Originally published Wednesday, 03 November 2021.
I met one of my oldest and dearest friends when I was in the fourth grade. I had just relocated from another state, and her bubbly personality, infectious smile, and out-going spirit made us instant friends. Amanda and I were nine-years-old, and have been dear friends ever since. My twin sister met her best friend in the eighth grade. By the time we were all in high school, my sister, our two best friends, all were inseparable. We have shared a great deal. We have shared weddings, births, tragedies, and triumphs. We have laughed together, cried together, and even today, almost three decades later, we are still enjoying each other’s friendship. We all live in different states now and are unable to see each other in person as often as we would like. However, I am convinced that the availability of social media has kept our friendship alive.
Never in history have we had such immediate access to the personal lives of others. Social media gives us a unique opportunity to see things, as soon as they happen, to hear the thoughts and opinions of those affected by an occurrence, almost immediately. Social media is a great way to engage with former classmates, stay connected to relatives, and reconnect with old friends. It helps us stay informed about current events and watch real-time news videos. We also have access to our favorite pastors and authors for a quick word of encouragement throughout the week. In that way, there is great value in being involved in social media.
However, at some point along your social media sojourn, you have encountered a less-than-ideal conversation among “friends” or been part of one yourself. It usually goes something like this. “How dare she say that to me? She is so unfair. She’s so busy looking at the speck in my eye that she couldn’t possibly see that gigantic log in her own eye. She always has something critical to say about everyone!” Of course, this is the PG version of such an altercation, but you see where I am headed. More specifically, we see Christians get into a war of words with one another and use Scripture references to justify their behavior.
Having seen my fair share of social media word wars, I would like to offer some advice on some things to consider before you post on social media. Do not take the post plunge until you have checked out this list!
- Does this give life or add value to someone else? Our role on this earth is to add value to others' lives through relationships, service to one another, and sharing the Gospel, among other things. If this is our purpose, then there should at least be some consideration given regarding how we speak into others’ lives. A picture of a newborn baby or photos of how the kids are growing up is a fun way to stay up-to-date with family and friends. Sharing what God reveals to you through your daily devotional or how God answered a prayer for a friend this week is also a great way to add value. But what about your political view? Is it worth sharing your stance on that social justice issue on social media? Some conversations should remain face-to-face encounters anyway? I mean, really. Who has ever changed their political stance or worldview based on your social media rant?
- Is this true? Sadly, in an age when news outlets and journalism have become more about sensationalizing the story than facts, it can be hard to discern what is really true anymore. Consider what you are saying, who it's regarding, and consider the details. Did you learn this information first-hand? Is it second-hand knowledge or just a rumor altogether? Is your boss really “the worst boss on Earth,” or did he just have a bad day? (And if he is the worth boss on earth, will posting on social media change that?)
- Is this combative? Pride is an ugly thing, right? It gives us this innate desire to be right all the time. It makes it hard for us to apologize when we know we are wrong. It fills us with this need to have justice, simply for the sake of having a cause to fight. Some social media posts are more about ensuring that others view us as right or pointing out the flaws in others than about the content we are typing. It becomes more about what we are not saying versus what we actually say. The posts become strategic, thoughtful, underhandly attacks and are meant to purposely harm someone. Steer clear.
- Are my motives pure? Consider the real reason you are posting that status update. Is it a targeted attempt for that one friend to see that post so that she can somehow learn to share your view on things? I’ve noticed a lot of attempts on social media to say something to one individual through innuendo and talking in circles without ever actually saying it to that person.
With all that being said, of course, there is a time for fun or silly status updates, where we are simply enjoying one another’s company and doing life together. (Yes, we still want to see your post of your first batch of gluten-free brownies and the first tooth little Sally lost!) The focus is not about taking the fun from social media, but it is about removing the harm that can be done. It is about thinking before we type. Have integrity, do not say something online that you would not say in person, and more importantly, remember that most of what we say and do online is permanent, so use your media imprint wisely. You are leaving a legacy.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches. The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting. Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.