How Christians Avoid Problems on Judgemental Social Media
As a Christian writer, I am continually researching, monitoring current trends, and interacting on people on social media. On the whole, social media can be a positive thing. For the first time in history, we the people can comment on the programs we are watching, what politicians are doing, social issues, and injustice. Mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit can make people in power accountable for wrong actions.
These platforms also help us to connect, encourage one another, and share our concerns. We can also share health news, local information, and social issues.
There are many positives to social media. It helps us keep in touch with old friends who have moved to far-flung places or who we do not see regularly. Social media lets us know about concerts and events that may be of interest to us. Sometimes, our friends share their struggles and ask for prayer. They may seek validation for difficult decisions. These platforms also make us aware of social issues and news.
Dealing With a Judgmental Society
A PsychCentral article, however, has pointed out that many people are using these networks to complain, whine, protest, show disgust, and badmouth others. They are quick to judge and condemn others, often without knowing all the facts of the situation. Some comments can be harsh, even when the writers do not know the person who is being discussed. Social media can be a minefield – you never know when something will blow up in our faces.
Sadly, Christians already have a bad reputation as being judgemental and take their attitudes to the Internet. What can I say when a non-Christian reader uses an example such as the hurtful, cruel, and ignorant comments made about the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren's son a few years ago to berate Christianity?
As Christians, we want to have our say. There are times we should speak out against horrors such as human trafficking. How can we do this, however, without getting caught up in the judgemental atmosphere of social media? I have observed that most Christians are using this medium responsibly to share Bible verses and knowledge, ask for prayer, and raise awareness on social issues. There are some, however, that use public forums to vent and condemn others.
How to Handle Posts and Posting on Social Media in a Christian Way
Here are some tips on how we can post without going counter to our Christian beliefs or appearing judgmental.
Do not accept information at face value
There is a lot of fake news out there, especially in the health field. Some websites have sensational headlines about false health threats and conspiracies that people tend to share without checking out the news source first. A search on the Internet of a website's name may identify it as a spreader of fake news. An investigation of the topic can also provide more accurate information from more reliable sources. Generally, if a news story seems sensational and too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is.
Recognize the power of the tongue
When I was growing up, the things I said only affected a few people. Nowadays, anything I post online can potentially reach hundreds or even thousands of people. Words can be like a spark that can start a forest fire (James 3:5). Words have the power to hurt not only our target but their families, neighbors, and friends, so we need to use them carefully.
Consider how to answer
We need to carefully consider how we answer posts if we decide to respond to something online. The social media world tends to dehumanize people. This view makes it easier to say hurtful things that we would not speak to someone in person. The people being the posts are human beings who deserve to be treated the same as if we were dealing with them face to face.
There are people known as "trolls" out there who seem to have anything better to do other than attack and try to upset other people. They delight on escalating their abuse when people respond to them. These people have no sense (Proverbs 11:12), can be dangerous, and should be avoided, if possible. They can potentially involve us in all kinds of trouble. Sometimes, it is better to shut up and not engage with them (Proverbs 10:19).
Sometimes silence or a soft, gentle answer is best (Proverbs 15:1). We should not get involved in ignorant, foolish arguments that escalate into destructive fights (2 Timothy 3:23-25). Instead, we must be patient and kind with problem people.
Examine our motives
Before we rant or blast someone, we need to examine why we are so angry. Are we jealous because our friends can afford expensive vacations and we cannot? Do pictures of happily married people celebrating their love drive you crazy because you are single? Do you feel cheated because others seem to be successful and you are not? These feelings can trigger a desire to lash out.
When we see how other people live, we will be tempted to compare ourselves with them. Comparison, however, is harmful and sets us up for discontent, coveting, and dissatisfaction with our own lives. These feelings are not emotionally healthy and should be avoided (2 Corinthians 10:12). We do not really know what is really going on in people's lives. Only God knows the human heart (1 Kings 8:39) which is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).
It is tempting to brag about our accomplishments to the world but it is wiser to let others do that (Proverbs 27:2). Sometimes we need to question the reasons why we are posting certain accomplishments such as: "Am I trying to make myself look good in the eyes of others?" "Do I want to show off that I am a big shot?" If the answers are yes, we need to examine our hearts. There may be some pride that we need to root out.
There are times when we are hurting because of factors such as broken relationships and financial struggles. Some posts can unintentionally hurt us. It is unrealistic to stay off social media completely but cutting back may help. There are some options on social media such as the "snooze for 30 days" on Facebook or the "mute" function Twitter that will temporarily block posts and save our sanity, if needed. We also should be sensitive to how our posts affect followers going through similar trials.
Comment logically, not emotionally
If we are caught up in negative emotions when we post, we may say something we would regret later. It is better to catch our breath and calm down. In some cases, we should discuss the issues with a friend, pastor, or a mental health professional before commenting. Trolls want to upset us and say things we should not say. If we guard our tongues, however, we keep ourselves out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23).
Think about people's reputations
People's reputations are fragile things. One of the ten commandments tells us to not bear false witness against our neighbors (Exodus 20:16), so we should not post anything that slurs people's reputations. We need to be careful that we only speak the truth if we speak at all. We should not slander others or wrong our neighbors (Psalm 15: 2-3).
Represent Christ with our words
The way we behave online can reveal our character. We want to reflect Jesus well in our interactions with others. Jesus did criticize and condemn people such as his disciples, greedy sellers at the temple, and hypocritical and oppressive religious leaders but usually did so to their faces during personal interactions. Being real, honest, and sincere is part of living the Christian life. We should be ourselves and resist the temptation to brag or make ourselves appear like people we are not. We should not use social media to push our values, political views, and beliefs on someone else. Instead, we should be encouraging and supporting others (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We Christians will encounter trolls and judgemental people. We will see posts and videos that will outrage us and prompt us to respond negatively. Most of the time, answering these posts can stir up anger and strife. Many people are using the internet to promote their own agendas and won't listen to our rants. Instead, we should focus on using the Internet to serve others and help where we can. Our posts should be noble, pure, excellent, praiseworthy, and right (Philippians 4:8).