Have you ever posted something to Facebook and then wished you hadn't? Or tweeted 140 characters you later decided to delete? Social media can be a minefield and Christians aren't always walking through unscathed. We are often the ones setting off the unseen bombs. Like most tools or technologies, social media itself is morally neutral - it can be used for good or ill. But how do we use it well?
Here are four questions you can ask before you post, comment, share, retweet, like... The next time you see your friend share a quote that offends you, stop and ask these questions before you comment. The next time you want to share an article or video, stop and ask a few questions. The next time you want to post that picture or personal update, take a moment and ask yourself these four questions.
What is my motivation for sharing?
Of all the questions, this is the most central and necessary. It gets at the heart of the matter. We can often engage in social media in response to a deeper heart issue. Rather than deal with the real garbage going on in our our lives, we cover it up through the facade of a perfect life, but no matter how many pictures we share or positive reports we give, our reality will find its way to the surface.
We can also use social media as a weapon. We wield it in defense of a cause or perspective, without care or concern for who we hurt or ostracize. We attack and we berate and never consider why. What is our motivation?
The public personas on social media are numerous and what motivates our desire to share or post varies as much as our personalities. I cannot possibly provide an example for each. But it is a necessary question for you to ask. Why am I posting? What is my motivation?
Is this intended to build God's Kingdom or my kingdom?
This question gets at a very particular motivation. Am I posting this to build God's Kingdom? Or am I trying to build my own? Platform building is its own industry today, with books written, podcasts recorded, seminars delivered and resources given, all in the name of teaching people how to build a platform. Pastors, churches, authors, business owners and more are using social media to make a name for themselves.
Not everyone using social media to build a platform is interested primarily in building their own kingdom, but it can be a narrow path to walk. Even if we are not interested in building a platform, we can so often use social media to draw attention to ourselves. We are constantly looking for the red dot to pop because we want, we need, to see the new like, the new comment, the new share, or the new retweet. All in the interest of helping us feel a little better about ourselves.
Let me be clear, sharing a picture of your son because you want to celebrate a new milestone and share it with your friends and family is not personal kingdom building. It is one of the joys of social media. Knowing and sharing in the lives of our friends and family is beautiful, but if you are constantly playing the game of choosing which life event you want to share, because you know it will garner the most engagement from others, it is a dangerous arena to play in.
Is this unnecessarily controversial?
Controversy is inevitable. If you want to say anything of substance in the world, you will likely offend someone along the way. In asking this question, I am not suggesting you live a life in which you do nothing but please the people around you. That is a different sort of problem. I use the word unnecessarily because sometimes we do choose controversy for controversy's sake. There are bloggers, public figures, articles and news sites who build their following on the knowledge that rabble-rousing draws a crowd.
The question you and I need to ask before we post or share on social media is whether it is unnecessarily controversial. The gospel can be offensive, and sharing something about the gospel which causes a stir does not fit into this category. The gospel is necessarily controversial at times because it is unavoidably controversial at times.
If you find two or three articles which represent your thoughts on recent public events, and you feel you must share one, choose the one that is not out to pick a fight. You can tell by the tone of the article. You can tell by the way its creator treats people who disagree. Don't create strife where it isn't needed.
Have I read, watched or listened before I respond or share?
This question should go without saying, but unfortunately it must be said. If you are going to share an article, read it first. If you are going to respond to a video someone else posted, watch it first. I see so many people share something for its headline, without reading its contents. Or I see a string of comments arguing a point the article never attempts to make. This is a simple question, but too few people are asking it before they post. Have I read, watched or listened before I post, share, comment or tweet?
The tone of this article is somewhat serious, but social medial doesn't always need to be so serious. You can have fun with it. Whether it is a funny comment, a late show clip, a satire article or a comical meme, you can enjoy yourself on social media. Don't take yourself too seriously, but be thoughtful about what you share.