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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 have been dear friends ever since. My twin sister met her best friend in the 8th grade. By the time we were all in high school, my sister, our two best friends, and I were inseparable. We have shared a great deal. We’ve shared weddings and births and tragedies and triumphs. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. And even today, almost three decades later, we are still enjoying our friendship. We all live in different states now and are unable to see each other in person as often as we’d 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 others’ personal lives. Social media gives us a unique opportunity to see things as soon as they happen and to hear the thoughts or opinions of those affected by an occurrence, almost immediately. Social media is a great way to engage 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 can even 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.
It’s likely, however, that 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 possible see that gigantic log in her own eye. She always has something critical to say about everyone!” Of course, I’m giving the PG version of such an altercation, but you see where I’m headed. Of particular interest is when 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 wars, I’d like to offer some advice on what to consider before you post on social media. Don’t take the plunge until you’ve checked this list!
Our role on this earth is to add value to one another through relationship, service, and sharing the Gospel, among other things. If this is our purpose, then shouldn’t there at least be some consideration about how we speak into the lives of the people around us? A picture of a newborn baby or photos of how the kids are growing up are fun ways to stay up-to-date with family and friends. Offering information on what God is showing you through your daily devotional or how God answered a prayer for a friend this week are also great ways to add value.
But what about your political views? Is it worth it to share your stance on that social justice issue on social media? Shouldn’t those conversations remain face-to-face? I mean, really. Who has ever changed their political stance or worldview based on your social media rant?
Sadly, in an age when news outlets and journalism have become more fiction than fact, it can be hard to discern what is really true anymore. Consider what you are saying or whom it’s about or what the details are. Did you learn this first-hand or is it a second-hand knowledge or 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 worst boss on earth, will posting about it on social media change that anyway?)
Pride is an ugly thing, isn’t it? It gives us this innate desire to be right all the time. It makes it hard for us to apologize when 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 it is about the content we’re typing. It becomes more about what we’re not saying versus what we are. The posts become strategic, thoughtful, underhanded attacks meant to harm someone else. Steer clear.
Consider the 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 lots of attempts on social media to say something to one individual through innuendo or 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 about your first batch of gluten-free brownies and the first tooth little Sally lost!) The focus isn’t about taking the fun from social media, but it is about removing the harm in it. It’s about thinking before we type. Don’t say something online that you wouldn’t 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’re leaving a legacy.
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Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker who is also a wife, mother, and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, The 700 Club, Power Women, Daystar Television, and others. She has a passion to see the women of God live free and impactful lives. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.