Picture it. Hazlehurst, Georgia. 2006. A man sitting at a computer, attempting to use a new social media account called “MySpace.” Okay. Enough of the Golden Girls attempt at storytelling! We quickly dumped MySpace for Facebook, and one thing was apparent – people had no restraint. Facebook posts rapidly went from innocent posts and pictures about what they ate to men and women ranting about their relationship problems and venting about any other issue that was bothering them. Before you knew it, those who were meek as a lamb offscreen became ravenous lions onscreen. One of my cemented childhood memories is of my paternal grandmother giving us grandchildren talks about meal etiquette. She was raised in a home for girls, and this stuff was enforced. As my grandma had dinner etiquette drilled into her, it would not hurt for us to take a little refresher course on social media etiquette.
So, class! Let’s begin!
If you are a Christian, I would say rule number one is pray before you post. Some of you might be saying, “Matthew, if I prayed before I post, I wouldn’t post much of anything.” That’s okay! Not everything that is on your mind needs to be said. The book of Proverbs says that a fool utters all of his thoughts, so don’t be so quick to brag if you are always giving someone a piece of your mind. Ask God if you need to post it. I promise He will show you. I have been guilty of posting junk that clearly revealed a lack of wisdom on my part. This will prevent you from posting simply for the purpose of posting or to get the shallow attention we frequently seek from social media.
Edit before you post. I’m not just talking about misspellings and punctuation. Sentence structure is also key, but analyze how it might be interpreted before you post. Nine out of ten people (maybe even 10 of 10) are quicker to assume what you didn’t say in a post than what you did say, and they will attack you, especially if it strikes a nerve. I would love to say Christians show much more grace on social media than unbelievers, but some believers are quick to attack under the guise of “contending for the faith.” Analyze it to death before you post.
Choose to respond if necessary and be quiet a lot! This is HUGE! Not everything needs a response. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to cool off after I receive a comment from someone. We often feel like we have to defend ourselves. Let God defend you! He does a much better job. Show grace! Be kind! Know that there are a ton of trolls on social media who are looking for a fight. Don’t engage them! It is a waste of your time and a poor use of God’s time He has gifted to us as a resource for His glory.
Social media can be a powerful place of ministry and encouragement. Don’t blow it! People are watching you like a hawk. In a sea full of people who don’t use proper social media etiquette, set a good example. You never know who you may properly influence.