I remember years ago a college friend wasted his first semester in wild behavior, which included avoiding his classes. He failed every course that semester. What was worse is that my friend was from the town in which the college was located. His dad was a major influencer in the town. I was nearby in the college dorm when his father paid him a visit near the end of the semester. I overheard the dad say, “I told you to remember who you are. It has taken me a lifetime to build up our family name in this community and you have torn in down in a matter of weeks.”
He verbalized a true principle. It's extremely hard to build and keep a good reputation, but so easy to lose it.
It pains me to write this, but many of our Bible toting, church going Christian people are losing their good reputation and more importantly, Christ’s reputation by posting and reposting content on social media that is opposed to the Spirit of Christ and the Scriptures that they claim to honor. This needs to stop now.
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32, ESV)
Like it or not, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then you're to represent him in person and online. Has your social media behavior been reflective of Jesus? Sure, you can be engaging. You can be humorous. You can even be controversial. Jesus was all of these. But he was not crass, vulgar, or partisan. You can stand on principles, but you don’t have to be condescending or obnoxious. Share the truth in love. Don’t burn relational bridges before they are even built.
We are designed for relationships and such etiquette or manners are important. If we violate these manners, then we and our message will not be received well.
When thinking about social media manners, it is important for all of us to be aware of things we should do that will help others to receive us and our message and of things that we should avoid. Here are some general “do’s” and “don’ts” for social media.
1. Do think before you post.
The dangerous thing about social is the way you can instantly have your immediate thoughts posted online. Not every thought that pops into your head should be expressed out of your mouth or through your fingers. It’s always better not to write and post your thoughts when you are angry or upset. This could come back to haunt you later.
2. Do write your messages and updates in a word processing document first.
This may at first seem bothersome to you, but this will help curb that immediate urge to send messages that have not been properly thought through. It will also help you to take a second or third look at your posting before it is up before the world.
3. Do listen to others.
In communication there is the message, a sender, a receiver, and filters on both sender and receiver. Often the intent of the sender is not perceived by the person on the other end. This requires the receiver to send a message back to make sure it was received correctly. We all have filters. In face to face communication it is a lot easier to understand the message. You have voice tone, facial expressions and body language besides the words. So in communicating through social media, you will need to be extra careful to discern what they are saying. Asking for clarification is a good thing. It also tells the other person you are making the attempt to understand them.
4. Do build quality relationships.
People are still people whether online or in person. They will respond to you if they feel like they really know you. In order to have a quality relationship you must be genuine, not fake. People don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be honest, fair and kind; especially if you’re presenting yourself as a representative of Christ.
5. Do account for your actions.
The internet has caused some distance between people and for some, the distance has made them think their actions will not have any accountability. You cannot do or say whatever you want on the internet without losing the respect of others. It will harm your witness for Christ. If you do something that you regret, then be accountable. Admit it, and then ask forgiveness from them and God. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
6. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Yes, this is the golden rule taught by Jesus. For you it means more than just being nice, but be nice as well. Say things that you’d want others saying to you. Respect them and the community. You represent more than yourself. You represent the followers of Christ who are also online. Why make it harder for them? Make sure those who are recipients of your witness have a positive experience.
7. Do personalize your Facebook messages.
The messages need to speak with your voice. At first glance, some reposting that you are thinking of doing may not really represent you. Even if you go ahead and share, you should add a qualifier to that post.
8. Do a check on people who want to “friend” you.
As a personal rule, I don’t friend someone unless I personally have met them or they are friends of my friends and have some possible connection with me. I don’t “friend” people if they have a similar interest, for example, in books or movies as me. There has to be more than that.
9. Do graciously allow for others to not “friend” you.
They have the right to refuse a request just as you do. Respect their decision.
10. Do remember you are on mission.
Though Facebook has been called the ultimate in narcissistic experiences, you can be online for other reasons. There is nothing more important for us a Christ follower than to help others come to know and follow Jesus. Have fun, relax and as opportunity arises, share your convictions in a Christ-like manner. You will likely have an opportunity to share your personal salvation story.
1. Don’t “friend” strangers or try to get them to “friend” you so you can sell to them.
Many today are using Facebook as a way to promote their business or service. You may not agree, but there use to be a line between friendship and sales. Mixing the two is like joining a Bible study group so you will have more prospects for your cookware sales. You will not grow and they will feel used. You should join the group to grow spiritually, not put money in your pocket. Make your invitations and postings in such a way that it brings value to those who read them. Perhaps this is the best way to look at it. They will come back for more.
2. Don’t send a “friend” request without an introduction.
Tell them who you are and why you want to be friends. Don’t assume they will remember you. If you are like many adults who are finding old classmates from years gone by, they are realizing that people change and memories fade. Enough said.
3. Don’t keep inviting friends to participate in games, groups or causes.
If your friend is interested, they will join. If not, they won’t. Limit your invitations to two. Be patient, not everyone is on Facebook every day. Give them a little time to respond.
4. Don’t put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your pastor, future boss, or mother to see.
Again, enough said.
5. Don’t put anything about anyone else that they wouldn’t want their pastor, future boss, or mother to see.
6. Don’t ever share in a news feed any private conversation or message.
Just in case you didn’t realize, Facebook news feed and story posts are completely public to all your friends, and if allowed, to your friends’ friends. Keep private matters private. If you're not sure if it’s a private matter, treat it as one. You won’t have regrets. True story: When I was a pastor, of my deacons at the church complained about me to a former pastor of the church, and get this, on the Facebook newsfeed! He thought he was writing a private message. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do a thing. There were so many people who jumped on him that he immediately apologized on FB and to me personally. I never had any problem from him every again!
7. Don’t ever post when you are overly tired, emotional, or distracted.
8. Don’t forget that whatever you do on the web stays on the web…forever.
This isn’t Las Vegas. By participating in any website or internet activity you are basically leaving behind a digital fingerprint. A shock for many comes when they Google themselves. They discover, to some extent, what is public out there about them. This is just scratching the surface for someone who really knows how to find information about you on the web, which includes your social media involvement. Think about maintaining a certain level of professionalism on the web. You will thank yourself later.
Of course, there are many other suggestions that could be made, and each of us are different. In our day all of us could use some extra grace and extending grace is a good way to make at least the online social media world a little better.