This is the second of a series of posts from Matt Ward, associate pastor of FBC Thomson. Read the first post here.
We expect every church member to pay attention to all of these guidelines because we are all, first and foremost, ambassadors for Christ. And that comes with a high expectation from God Almighty Himself. Paul summarized in Philippians 2:14-16,
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.
We have a high obligation to use social media with care and caution. Sadly, many Christians seem to think that God’s expectations for us as His children do not apply to our social media use! That’s simply not true.
Use Social Media
- Promote the church and the gospel. If there are good things going on or matters for praise, don’t hesitate to share them. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel or your church!
- Share your insights and opinions. That is one way we "season the world with salt" and "let our light shine before people." But make clear what is your personal opinion.
- Post content that is meaningful. You can’t make disciples through small talk. Sure, create posts that are humorous, but also posts that are full of truth and importance.
- Be mindful of your audience. Consider the age, gender, and social status of anyone who might read your content. Be appropriate for the widest audience.
Communicate as a Christian
- Listen before you send. The internet invites you to broadcast your thoughts to no one in particular. That’s not biblical. Listen to what’s going on.
- Ask before you assume. So many arguments happen online because people assume they know what someone else means. Take the time to clarify before you argue.
- Verify before you repost. Just because someone you know has posted something that sounds really good doesn’t mean it’s true. Do some homework before reposting.
- Be kind, courteous, and respectful. Even when we share the truth, we are to do it in love. In everything we do, we must represent and attract people to Jesus.
- Always take the high road. Social media can be a cesspool of sniping. Don’t engage. If someone does you wrong, do them right in return (or don’t do anything at all).
Be Shrewd as a Serpent
- Assume that everything you post and share online will become public. If you don’t want everyone to know, then don’t share it on any form of social media.
- Approach controversy with caution. The Bible praises discretion. Some “points” aren’t worth it. Be knowledgeable and well-supported. Don’t be presumptuous or flippant.
- Use private groups where needed. To communicate with youth, kids, recovery groups, etc., find the most private, safest method possible.
- Set boundaries. Be extremely mindful of the age and gender of the person(s) with which you carry online conversations.
- Set limits. Self-control applies to all things, including your social media usage. Watch the amount of time you spend consuming social media and posting it.
- Don’t break news unless it’s yours. If you aren’t 100 percent certain that news about a person or event is supposed to be public, don’t share it.
- Protect individuals and kids. Don’t say something that would put someone else in an awkward or compromised position. Don’t reveal the location of kids or teens. **Don’t post a picture of a child unless you have the parent’s expressed permission.**
- Monitor activity on your accounts. People are constantly posting inappropriate items to others’ accounts; you need to take it down and block the offender immediately.
Use Common Sense
- Think before you click “send”. Think about your state of mind and your motives when composing your post; reread the content. Are you sure you want to do this?
- Be truthful. Don’t be lazy or misleading; do the work necessary to make sure that whatever you post is true, accurate, and clearly written.
- Respect copyrights and intellectual property. Give credit where credit is due, and include links to your sources where possible.
- Care enough to proofread. You don’t have to use perfect syntax, but you should always reread your post for obvious or confusing grammatical errors.
- When in doubt, delete. If you’re not utterly convinced that your post is "right," just don’t send it. It is not better to ask forgiveness; the internet is not forgiving.
If you find yourself in an argument:
- Shift to private communication. If at all possible, when a conversation turns into an argument, turn to some form of private messaging. It does not need to be public.
- Don’t retaliate or fight fire with fire. Retaliation always leads to escalation. But a gentle answer is the Bible’s solution to an angry argument.
- When you get irritated, "walk" away. Communicating while angry is a sure way to make matters worse. Stop; spend time with God; come back later.
- Give the benefit of the doubt. If love bears all things, then it is a little thing for you not to assume the worst in your "opponent." Perhaps you misread or misunderstood.
- Always be willing to admit your mistakes. If you were wrong, admit it. It may not be the primary issue, but an injection of humility into an argument may calm things down.
Social Media Etiquette:
- There is a wrong time to be on your phone. If your social media usage distracts you or anyone around you from what’s going on, put the phone away.
- Don’t mix your groups. You have work friends, family friends, and church friends. Those are probably distinct groups. Treat them distinctly.
- Be careful with tags. We love to tag our friends in photos and posts. Please consider whether your friend would want to be associated with that photo or post.
- Don’t overshare! Oversharing wearies your friends, and it puts you at risk for identity thieves (or regular thieves when they know how long you will be out of town).
- Watch your abbreviations. Use too many of them and you’ll sound like a preteen, not to mention potentially alienating anyone who doesn’t understand your shortcuts.
- Everyone can see what you "like." Be cautious with your posted reactions to other posts. We can all see what you've liked and what you've tagged to read later.