There was a debate brewing around a controversial issue on Facebook and after thinking about it for about twenty seconds, I decided to add my two cents worth. Moments after sharing, I received a bunch of comments affirming my viewpoint. I smiled and stuck my phone in my pocket.
I like Facebook and Instagram. I’m quite a fan of social media. I like that I can be at home all day with my kids but still have some adult interaction. I like seeing my friends’ photos and I love that I can easily keep in touch with family overseas. I like to write little status updates about the funny things the kids say, my epic baking fails and camping holidays. I’ll even admit to posting the odd selfie.
I also love to leave my friends encouraging messages and ‘like’ the things that are important to them. I like all the encouraging quotes and scripture verses that fill my Insta-feed. I’ll double tap on every other little photo of aesthetically pleasing dinner, or beautiful lettering, pictures of cute cats, or coffee and notebooks at funky cafés. There is much to appreciate about the ease of communication that social media brings.
But when you interact with social media a lot, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. Let’s go back to that controversial debate I entered into…
A few hours after I stuck my phone back in my pocket, a good friend read my comment. She sent me a private message to tell me that she thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to get into that discussion on Facebook. She encouraged me to take it down.
I felt a stab of conviction. She was absolutely right. I’d ignored the little voice that had said, “don’t post that” when I’d written the comment. I’d gone ahead with commenting because it gratified a part of me that was hurting. I thanked my friend for looking out for me and deleted my comment in the thread. I felt a little foolish because to be honest, it was the third time in three months that a friend has suggested that my words on social media weren’t wise.
Writing comments on social media is really easy. You just use your thumbs and your phone to tap out whatever you’re thinking. You can enter into difficult, provocative conversations without having to look people in the face. You can put your comments out there, stick your phone back in your pocket, or close the lid on your laptop and simply forget about it.
Meanwhile, your words are seen by many people.
After my friend suggested I take my comments down, I had a little cry. I was frustrated with myself for lacking wisdom. I want to be a good person who builds others up. I want to be wise, gracious and loving. Not the kind of person who hides behind social media, writing things that make others feel bad. I felt frustrated that I had made the mistakes multiple times.
The bible is full of encouragements and warnings about the power of our words. Consider Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”, or Proverbs 13:3, “careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.”
So what is the answer for a person like me? I like to think I have a good heart, and I am usually gentle and kind. But sometimes I made a poor choice, and I write things that aren’t very wise.
After I had cried about it, I talked with God, apologising and asking him, “please God, make me wise!”
My prayer made me think of King Solomon, whom God told to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon replies to God:
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
1 Kings 3:7-9 (NIV)
It is good and right to ask God for wisdom. And He is keen to grant it.
The other problem I have is that God does give me discernment, but I don’t always listen. Before I hit enter on the unwise message, there was that little voice in my head, “don’t post that, Yvette”… but I chose to ignore him.
I need not only to distinguish between right and wrong, but to obey the gentle whisper of God in those moments.
Going forward I’m adopting a new approach based on the wisdom of Proverbs. Proverbs 17:28 says “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 10:19 says “sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues” and 17:27, “the one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”
When it comes to social media, I’m going to go with this notion that the best thing to do is stay away from those tricky or contentious conversations entirely. When I hesitate and wonder if my words might in any way hurt or offend, I am going to choose to not to post or comment. I’m going to pay greater attention to that voice that says, “maybe don’t say that.” It is nearly always right.
Sometimes life requires us to be brave, and have loving but difficult conversations, but I’m not going to do those in public forums, nor use social media to push an agenda.
Do you have guidelines for yourself around social media? Do you comment and engage, wade into tricky stuff, or do you observe without commenting?