Twice in the last week I've shared a post on my personal Facebook profile and, within seconds, wished I hadn't.
The first time it was about a topic currently all over the news (I won't say what, because you probably know). The second time it was an article from a website I had never heard of before, and knew nothing about.
Both times I ended up taking the articles down. Why?
There can be no doubt that social media spreads words and ideas faster than any other medium this world has ever known. For people like me, who offer words and ideas for a living, this is great. Apart from the grace of God, and the advent of social media, I wouldn't be able to share my heart with you. So on a deep level, I'm grateful for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the like.
But, as most everyone knows, there's a dark side to social media that keeps rearing its ugly head over and over. It jumps up in our hearts, commanding control of our fingertips, and makes us feel we have the right to say anything about anyone at any time just because we've been given the right to free speech.
Maybe we do have that right. Maybe, because of free speech, we actually do have the right to say whatever's on our mind—no doubt social media makes it easier—but somewhere along the way, we've forgotten that our words affect real people. Somewhere along the way, we've forgotten that there are real consequences to the choices we make. And it might seem like some words on Facebook are a small thing, but the events of the last few days have proven just how wrong this is.
Our words can be misconstrued, deconstructed, misquoted, and misunderstood in a matter of mere seconds.
Ann Voskamp wrote it best when she said, "There is nothing more explosive than words. Words are nitroglycerin. Words can literally ignite a heart, detonate like a global bomb — or explode in your face.
As a Christian, there are any number of issues that flash before my eyes on a daily basis that can incite me, cause me to want to defend my faith, and hastily type words so that others can "know the truth." But I've learned this about myself...maybe it describes you too?
The times when I most feel the need to be heard are often the times I most need to be quiet.
There is a time to defend the faith. There is a time to open the mouth. There is a time to open dialogue with different-minded friends. But the heart should always be open first. The heart should take the time to understand the issue before the fingers type out a response.
That's why I've decided on a new social media strategy. It looks something like this:
1. God has given us all a little bit of influence.
Just this morning, I shared an article that I had to immediately take down. A friend was quick to point out that words I had taken literally were satire. As I read the words, my emotions went off the scale, and I hit "share" without pausing to check the source first.
And you might be thinking, "no harm done. You were able to take it down quickly." But here's the thing: my friend, whose post of the same article initially grabbed my attention and caused me to read it, took it down quickly too. But not until after I read it and shared it. And not until there was already a flurry of comments.
Social media gives us untold amounts of influence on those around us. We must be wise in the way we use it.
2. If you can't offer thoughts that move others toward a solution, don't offer your thoughts.
Last week—after a knee-jerk article share on Facebook, and the comments from friends that ensued—I realized that I had broken my own rule. I'm still trying to work out how I feel about what's been happening in the news as of late, and I don't really have any insight that could help others come to their own conclusions, or offer a solution to the problem at hand.
So until I do, I'll keep my mouth shut.
Oh friends, (and this spoken from one who struggles with a quick temper herself? I can still be so quick to judge, so quick to believe the worst, so slow to try to understand) could we do this differently?
Could we pause to pray before we hit "share?"
Could we cease to retaliate, and strive to understand before lashing out?
Could we count the cost of our words, knowing that every one of us—whether big or small in the world of the web—has the power to influence just one...and that might be all it takes to start a wildfire?
Could we purpose to use our words to build up, instead of being quick to react out of a need to be heard?
Could we learn to control our emotions, instead of allowing them to control us?
These days are the training ground for Christians—our response to the difficult, frustrating, obscene, horrific, and sometimes abominable things going on in today's world matters to God. It has always, since the beginning of time, been His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Kindness doesn't have to eliminate truth, it just draws the sinner (me included) to a loving God over and over again, giving her the desire to lay down a heart filled with beliefs and emotions, and ask the Savior of the world to make it look more like His.
This is the way for change. That we would ask God to change us first, so our lives will reflect Him and others can see Him through us.