How should Christians engage on social media? We have all seen the carnage. A poorly worded tweet brings confusion; a sharply worded one alienates. The Proverbs tell us much about the tongue, and many of its punchiest verses are applicable to our social media usage. As Christians, we are to bring every aspect of our lives under the Lordship of Christ, including our social media engagement.
Through our social media, we can bless or curse, build up or tear down, honor or dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider these three questions to help you navigate social media.
Question #1: To whom are you speaking?
This was a breakthrough question that I began asking myself several years ago. I use my social media platforms primarily to speak to fellow Christians. The principle I follow is one derived from years as a pastor. In short, I view my social media platform as, in a sense, a large church. I want to speak to them as I would have spoken to my literal congregation when I was a pastor. As a pastor, I encouraged, informed, and occasionally warned the sheep. Sometimes I was outright prophetic. But I was never shrill, snarky, or belittling. I spoke to them, and seek to do so now through social media, as the flock of God, fellow heirs of his grace.
Though my primary audience is Christians, I know that I reach many unbelievers as well. But, the same principles largely apply. To be unkind, ungenerous, or needlessly antagonistic, does nothing but offend and alienate. To do so repels them from Jesus and the Christian convictions we hold dear.
Question #2: What are you trying to say?
We all know that within the realm of interpretation, context is king. To rightly understand a text or a message of any type, you must consider the context. Twitter provides almost no context. Therefore, every time we tweet we are in jeopardy of being misunderstood. And it certainly does not permit nuance. It is just hard to convey much of anything complex or nuanced in a two-sentence tweet. Beware and be warned.
If our message is not clear or will likely need a follow-up clarification or qualification, then we probably ought to pass on it. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to say?” You may not be able to say it in 140 characters.
Question #3: Do you have any misgivings?
We have all paused, reread our tweet with our finger hovering over the send button, thinking should I or shouldn’t I? If you have lingering misgivings, do not send it. The types of things that give me pause are “How will this be interpreted?”, “Would I say this to their face?”, “Is this clear and able to be understood without being misunderstood?”, “Is this self-promoting, or humblebrag.” The truth of the matter is, I have regretted a few social media posts over the years. I have never regretted not sending one.
I find myself in an ongoing love/hate relationship with social media. I appreciate it as a conduit to give and receive content, news updates, and to connect with ministry friends and family. I hate that I am occasionally misunderstood, that I occasionally misunderstand others, and that social media manages to take more of my time than I intended to give. Yet, I am at peace with my usage, and seek to be faithful by filtering my interactions through these three questions.