By T. R. Robertson
Social media sites can be a blessing, but they can also cause problems for our witness to others. Consider these practical DOs and DON’Ts for being on mission on social media:
• DO know your mission as a Christian: to bring glory to God in everything you do and to draw others to know him and be reconciled to him. This is your mission when you’re at church, at work, and even when you’re relaxing by checking out your online feed.
• DON’T ignore the fact that social media companies have a different mission than your mission as a Christian. Their mission is to make money. They do that by collecting detailed information about you so they can sell it to their advertisers and to others who want to manipulate you for their own purposes. Their business model is to encourage their users to become addicted to over-sharing. That goal can often get in the way of the Christian’s goals.
• DO respond to social media participants as real people, not as impersonal sets of data. Post as if you’re physically sitting in a circle with all of your friends, both Christian and non-Christian. Write only what you would say in person to all of them.
• DON’T just ignore the uncomfortable or rude comments some of your Christian friends share. Every harsh word and insensitive joke you’re seeing may also be showing up in the feed of your non-Christian friends. This is especially true if you reply to those comments. If your church friends are sharing things that won’t be helpful to softening the hearts of unbelievers, take steps to change that. Go offline to speak the truth in love to your Christian brothers and sisters. If necessary, block or remove a person whose activity is compromising your witness.
• DO be discrete in your response to the indiscrete posts of others. When your friends make careless revelations about their personal lives, make wise use of that unexpected knowledge. Pursue compassionate conversations offline, rather than addressing them online in public. A true friend will pull an over-sharing friend back from the edge of the cliff, not join the crowd in pushing them over.
• DON’T use social media as your bully pulpit. Be as kind and sensitive online as you would be in person.
• DO return a blessing for a curse. Instead of letting others drag you down by what they post, seize the opportunity to lift them up.
• DON’T let yourself be sucked into the viral piling-on that has become common on social media. Just because you have an opinion about the latest trending topic, the world doesn’t necessarily need you to share it. What the world needs is more peacemaking and empathy.
• DO share your heart about the gifts of God you experience daily. Pointing people toward God will always bless them more than passing on the latest meme or joke about church-y stuff.
• DON’T fall into the common habit of sharing everything you find when you’re bored and surfing the net. Idleness really is the devil’s workshop.
• DO display the fruit of the Spirit more than the works of the flesh in the things you share. Make sure your online comments are filled with salt and light, not sarcasm and censure.
• DON’T spend so much time on social media that you neglect nurturing your offline relationships. The most effective interactions and encouragement take place in person. There’s nothing like looking directly at the faces of true friends or new friends and learning to read their souls like an open book.
T. R. Robertson is a freelance writer in Columbia, Missouri.