boastful. Did I want praise or was I trying to encourage other moms of little ones who also try to find time to exercise? Honestly, it was a little of both so I decided to forgo posting. There is nothing wrong in encouraging others to lead a healthy lifestyle or showing “you can do it, too!” pictures, but there is a fine line between encouragement and bragging. I love seeing posts of creativity in action and of how someone has changed their lifestyle through diet or exercise. No one loves seeing numerous glamour shots, selfies, or posts that incite jealousy.
“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:28-31
Paul’s words in Corinthians remind us that our weaknesses bring glory to God. If you wonder whether or not a post is boastful just ask yourself, does this bring Christ glory or puff me up? Am I posting this for the sole intention of making myself feel better or to get a “high five”? Personal victories can bless others as long as the victory belongs to Christ. Using talents God has given should be used not to get an audience but to lift up Christ and encourage the saints.
L. Am I lying?
I'm going to go all "high-school essay on you" and bring up the definition of lie because I think it is a good reminder that lying can be less obvious as one would think. The google definition of lie says, "used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression." Doctoring up our life too much on the Internet can be so tempting but often times it leads to a mistaken impression. Deception is a common thread in our society. We place filters on everything. In some cases this is good (i.e. our mouths!) but many times we filter out every imperfection and only display the good. Transparency can be a wonderful tool that displays the Gospel message. Disguising our weaknesses can be a hindrance to non-believers because it downplays our need for redemption. People seek out genuine connection and portraying a picture perfect life will make it hard for people to open up to you in spiritual conversation. Being relatable and real will make it easy for those who are searching for a Savior to seek you out when tough times arise. I can be honest with my struggles because my struggles point to our need for a Savior and make me yearn for a heavenly home.
E. Am I being encouraging?
No one likes a negative Nancy. If I am constantly complaining or posting pessimistic and gloomy comments then after a while, people will tune me out or block me all together. It is a heart condition that needs to be checked if I can’t find anything joyful to share. Another aspect to being encouraging is knowing how to choose your battles. A social media war rarely has any winners. When standing up for what the Bible says, it should always be done out of love.
Hardships, sickness, and death are a part of this life, but thankfully we have a hope that surpasses the temporal and that is worth telling others about. I can be encouraging when facing tough hardships if I am looking to Christ for strength. Discouragement sets in when we view our battles with a worldly mindset and forget where our hope lies.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
It’s ok to share your sorrows and questions or even ask for help publicly, but know when to set up boundaries. I prefer to walk through tough circumstances privately with those that are closest to me rather than opening myself up to anyone and everyone’s comments on social media. People mean well when offering advice or condolences but you know as well as I do that not all words are helpful or comforting.
S. Is this slander?
"Did you hear the news about so and so!?" Our ears perk up when we overhear that sentence spoken in the cubicle beside us. Gossip is like taking a bite of chocolate and being told not to swallow it. It is a constant battle to keep our tongues and ears away from gossip. Slander has devastating consequences on our relationships. I have often heard gossip disguised as a prayer request. Revealing private circumstances or details to an outside party is gossip (even if that outside party is a Christian!). Seeking council is not forbidden, especially if a person has disclosed a desire to harm themselves or others. But we should always assume information shared one on one is private before divulging it to someone else. Also, that celebrity news headline about how so and so is getting a divorce and here are the gritty details - that’s gossip too! Media plays a huge role in gossip so before sharing an article; think about how it is affecting the life of the person in question. Even if it is true, we must be careful not to be a busybody or slam others to make ourselves feel better.
S. Is this safe?
I felt the need to put this in here because unfortunately we live in a world where predators exist. Since I have a public website and my music is streamed on different platforms like spotify and iTunes, I recieve the occasional random friend request on Facebook. It is hard for me to know whether the person who sent the friend request is spamming me or has heard my music and wants to connect. I mean no disrespect if I don't accept you as a friend, but if I haven't met you face to face (or you're creepy) I won't accept the request. If your name doesn't ring a bell initially and we have no shared friends, I typically will delete the friend request. There's a good chance you definitely don't know that person from overseas so just don't. It seems like a no brainer, but always check your privacy settings making sure your address, phone number, email or any private details are kept confidential. I am always careful about pictures I post of my children and I never use their name in a hash tag because it makes them Internet searchable. I couldn’t imagine having my child’s picture used on a pornography site but that sort of thing is happening, so use extreme caution. I read an article 5 Horrifying Ways Your Children’s Pictures might be used on the Internet and it is definitely worth a read if you are a parent or grandparent. I think twice before posting pictures and recently went back through my privacy settings on all my social media platforms to double check my security and my family's security. It's important to also keep in mind the safety and privacy of others. It's best to ask before posting a friend or family member's photo or video. The parent of your child's friend may prefer the video featuring their child is not posted to the internet.
We all need reminders from time to time and that is why I chose to write this article. The bottom line is that social media can be a wonderful place and be used to glorify Christ. My philosophy has always been, when in doubt, just don’t post it! Always remember to B.L.E.S.S. instead of curse! (Yeah, I know that last sentence was cheesy but hopefully this little acronym will stick in your brain!)