Social Media Has Destroyed Our Manners
I love social media.
I love it because it gives me the opportunity to connect with people I might not have ever encountered and to reconnect with those I may have lost contact with. Social Media gives me the opportunity to meet, to share ideas, to learn from others, and from my perspective, it is one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities that exists in our world today. They tell me that Facebook Nation is the 3rd most populous “nation” in the world.
I hate social media.
I hate it because it seems to bring out the worst in us. It provides a buffer, a perceived wall of protection for us to release our meanness that we might hold in check when face to face. It allows folks to speak as if they are experts on subjects they know very little about. Because social media depends on the written word, it is left up to the reader to supply tone, context, and meaning to any comment. Essentially I “read meaning into” every comment; more often than not leading to anger, hurt, disdain, and eventually – “unfriending.” While it is called social media there is this space between us that gives the illusion of anonymity and safety where I feel free to say something on my screen from the privacy of my home I probably wouldn’t stand up in the middle of a room full of people and say – except once you hit the post button it is not private and it’s not anonymous.
Social media tends as well to reveal our baser selves as we post and read material that is unseemly and unfit to share. We view photos that are crude, laugh at vulgar jokes and comments and without thinking for a second, whether something is true or of actual value, we click on that darn “share” button. Social media is a haven for bullies and gossips and though most of us would pale at being called such things – we are often drawn into negative and fruitless discussions where we become just that – gossips and bullies.
While social media could be a field that is white unto harvest, we often, too often, unwittingly trample any potential harvest by our crudeness, vulgarity, and hypersensitivity. I am reasonably sure that anyone that I have tagged as a “dirty, rotten, commie traitor” is not going to be particularly receptive to my occasional scripture memes or “If you don’t click on my picture of Jesus, you’re going to Hell” posts.
I have recently followed with interest a variety of discussion threads on Facebook and Twitter carried on by Christian brothers and sisters. I have watched as they quickly descended into a pit of accusation and counter accusation, name calling, personal disdain, and personal judgment over matters that in the light of eternity are trivial and silly. What is more disappointing is how often we don’t even bother to go into private message mode to carry out our biting and devouring of one another, but carry on our hateful disputes in full view of the world on a public page. It is disappointing and discouraging that we are this base in our character. It is even more disappointing that we don’t even try to conceal it. We are content for an unbelieving world to watch us as we chew one another up.
Of course, I hope you understand I’m speaking directly to my brothers in Christ. I don’t really care how unbelievers act, but I do care what WE do. Paul tells us not to judge those in the world, but that we should at least be able to judge ourselves.
Where have our manners gone? Where is the civility? Where is the grace and gentleness of the Character of Christ that we all should hunger to be manifest in our own lives. You don’t need to go beyond the comments section of any social media post to find rude, even cruel remarks. Civility and grace seems to be an increasingly uncommon attribute, even in the church of the Living God. Christians above all people should be marked by our gracious, loving, and kind interaction with others. Instead, the world gets to watch in the very public venue of social media and learn that we can be just as mean, just as hateful, and just as crude as they are.
I want to suggest several behaviors those of us who Name the Name of Jesus should endeavor to recapture in our lives – especially if we want to win men to Christ and to build up the Christian Body in a most holy faith.
1. Treat every man with respect (whether you think he deserves it or not).
Give all men the same respect and honor you would expect to receive. Take time to listen to, care about, and seek to help everyone God brings into our lives. When a Christian has different views from someone else on a certain topic, they engage in discussion—sometimes quite vigorously, but always with all politeness and decorum. When you find yourself unable or unwilling to communicate respect, get out of the discussion.
As G. K. Chesterton stated, “People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.”
2. When you feel criticism is necessary do it in PRIVATE.
Biblically, we are not to rebuke or scold people in public—whether in person or online—unless it is essential to correct a serious error or circumvent a dangerous situation. When we MUST give public criticism, we should exercise discretion, wisdom, and great humility in their deportment. I am ashamed to admit the number of occasions where I have failed the grace of God in this area. It is an area where God has convicted me, I have repented and with God’s help, I seek to turn from this serious error. We need to follow the biblical guidelines in Matthew 18:15–20 and Galatians 6:1 for confronting a brother or sister in Christ who is caught up in a sin. The wonderful thing about social media is that conversations CAN BE CONDUCTED IN PRIVATE – they don’t have to be, and many should not be, public
3. Uphold biblical standards with courage and serenity.
We don’t have to force our convictions and personal standards on others. We should hold resolutely to the teachings, beliefs, and commands God has given us in the Bible with peaceful hearts and minds. Do not allow others to intimidate or bully you to compromise in any area that would go against your conscience in Christ. Do not be afraid to declare the glorious truth of the gospel, even standing alone if you must. But, hold to your convictions with grace and dignity. Provide a safe place where both Christians and non-Christians can go for wise and faithful counsel. The question I must always ask myself: “Am I a safe place for men to share their feelings or opinions, or do I drive them away with my harsh and self-righteous tone?”
4. Seek to love and forgive at all times.
If we seek to follow Christ, we must never return evil for evil but rather show the world the better way of forgiveness and love. This does not mean Christians don’t fight just battles or come to the defense of someone being harmed. However, instead of returning an insult, forgive, pray for, love, and show respect to the person who has sinned against you. Turning the other cheek doesn’t seem to exist in the DNA of social media. More often than not it is, “If you hit me, I’ll hit you harder – and I’ll get all my friends to hit you too!” Let me suggest that by repaying evil with love, with respect and kindness, we display our citizenship in a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36).
5. Maintain an attitude of humility.
Do you understand that you are a sinner who is deserving of hell if it weren’t for the saving work of Christ on your behalf. Remember that when you find yourself in conflict with another person. Like David, cry out to your heavenly Father, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). The knowledge of our own sin and God’s mercy in Christ should humble us and make us grateful to God as well as empathetic and helpful to others in their struggles.
6. Don’t seek to draw attention to yourself.
We must remember that we are created for one purpose and one purpose only – to glorify God. We should recognize and be happy that all glory belongs to God. Our purpose should never be to win an argument or prevail in a debate. Our purpose should be to glorify God. We must die to our own selfish ambitions and follow Christ in all (Matt. 16:24; 1 Cor. 13:4–5). Rejoice with people in their joys and successes and comfort them in their sorrows and defeats (Rom. 12:15).
Remember – our highest calling is not to win the debate but to win the man. An entirely different set of skills and clearly different motivation has to be in play to understand the difference. In the body of Christ, I must provoke my brother unto good works – not provoke him to anger.
Remember the words of Paul when you are tempted to enter into a debate or argument on Facebook or Twitter or standing in the aisle at church: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)
Paul also said to Timothy: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23) Notice that Paul warns young Timothy, “have nothing to do” with foolish controversies. If it won’t glorify Christ or advance the Kingdom – have nothing to do with it.
While none of us behaves perfectly in this life, being carefully considerate is a characteristic that all believers should strive to attain. In the supercharged political and moral environment we live in, it is far too easy to get drawn into disputes and arguments that do nothing to advance the Kingdom and in no way exalt Christ or displays His great love and mercy.
May we, as representatives of Christ, be the most considerate people in the world, to the glory of God.